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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Should teachers assign marks of zero for students?

Should teachers assign marks of zero for students?

Related Tags: Assessment
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16 Replies 3960 Views
There has been a lot of discussion recently about the practice of assigning a zero for incomplete, late, or missing work after an Edmonton Teacher was suspended for failing to follow his school's assessment policy (which stated that students should not receive zero for an assignment). I am personally of the opinion that we need to rethink many of the ways in which we do assessment. For some background reading on where I stand on the whole zeroes issue, I recommend reading some of the posts on John Scammell's blog. http://thescamdog.wordpress.com/ There are a lot of alternatives to our grading system. Can you imagine a different system than the one we use? Imagine that time, money, and logistics are not an issue (these can often be resolved later). What would you do differently?

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Mario Patiño's picture
Mario Patiño
NBCT, science educator

Before I tell you why zero is an option, let me first explain my grading system [based on applying ideas from Guskey, Wormeli, Stiggins, & Reeves]

*all grades in my course are standards referenced
*95% of the grade is based on summative assessments linked to these learning objectives
* an even distribution scale is used

Using this system, a "0" is an option because a student can still recover. I use a number of strategies [deadlines, checkpoints, 1:1 interventions, etc] to prevent zeros from being issued yet sometimes these interventions are not effective when students demonstrate ineffective life skills. This is why 5% of their grade represents demonstrating of 21 Century Skills [based on P21 and Metri criteria]. Since moving to this grading system, the grade being reported fully represents what was learned. I have been using this system for 4 years now, and the consensus from students and parents is why don't more teachers change their grading and assessment practices to reflect learning?

Jessica's picture
Building Confidence in Students, One Child at a Time

Thanks for the post! I totally agree with you that we need to rethink about this matter of allotting zero marks for students. There can be many other ways of assessments. I believe instead of allotting marks to students, giving grades can be a better option. The lowest grade could be D which would would indicate below 4,out of 10. Grading system is far more better then giving allotment of marks.

Tammy's picture
8th grade English in traditional classroom -- 9th grade English online

A few years ago I adopted the concept of failure not being an option - unless student just does no work.. This came from a couple of popular prof dev books. My lowest grade is 50% if a student turns in something. This allows them to climb out of a hole if they dig one.

Problem - I am only one doing it so my grades look inflated and high school does not like it because student won't have that throughout high school.

I hate grades - the 50% practice has helped but I would love to give that up too.

Mario Patiño's picture
Mario Patiño
NBCT, science educator

Tammy all you have done is changed the "traditional" 100 point grading scale to an even distribution scale so that the effect of a "0" is increased to 50%. What is the impact of such a strategy? I believe it may send the student a wrong message, learning nothing and still get rewarded. I agree with you, you are inflating reporting academic achievement instead of holding students accountable for the work they do not do. Some of my high school students expect me to continue such practices in my classroom yet they quickly realize that if they do not do the work, there is consequences. All work I assign is important, so important that I have them come in for to do the "work" on their free time. Once they complete the "work," I provide feedback for full credit. Many expect me to reduce their grade yet this isn't the way I work. My students quickly learn that I need them to do the work so I can support their learning and if this means working with me 1:1 at lunch or after school, then so be it.
It is easy giving credit for work not done yet is this our role as educators? If the "work" is so important than shouldn't we make a valiant effort to ensure the work gets done so we can better understand where our students are in the learning process?

I know the strategy I share may take more time, may mean you have to re-teach, or even mean you will have to slow down your pace of your instruction yet this is what it means to create a environment of learning and responsibility. Once your students see how much effort you make to ensure work is completed, they will be more willing to support your efforts to educate them.

I'll leave on of my favorite student quotes "I'm doing the work because I know if I don't, you will climb up the tallest mountain, swim the deepest ocean to make sure I turn it in- 0's are not an option in this class."

The Dixie Diarist's picture
The Dixie Diarist
Teacher, Writer, and Artist

From my archives of writing about what goes on in my classrooms ...

Of the two dudes who made Ds ... it turns out they didn't turn in the two essay projects, so that gave them a zero in the grade book, and just a single zero on an assignment will pull your grade in a direction that gets the attention of parents, mee maws and paw paws, teachers, and principals real good. For a weird kind of Christmas break scientific teacher research, I just went into the grade book and punched in a C ... or a 75 ... in each of the assignment boxes for the two essays for both of them ... and with those easy grades they would have both made Bs for the fall semester in Georgia History. Now that's heartbreaking. I nagged. I pleaded. I really and truly ache about these two sometimes ...most of the time, really ... Winx and Herman. The power of zero, gentlemen. It'll devastate your grade. The power of nothing. It's for real.


Tammy's picture
8th grade English in traditional classroom -- 9th grade English online

I don't publicize that I am doing the 50% as F. I show the real grade in the gradebook w/ a note on the side. Thus, they don't take advantage of the situation. Like I said - the biggest advantage is their ability to get out of a hole if they get into one. Also - the amount of work I put into a lesson does nothing for the number of students who do their homework.
There are no consequences for grades in middle school.
What is the reality of a 0?? The student did absolutely nothing.If we go to where the student is and bring him/her to usversus telling him to just do what he is told and learn up to the point where I am somehow. That is the reteaching, etc. Right or wrong ---- I don't see the benefit of grades. Now I do see the difference in my 9th grade classes.

Great discussion!

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