A stable set $I$ of a graph $G$ is called $k$-extendable, $k \,{\ge}\, 1$, if there exists a stable set $X \,{\subseteq}\,V(G) {\setminus} I$ such that $|X| \,{\le}\, k$ and $|N(X) \,{\cap}\, I| \,{<}\, |X|$. A graph $G$ is called $k$-extendable if every stable set in $G$, which is not maximum, is $k$-extendable. Let us denote by ${\rm E}(k)$ the class of all $k$-extendable graphs.
We present a finite forbidden induced subgraph characterization of the maximal hereditary subclass ${\rm PE}(k)$ in ${\rm E}(k)$ for every $k \,{\ge}\,1$.
Thus, we define a hierarchy ${\rm PE}(1) \,{\subset}\, {\rm PE}(2) \,{\subset}\,{\cdots}\,{ \subset}\, {\rm PE}(k) \,{\subset}\,{ \cdots}\,$ of hereditary classes of graphs, in each of which a maximum stable set can be found in polynomial time. The hierarchy covers all graphs, and all its classes can be recognized in polynomial time.