Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

"0" As a Grade

"0" As a Grade

Related Tags: Assessment
More Related Discussions
35 Replies 3199 Views
In looking at my final gradebook, I'm left wondering about an old dilemma. Should a student who has not turned in an assignment receive a "0" as a grade (when using a traditional 100-pt scale)? Rick Wormelli, author of "Fair Isn't Always Equal," recommends entering a high, but failing, score as not to disadvantage students with such an "anchor" grade pulling them down. I know some teachers who don't enter a grade at all and just look at what they have gotten to determine what the student knows. What are everyone's thoughts here? What do you do in this situation? And perhaps more importantly, what do you believe your grade represents?

Comments (35 Replies)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

LYRichardson's picture
LYRichardson
Literacy and Instructional Coach/ Trainer/ Consultant

Rick Wormelli, author of "Fair Isn't Always Equal," recommends entering a high, but failing, score as not to disadvantage students with such an "anchor" grade pulling them down.

To an certain extent I agree with this philosophy. I always tried to give students the benefit of the doubt. When a student does not complete an assignment he needs to understand what goals/ objectives/standards he missed. It missing assignments is a pattern then that's another issue. However, to lower a student's grade because of one thing is unfair.
Overall, students need to understand the teacher's philosophy of assessment and grading and buy into it. I always liked to start students with a bank of points-depending on the motivation level of the class. Low motivated students need more points to begin with because they are not mature enough to understand what goofing off and not coming to class prepared means.

Haley's picture
Haley
Elementary teacher in Lytton, BC

I believe that when I am assessing a student's work, I am making a judgement on whether or not they have demonstrated an understanding of the learning outcomes. Their grade should reflect whether they have a limited, approaching, full, or exceptional understanding of the outcomes. A grade of zero, then, communicates that a student has demonstrated that they do NOT understand the learning outcomes at all.

If a student has failed to hand in an assignment, I cannot fairly judge whether or not they have met the learner outcomes. I can't fairly say that they know *nothing* - as I have no proof of that - but I equally can't say that they know *something* - as I have no proof of that, either. In my markbook, assignments that are not handed in do not receive a grade. I encourage students to hand in work whenever the do get it finished, and frequently give students options to show what they have learned in some other format. When it comes to assigning a final grade, I take into account all of the work that the student has done and assign a grade that communicates the student's level of understanding overall - disregarding assignments that have not been handed in.

When a student has missed many assignments in one particular content area, I will generally include a comment to that effect to let parents know that their child's grade does not reflect their performance in that area and that their child still has to demonstrate those understandings before a final mark in the course can be assigned.

On occasion, I have worked with students who hand in so little work that I am left trying to determine a summative grade with very little information. I have had the experience of working in a school system that allowed teachers to assign a 'grade' of "I", indicating that student work has been insufficient and the teacher is unable to assess the student's learning. In these cases, we generally present students and parents with a list of assignments/assessments that have not been completed, and make it clear which ones will need to be completed so that the teacher can make a fair judgement of the student's understanding.

---

I find the comments about 'earning' a zero interesting because, in my mind, if a student has 'earned' a zero it is because they have attempted an assignment, handed it in, and demonstrated *no understanding*. In which case, my job as a teacher is not done - I have assessed the student's understanding, identified an area where the student is clearly struggling, and now I need to discuss this assignment with the student so that I can reteach or clarify.

If a student has not handed in an assignment all they have 'earned' is the same treatment - if they're refusing to participate in an assessment, I refuse to assess. I don't assign a zero, I just don't assign *any* grade.

What use is a zero to either of us, student or teacher? I can't defend a zero as my professional opinion of what the student knows. My professional opinion is that I need to know more in order to form an opinion.

A Gardner's picture

So many of the comments are appropriate; I find myself with lots of food for thought from all. My question though: why are we as teachers so afraid of allowing students to fail? Isn't failure a significant chunk of how we learn? Isn't this what we use to develop character? perseverance? The cliche of falling off the horse and getting back up seems to have slipped through the cracks in an effort to do good for students and not do right by them. Isn't it better to let them skin their knees and dust them off to help them go again?

Haley's picture
Haley
Elementary teacher in Lytton, BC

[quote]The cliche of falling off the horse and getting back up seems to have slipped through the cracks in an effort to do good for students and not do right by them. Isn't it better to let them skin their knees and dust them off to help them go again?[/quote]

I agree that learning what failure feels like and also learning what it feels like to get back up, reflect, and get better are important experiences for all learners.

That being said, in the case of not handing in assignments or participating in assessments, the student is not really "getting on the horse" at all, so there is no danger in falling. Is it fair to fail a student for not trying?

Maybe we should take this opportunity to redirect our question to, why isn't my student trying? Why are they choosing not to "get on the horse" at all? Are they afraid? Do they feel like they would not be able to succeed at the task? Do they find the task irrelevant or tedious?

Is a zero going to push them to "get on the horse" next time, now that they know what it would feel like to "fall off"?

A Gardner's picture

Maybe we should take this opportunity to redirect our question to, why isn't my student trying? Why are they choosing not to "get on the horse" at all? Are they afraid? Do they feel like they would not be able to succeed at the task? Do they find the task irrelevant or tedious?

A Gardner's picture

(apparently I cannot include a quote in my response; it takes two.)

I think your questions are appropriate, but I still think what you hit on is what the irrelevant and tedious are covering for: a fear of failure that we in education tend to perpetuate. I believe more students do not begin because of the fear they would not be able to succeed without ever realizing not ever attempting is the far bigger tragedy.

Donna McCaw's picture

I am not sure what grades tell us - except possibly how well kids play the game of "school." Kids that already know how to read when they come to school - get an A in reading but we haven't taught them much - if anything. Kids that come to school not having seen much text, learn much but may still get a failing grade. This seems very very wrong.

I don't think giving a ZERO does anything or anyone any good. Why try if digging myself out is impossible. I often ask my graduate class of principal candidates, "what is the difference between a zero and an F?" They ALWAYS note a difference - zeroes indicate a student that doesn't care enough to try and an F is someone that tried but just didn't get it." What is really crazy about their reasoning - and sad - is that they really believe that there is a difference!!!!

On a student's report card a zero and an F - same:(
What does this say about our system - when the people with the professional responsibility for kids don't think any deeper than this:(

ReneeG31's picture
ReneeG31
Fifth grade teacher from Rex, Georgia

I think an 0 as a grade is a bit harsh. It should only be used if the student continues to produce no effort for their work in class during that particular marking period. I can not use an 0 as a grade but enters a 50% as a default for those students who did not handed in work or choose not to redo it based upon their learning style. Is it fear if the student didn't produce any effort in their work? It depends on your individual's view on grading. Some collegues I have spoken concerning this and there is mix reviews in this topic.

David Wees's picture
David Wees
Formative Assessment Specialist for New Visions for Public Schools
Blogger 2014

[quote]I think an 0 as a grade is a bit harsh. It should only be used if the student continues to produce no effort for their work in class during that particular marking period. I can not use an 0 as a grade but enters a 50% as a default for those students who did not handed in work or choose not to redo it based upon their learning style. Is it fear if the student didn't produce any effort in their work? It depends on your individual's view on grading. Some collegues I have spoken concerning this and there is mix reviews in this topic.[/quote]
I can't really see any reason to use a 0. You should use "not submitted" "incomplete" or some other way to differentiate between a student who actually has learned nothing at all from an assignment, and a student who has other reasons for not having turned it in.

Ann Hyde's picture
Ann Hyde
Special Ed English teacher, Anchorage, Alaska

I do have students who chose not to complete assignments. I can't "make" them do them, and they tell me that very clearly. I tell them that they are absolutely correct; I cannot force them to do the assignments, but their choice is then to take a zero. I make a note if they absolutely refuse, and let their parents/guardians know. I also accept most assignments up until the end of each quarter for full points. My room is open before and after school, and during lunch, and I offer to work with kids on an individual basis at all of those times. There is no confrontation in the classroom because all that does is reinforce the decision to skip the assignment. In almost all cases, each student will choose to complete the assignment a little late, at which point I accept them, mark them as late, without a penalty, and assess the assignments. I also let kids redo assignments as often as they like to improve scores. Extra credit opportunities exist, but instead of adding each to the gradebook as they come up, I collect them for the quarter, and then add the extra points to assignments where they might need a little boost.

I do work really hard to make sure kids have a variety of assignments; we do traditional worksheets, art projects, technology projects, oral assignments, and I've had kids who have chosen to present via music, puppets or dolls, and even a Renn Fair sword battle (for a Romeo/Juliet demonstration of stage fighting). One of my students even made spiced peaches for a Holes assignment. This lets kids show what they know in non-traditional projects.

I do have some students who have situations which prevent them from doing some of the assignments; we discuss which ones we can excuse, and which ones must be completed. I also offer alternatives if I come across parental objections to ANYTHING.

Discussion Mind the Gap

Last comment 1 day 6 hours ago in Common Core

Discussion Data Walls

Last comment 38 min 4 sec ago in Assessment

Discussion Powerful Little Bubbles

Last comment 2 days 19 hours ago in Assessment

Schools that Work Travel Journals: Student-Created Textbooks

Last comment 23 hours 58 min ago in Integrated Studies

Schools that Work Using Exhibits as Assessment

Last comment 1 week 7 hours ago in Assessment

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.