Is extra credit hurting or helping students?

Issabelle Hayden, Senior Writer

If there is one section of the syllabus that every student is dying to read, it is the one on extra credit. Most students associate extra credit with hope—a little buffer in the grade book—but what was once an effective means of rounding out students’ grades, extra credit has now become another way that teachers can affect a course’s difficulty.
For many students, extra credit is a way to acquire minimal grade bumps at the end of the semester that simply secures the grade they worked the whole semester to earn.
Unfortunately, extra credit has begun to play a different role in many classes; extra credit now has the ability to change a student’s grade by a whole letter. While this is an issue in itself, the true problem occurs when teachers of the same course do not have the same extra credit policy.
If one teacher gives his or her students enough extra credit to raise their grades by an entire letter, and another teacher only gives enough to secure his or her students’ current grades, that simply isn’t fair, and it hurts students in the long run.
This issue is not just hurting the students receiving less extra credit, but also the ones receiving an excess. When students receive less extra credit they have to work harder to receive good grades in a class. When students receive excessive extra credit, they have a better chance of earning a good grade in a class, but they are less likely to master the content of the class as well as students who are not offered as much extra credit.
This becomes a real issue when it concerns AP courses. Students who take AP courses that offer excessive extra credit, and do not master the content of the course as well as students who have different teachers, may have a more difficult time doing well on the AP tests that determine how much, if any, college credit they earn.
Streamlining extra credit policies throughout classes would benefit students and teachers, making students less worried about the teacher they get, and preventing teachers from having to worry about the fairness of their extra credit policies.