A forum for discussing what's working -- and what isn't -- in standards and assessments.

"0" As a Grade

Ryan Reed 7/8th Grade Social Studies Teacher in Maine

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?

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Quote: When the F category is

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When the F category is 6 times larger than any other category for letter grades, that is statistically unfair. If a student who receives a low grade is unsure about what they have to learn and the ways they might learn it, then the feedback is ineffective.

If you start your grading at a 50% though the F category is just as large as the others. 50-59 F, 60-69 D, 70-79 C, 80-89 B, 90-100 A (and in fact the A has one extra point :) )

Quote: If you start your

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If you start your grading at a 50% though the F category is just as large as the others. 50-59 F, 60-69 D, 70-79 C, 80-89 B, 90-100 A (and in fact the A has one extra point :) )

If you start your grading at 50%, then you agree that zeroes are unfair. If there was a thread about "50% as a grade," I'd be inclined to agree that it was fair. I would still argue that 50% is incomprehensible, because it is a formulaic trick to make quantifying assessment more fair. If a struggling student isn't understanding the concepts presented in a course, explaining to them that grading percentages start at 50 isn't likely to clear things up.

I teach 4th grade, what they

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I teach 4th grade, what they see are the letter grades, so to them an F is an F regardless of whether I put it in my grade book as a 50 or a 0. However, if I do put in a 0 it's very hard for them to recover from it and that one bad grade can drag down a whole trimesters work. I'd rather give them hope that if they work harder they can bring their grade back up than telling them that they now need to get 3 100%'s in order to even get a C.

I think this discussion asks

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I think this discussion asks teachers to reflect on their assessment practices, even when those practices are mandated or systematic in a school. Logically, if a teacher concedes that zeroes aren't statistically fair, then the next step is to point out that percentages and point systems aren't comprehensible to students. On one hand, if a student never sees a number and understands that their achievement or learning falls into one of five categories, then that becomes more comprehensible for students. However, if we base our assessments of students on points and formulas then we have to be able to explain what those points and formulas represent. We have to understand how those points quantify learning or achievement. If we start the grading at 50%, or 50 points, we have to answer the questions: "50% of what?" and "what does a student have to do to get 50 points?"

To get that 50% they have to

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To get that 50% they have to have at least tried (and failed). No effort gets the grade it deserves. Projects get rubrics and tests get graded on a scale, homework is graded as being done (those that didn't do their homework, spend recess doing it). We've got to grade them somehow, why not just start your numbering at 50 rather than at 0? It's all arbitrary.

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