Not all extra credit created equal in Ga.

Sophie Rivard and James Bryan

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Grady’s and Atlanta Public Schools’ students have ample opportunities to restore grades and re-learn concepts through numerous extra credit opportunities. However, this is not a reality in many Georgia schools.

In other schools across the state, assessment retakes are infrequent and bonus assignments are far from generous.

Grady offers students a variety of extra credit options including retakes, credit recovery and bonus points. Literature teacher Mario Herrera, who has worked at the school for almost a decade, said extra credit offers students the opportunity to master content while improving their grades.

“APS has created a credit recovery program that is not as strict as other districts and has flexibility,” Herrera said. “As long as credit recovery is rigorous and forces students to work to learn what they are struggling with, that is more important than checking a box. Finding a balance is important, and I think that’s what APS has done.”

Physics teacher Luke Esposito provides a multitude of extra credit opportunities to students. Because his AP Physics classes are difficult and fast-paced, he helps students maintain their grades by offering extra problems on assignments, but he emphasizes raising grades isn’t his only goal.

“One could view this as extra credit, but I see it as credit recouped as a reflection of the students’ added investment and eventual success,” Esposito said.

Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman agreed extra credit should help students reach mastery. Although her new grading policy was met with resistance after coming to Grady in 2016, she said her main concern is providing students with equal opportunities.

“Imagine that you are the parent,” Dr. Bockman said. “What would you want to be fair for your child?”

Administrators at North Atlanta, another APS high school, declined to comment on its retake policy, saying they follow APS policy. North Atlanta junior Clarke Peoples, however, said that extra credit is scarce.

“Not many extra credit options are available,” Peoples said. “As a general policy, students are allowed to retake tests to get up to an 80. Because of these policies, getting a grade of a 100 in a class is rare since it would require the student to get a 100 on every assignment.”

Other Georgia schools are not any more generous. At Walton High School in suburban Cobb County, students do not receive nearly as many opportunities to be retested on concepts to increase their grades. In a Georgia public school rank by, in which ranking factors include state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality and high school ratings, Walton ranked third and Grady ranked 47th.  Walton administration did not reply to an email request for comment.

“At Walton, retakes and extra credit for classes are very atypical,” Walton senior Melody Wang said. “It doesn’t create a level playing field if schools around the state have different academic policies implemented, especially when it comes to college admissions. It becomes difficult to decipher grades when certain schools have different policies regarding grading.”

John Latting, Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admission for Emory University, said college admissions officers are aware of contrasting grading policies in schools. Latting said that in order to address these differences, one staff member is assigned to be a first reader on all applications coming from a particular high school.

“We try to have experts on every school across the entire country to provide guidance to the staff,” Latting said. “We do not do anything automatically within the admissions process depending on factors like a grade point average. We are really reading applications to fully know students and look at the bigger picture more than just the numbers.”

At Grady, students are occasionally given additional credit for attending events run by school clubs. On Sept. 21, several teachers gave extra credit to students who attended a seminar hosted by the Muslim Student Association of Grady concerning the future of women in Islam. By offering extra credit, teachers incentivized students to learn about topics not usually introduced in standards classrooms.

“I would not have gone the event if I hadn’t been offered extra credit for attending,” senior Kendall Stroud said. “However, I am glad that I went, because I learned about topics that I would not have exposure to in a traditional setting.”

Grady will continue to allow students to improve their grades and understanding of material with extra credit and retake options.

“Grady’s policies benefit students because sometimes students make choices that shouldn’t impact their lives,” Herrera said. “Everybody has bad days.”

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