George Lucas Educational Foundation

Grading Policies

Grading Policies

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Hello Everybody, My school is having a discussion this year regarding grading policies. Our principal thinks that our teachers should be united in our grading. We as a staff voted and agreed upon a school wide grade scale. (In a survey, we discovered about 10 different grade scales for our approximately 50 teachers.) We as a staff also use the same grade book which is web based and parents can access their students’ records anytime. The discussion now has turned to whether or not zeros should be entered for assignments not submitted by students. Some say that zeros in the grade book deflate the student’s self-esteem and so that may cause some students to not even try. Some say that zeros in the grade book are simply a matter of record keeping and provide information to the student and parent regarding work that needs to be completed. Some say that zeros are entered for assignments not turned in and can not be made up because students are expected to turn work in on time. I am interested in any insights, ideas, information that any of you can share.

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Ashley Lawson's picture

I agree that the missing assignment should be flagged in some way for students and parents; however, I don't think zero is the best way. Our online grading program allows us to put in "missing" for assignments that were not submitted and they show up in red when parents and students access the grades. I like this because it communicates immediately that work wasn't submitted and oftentimes, the student catches it within the make-up period (if the missing assignment is the result of an absence). For students who simply do not turn in assignments, the flagged "missing" assignment allows me and the parents to see at a glance if this is habitual and then we can be proactive in coming up with a solution to, hopefully, fix the problem.

At the high school level, students do receive zeros for work they do not submit; however I did implement strategies in class that encouraged students to turn in their work. For example, if a student has less than 3 zeros for missing assignments, then he/she is eligible for a 100 point bonus at the end of the semester. On a points possible grading scale with tons of points possible, this can mean 1-2 percentage points and is a huge incentive for students to complete all work.

Anna Redding's picture
Anna Redding
High School Math Teacher from Phoenix, Oregon

I have really enjoyed all the comments. I agree with E. Brice that this is a controversial topic. As several have stated, putting zeros in the gradebook is improtant for parents and students to see what assignments are missing. But, as E Brice pointed out, the students with zeros are not usually the ones wiht parental support. I do agree as several have stated about offering partial credit for late assignments. I do that but then the issue becomes how late do you accept work. This year, I finally put into place a policy that students have one week from the due date to turn an assingment in late. It is too early for me to tell exactly how well or not that policy is working. I do with agree with Andrea R. and Irene B. that student responsibility needs to come into play. However, my administration focuses on getting the students to pass so much that I think they overlook student responsibility.

It is obvious that there is lots to discuss. I am interested to continue to seeing repsonses and suggestions regarding grading policies.

Ebony Palmer's picture

I totally agree!! This "zero" issue is a big concern within our district as well. As a teacher, I often reflect to my own personal experiences regarding my decision making when it comes to grading. According to "old protocol", if you did not turn in an assignment, you received a zero for a grade. Yes, it did hurt your grade but it seemed to serve as a reminder to not repeat that particular action again. After reading everyone's comments, I realize that majority share the same frustration about this matter. I'm not sure which way is more beneficial to our youth; however, I do feel we should continue to find other alternatives to this problem

Aleisha Davis's picture

My school uses a grade book on the computer that the parents have access to. If a student did not turn in an assignment, then they put in a "m" to stand for missing. If the student turned in the assignment and didn't get any questions correct then a zero is put in the grade book. I teach eighth grade and feel that if they earned a zero then that is what I am going to put in the grade book. I do not feel that giving a student a 50% as the lowest grade is going to help them in the long run. If a person doesn't show up to work, do they get paid 50% of their normal salary?

mpoppell's picture
Fourth grade teacher

In my school district we are on a computerized grade book system, and not permitted to give any grade below a 60. If you do not put a grade in for a missing assignment, there is no effect on the average. I accept late work, but deduct 10 points per day for tardyness. I have had to use a 60 many times for missing assignments, because it is not fair to the students who consistantly complete their assignments. please let me know if you have a better idea.

Ryan Glassman's picture
Ryan Glassman
High School Social Studies Teacher from Goshen, Indiana

My school utilizes a computerized grade book as well. We are permitted, and at times, encouraged to give students zeros for any work not turned in. It may be possible that this is a high school mindset. I would see difficulty in elementary school teachers putting in zeros as students are early on in their development. I believe that zeros in the grade book are not an issue for anyone but the student. When I assign an assignment, I EXPECT everyone to complete it. I will award students with the points they EARN. If a student does not turn in an assignment, then they EARNED zero points. I also accept late work, but only 3 late assignments. Because I deal with juniors and seniors that are 16-18 years old, I expect them to meet deadlines and take responsibility for their work.

I honestly cannot imagine not being able to put in zeros for assignments that have not been turned in. I have even put in zeros for multiple tests because students will not complete them even when I place the test in front of them. It is not fair for those students who complete every assignment and take pride in their work to reward those that don't care with points. Does everyone in life succeed? Absolutely not! However, as teachers, we need to make sure students are given the proper steps to success. It is up to the individual students to make choices and accept consequences.

Cory Gasaway's picture
Cory Gasaway
English Teacher

We have also discussed the issue removing "zeros" from the gradebook; however, I feel that schools should look for alternatives to zeros, yet we can never eliminate zeros completely. Therefore, I like to adopt in my classroom a "No Failure" option. I do not allow students to get lower than 60% on any assignment. If they turn in work or receive or score that is below 60%, or if they fail to turn in anything at all, they must make the assignment up and they have the entire quarter to do so. If they have less than 60% on one assignment, they get an "incomplete" for the quarter. Now there will always be those students who fail to do work; nevertheless, I have seen a major increase in students' levels of expectations and performance. My amount of class failures has decreased dramatically. Some say I enable students to slack, but those same teachers have larger failure rates and lower test scores. When high expectations are placed on students, you would be surprised at the level of increase in their productivity.

Kristen Simpson's picture

Indeed, grading policies can be a touchy subject, especially with the parents of the students receiving the zeros. I agree with many of you who stated that it is not fair to the students who worked diligently on their assignment and turned it in on time for the students who did not turn in the assignment to receive a 50% or 60% on the assignment. I was one of those students in school who ended up doing all of the work in group assignments and did not feel that it was fair for me to do all the work to get a good grade and then all of my teammates on the project got the same grade and did nothing. As far as giving a zero on assignments not turned in, I have contemplated this: mark the assignment as missing and give the student a few days, weeks, or to the end of the marking period to complete it. If, after the allotted time has expired, the student failed to submit the completed assignment, then a zero should be given. Obviously, this probably will better in the middle school or high school classes, but what are your thoughts on implementing this in the elementary classroom setting. I am interested to know what others think.

Jon Moore's picture
Jon Moore
11th and 12th grade English teacher from Shepherd, Montana

We have in our district discussed homework policies to no avail. Some had a knee jerk reaction and instantly said-we aren't allowed to give 0's-so they simply don't and complain about the policy. I have a no zero policy but it is also a "I'm not that naive" policy. Students who do not do homework (which I do not assign a great deal of other than reading) receive a completion contract and must do the assignment. The parents sign the contract and full credit is restored. If I feel the parents are not a support system, or the issue is behavior not academic, they attend a session in our intentional non-learner room during our tutorial period. If they fail to complete the contract, they receive detention. I make them do the assignment for half credit. If they still fail to show up, they receive Friday school and a 0. There is only so much we can do. I have only handed out 10 contracts this year-every year the number goes down as students see the futility in fighting my homework motto: you can do it, do it, or do it.

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