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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

How to grade assessment/assignments with a no zero policy

How to grade assessment/assignments with a no zero policy

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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?

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Judi H.'s picture
Judi H.
Special Education Teacher

I have written my grading policy with my lowest test grade at 55%. Up until this year, it has work well. This year, I had 1 student who has been absent 80+ days for no particular reason and refuses to make up work. He also comes in 1/2 days (4th grader) and refuses to work. If I stuck to my policy, he would pass every subject. I also have a 2 other student who refuse to complete work, ripping it up frequently. I revisited my decision, giving the students the work in class, sending it home, and 1 make up, then it becomes a '0' in the grade book. 2 student have lowered grades and the 3rd is failing every subject. Class work, bottoms out at 77% if they try.

I feel this is a much fairer reflection of their efforts.

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

I wish both of you worked in schools which separated behaviour from the record of learning. A low score is used in most schools as a punishment for not turning in work. The result is that kids who need our help the most lose the ability to pass because of their behaviour, but not necessarily because they haven't learned anything during the year.

Instead of using averaged grades, try a snapshot instead. "What do I think this child is capable of on their best day?" Now it doesn't matter what you put in your gradebook for individual assignments, what matters is the child's expected performance.

Judi H.'s picture
Judi H.
Special Education Teacher

I give a passing grade if there is effort. The student who failed had 50% absenteeism rate despite my trying to come to school, talking frequently to Mom, and talking to our social worker and administration to see what could be done to encourage this student. I would appreciate any suggestion on how to hlep this student. I have him again next year and want to start off positively. I enjoy him when he is in, even though occasionally he refuses to work. He shuts down and at least since being in my class, has not been violent. He just sits at his desk and occasionally rocks his chair or desk.

Last year, in a younger class, he would hit, kick, throw things, and curse. I have began making progress and desperately want to continue.

Bobbie Brown's picture
Bobbie Brown
4th grade math, science & social studies, St. Martha Catholic School, Louisville, Kentucky

@David - the problem I have with the snapshot is that it's hard to quantify and seems very subjective. I'm not sure how to do that and have evidence to back up my evaluation, whether it's to parents who thinks that their student deserves a higher grade, my principal who is worried about grade inflation or to the public school system who wants to know why I've referred a kid for evaluation. I have recorded the mode of the scores received on a curricular standard.

Next year, I think my principal will FINALLY reduce the percentage homework counts from 30% to 10% - that will definitely help.

artysmarty's picture

If a student does not do the work how can you give them any points? There is nothing there to grade or assess. I understand the concept of not grading on their behavior. If they physically do no work there is no learning going on so you have to grade them as such.

Charlotte's picture

I do not understand this no zero policy. How can you give a student points for not doing his lab reports, projects or homework? If that is your policy then only give tests, or what I would like to do but not allowed, have two different grading system and students decide which they want. One whose grades depend only on tests and lab reports and another that also factors in projects and homework. But giving credit for doing nothing is why our schools are in decline.

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