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How to grade assessment/assignments with a no zero policy

Bobbie Brown 5/6 grade math, 6 grade science from Louisville, Kentucky

Last year was my first to have a No Zero policy in grading assessments and assignments. My lowest grade a student could earn was 60%. I plan to continue it next year. I feel that these grades better reflect what they actually learned. However, I applied the grades 2 different ways and feel I need to be more consistent and don't know which to use.

1st way - use a regular percentage and no one gets below 60%. So, for a 5 question quiz, the grades would be 100%, 80%, 60%, 60%, 60%. This is the one I like the least.

2nd way - replace the natural zero with 60% and then create equal increments for the other percentages. So, for the same 5 question quiz, the grades would be 100%, 90%, 80%, 70%, 60%. I like this better, as it seems that it really gets more to what the letter grades mean (A=excellent, B=above avg, C=avg, D=below avg, U=Failing), but it can also seem subjective. I have found myself trying to convince myself that the way I've incremented it is fair and I'm nervous that it will lead to grade inflation.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you do?

Comments (26)

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secondary English teacher... 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th so far... ELL certifi

Master the material... move on!!

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I think the concept of mastery as a way to 'grade' makes folks uncomfortable because they only imagine the 'record keeping nightmare.'

If we move from the rolling snapshot to "follow the child"; we could create a database for each child, and import that database when the child is with you, until they are not... which would indicate they had mastered that set of tasks.

I teach writing, so the 'set' is varied and complex, and there is more than one way to any writing task. However, the 'framework' remains, and can be measured. The 'mastery', then, would create a group of kids that could actually write on demand... eventually.
I say eventually, because it took me three times, in a college class, to actually be able to 'write on demand' by sentence clause type, sentence type, and internalize the grammatical elements to do it successfully.
But what is wrong with working at something until it is, indeed, mastered? That one would move on to the next phase when you were capable, rather than sit in a classroom, when really you are ready to leap on the next rung of the ladder? How is that a bad thing?
Does it upset the 'curriculum design' we've become comfortable teaching?
I watched a TED lecture, and the speaker said, "...our kids are not manufactured 'lots' or widgets, turned out in age groups. Kids are not that uniform."
We need to shake up our assumptions.

Learning Specialist: Technology for Stratford Hall

I think if you are going to

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I think if you are going to grade for mastery, you have to let some electronic system handle at least part of the assessment for you, if that is possible in your discipline. You also need to spend less time delivering the content, and more time interacting with the kids in one on one or small group sessions, which is another kind of letting go that people often find uncomfortable.

I also follow the 2nd way and

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I also follow the 2nd way and find that some grades even at 60 are over inflated. Egs. Student A does hardly anything and earns 60 while student B puts out good effort but work is incomplete and also earns a 60.

Learning Specialist: Technology for Stratford Hall

I think the issue you bring

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I think the issue you bring up with a 60% meaning very different things for different students is a problem regardless of whether you have a no-zero policy or not?

Some students work really hard to get a 60% and other students achieve a 60% with no effort, but both of them get the 60% on their final grade? Does that make sense?

I think it is vital that we split the work habits that students have from their final grade, so parents can get a more accurate picture of their childs' learning.

All my rubrics also have a

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All my rubrics also have a work effort component to them (I teach 4th grade, so all projects are worked on somewhat at school). Something to the effect of 'I have taken my time and done my best work'.

11th and 12th grade English teacher from Shepherd, Montana

Bottom Line

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The bottom line on a "no zero policy" is that how can you give work and allow students not to do it? If they can get away with not doing it, why assign it? I think regardless of whether they end up with a 0 or 60 they need to do the work. I tell my students they will work 3x harder for a 0 than doing it the first time. Making it difficult to not do work will force 90% of the students to step in line. 5% will occasionally fall down but still do work-and the other 5%? That takes a miracle.

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