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“What does doing 0 work but getting a grade of 50 teach a child?” No, this is not a rhetorical question, neither is it a hypothetical one. It is a question that teachers across the country seem to be dealing with (well, maybe not across the country, but at least in Virginia and Colorado).

“Why would a student get a 50% on an assignment that he did not do?” is a better question. Or perhaps: “Why would a teacher be told/directed to give a student a 50% on an assignment that was assigned but which the student did not do?” From what I understand there are two main rationales.

One: not to damage the ego of a child because, you know, getting 0% for the 0% effort he put into his schoolwork would cause his self-confidence to plummet. This is as opposed to doing 100% of the work, and working hard at it, and getting a grade that makes him proud of the work he did—or at least aware that effort is rewarded, and that you learn and improve the more work you do. That, apparently, isn’t such a sound idea these days. Perhaps it is too much of a retro idea and education theorists and philosophers are all about continually re-inventing the education wheel.

Two: too many Ds and Fs look bad for a teacher and, more importantly, a school. What would the pie charts and the bar graphs and statistics look like if a school has too many students at the bottom end of the grade alphabet? No, that’s not good because then schools would have to worry about being labeled low performing or not improving student performance enough, which is worse, apparently, than actually figuring out why a student is not doing his work and working with him—so grade inflation is the way to prevent that. (I love the word “performance,” which is as appropriate as “are you still working” when you are eating in a restaurant. Shouldn’t the word be knowledge or understanding, you know, something related to the learning process; and in relation to the restaurant, shouldn’t it be “eating,” as in are you still eating that apple pie?)

“No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top,” in their efforts to raise the educational level of all students, sure have resulted in some skewed practices. I understand and fully support believing in every single child in this country and giving him or her the best education possible, but encouraging kids to be lazy seems to be faulty—or lazy—logic to me.  

I have taught high school freshmen who are stunned when they receive 0s. Seriously, they are upset and confused that I don’t give them credit just because they’re such wonderful and cute kids. Someone please tell me what real-world lesson this emulates that wouldn’t result in someone going to jail—or having resulted in having some really great coupons?

Why should 14-year-olds first be learning that work=grade or that there are consequences for their actions/inactions? Wouldn’t it be better, for all of us now and into the future, if we taught kids that they are as accountable for their grades as we the educators and the parents and the administrators and society are?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Don't know what to do with this... (0+ / 0-)

    Zimmerman charged with second degree murder and in custody.

    Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

    by Smoh on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 03:06:40 PM PDT

  •  I don't understand this theory either. (0+ / 0-)

    I don't think I was ever given a grade above 0% for something I didn't do, unless it was being turned in late for a very good reason! (Like a death in the family or a serious illness.) And even then sometimes points were taken off.
    Seems only fair to me, 0 points for 0 work.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 03:22:04 PM PDT

  •  Because the number values of performance based (0+ / 0-)

    grades are arbitrary.

    a 50% centered test and an 80% centered test are both possible with the same set of students and the same day.

    Figuring out how to do the grading math for no assignment done may need to keep that figure in light.

    I once took a test in collage where a -7/100 was passing and a 17/100 was a B. In that case, not showing up is not a bad option.

    I see no problems with setting the grading floor at a low F, in that, mathematically, it means if someone works hard and learns material, it may be plausible to pull a grade into a passing range.

    "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

    by Geek of all trades on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 04:22:07 PM PDT

  •  It makes a big hole (0+ / 0-)

    in a kid's grade that is hard to make up, according to the administrator explaining it to me (an experienced math teacher). A reply of "so what" was not appreciated.

    If it was a homework assignment (one of many in a quarter) then its affect is diluted. Many teachers also allow students to earn a holiday from an assignment. There is no reason a missed homework should kill a grade.

    Big assignments or tests are another matter. If a student blows this off they should feel some pain.

    When I was dept head that same admin complained that a teacher's freshman class grades were way too low and that teacher must be screwing up. My words were "all those kids have to do is meet this teacher halfway, and then she mothers the shit out of them". By the end of the year that class was on track and happiness reigned. Crummy grades during the first quarter of ninth grade are often the first time students have been brought up short.

    Trust your teachers to do right by the kids. If you really believe the teacher has it out for your kid, talk to the teacher, then their boss, then the principal. I worked with wonderful people who put their egos aside and pushed kids to do their best.

    •  Weighted Grades (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm the teacher--and a mother.

      Weighted grades seem to be the way to prevent homework that is not done from putting a kid in a hole too much. That seems to be the way my school goes in ACCOMMODATING parents and administrators. But at some point, the student needs to wake up--and how will that be done if he keeps getting grades for work not done? When is the lesson learned?

      I do like your expression about a student meeting a teacher halfway and then all the love comes. So very true.

  •  Have to watch out for damaging the self-esteem of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    young people.  Studies carried out by "Important Educators" have clearly shown that bullies act because they have low self-esteem.  All that swaggering and arrogance is just a cover for that low self esteem.  These educators had the insight to know the truth before they did the studies and were not at all surprised when data supported their truths.  
    My son intended to be a Middle School teacher - science and math.  In his first education class he was informed that one of the cardinal rules was to write tests that were as subjective as possible because objective tests had the potential to damage students' self esteem and that was to be avoided at all costs.  He asked the professor if that meant that he was supposed to teach students that 1 + 1 = 2 except in the case of very large or very small 1's.  He received a thorough glower from the offended Prof and was asked whether he really wanted to be a teacher.  He dropped the idea of becoming a public school teacher at that moment and the class as soon as he left.  
    Bottom line is that there are reasons why U.S. students score very low on science and math tests as compared to other Nations - but these same American students all think they did very well on the tests - unlike other students who did much better than the U.S. but were not pleased with how well they had performed.  No lack of self-esteem for the U.S. students - just a bit short on the knowledge end of things...

    •  I remember that study (0+ / 0-)

      but, as an old guy I could say things like "you can have some esteem after you learn this".
      Your son bailed out with the wrong example. By choosing the extreme example he made it impossible to answer.
      He should have stayed around long enough to teach kids how to generate perfect squares or pythagorean triples. Kids gained esteem when they accomplished something. It didn't matter that others had done it before: they had used their brains to do something original. We used to use the things they made up as examples of things you could "impress people with at parties". (Oh, the groans about that stuff!)
      Why did I teach them calculus? So I would have interesting people to talk to.
      Why did I teach them Trig? So they could become good math teachers. (We need them!)
      My kid became a high school history teacher. I wasn't all that happy because I knew she wouldn't be valued enough.
      All these comparisons with other countries make no sense. We don't have a national curriculum (and I don't want one). If my state was singled out, it would rank very near the top of those tests. If we decided that it was important to do well on those tests, then we would. No shortage of brains around here. What we want those brains to do is the problem. We as a country cannot decide.

  •  The power of Zero (0+ / 0-)

    Let's say that you have 8 grades in your gradebook.  The student doesn't do the first 2 assignments, so a 0 and 0.  The student turns things around and gets a 75 and the 2 100's.  So 0,0, 75, 100, 100.  What grade do they deserve?  Have the learned the material?  The student average is 55% and they fail the class.  The reason really is the disproportionate amount of numbers in the F range, 0-59.  Every other grade only gets 10 points.  By saying the lowest grade the student can get is a 50 you have evened up the weight of each grade.  Check out how our student would do now:  50, 50, 75, 100, 100.  Remember, the question is did the student learn the material.  The new average is now a 75%, a C.  

    This is the power of zero.  On a traditional grade scale it has a devastating effect on the student grade.  

    But I was where you are about 5 years ago.  I was revolted at giving a student a grade of 50 for doing nothing.  So then I started asking and researching, why do we say use the 60-70-80-90 grade scale (or whatever minor variation of this you use)?  Where did it come from?  What is the validity of it as a measuring tool?  

    Turns out there is no real good reason. Some Harvard professor used it in the late 1800's so now we all use it.  That led me the next question:  Is there a better way?

    I settled on the 5 point grade scale.  In our first example look what happens.  The grades are now 0, 0, 2, 4 and 4.  That averages out to a 2.0.  Hey, that's a C!  Same as before but now I could give zeroes!

    I used this system for a few years.  I loved it.  It was easy to enter and very efficient.  Parent's hated it.  It was not what they did in school.  They couldn't understand how 25% (a 1 grade) was a D.  

    Then came the big Professional Learning Community push.  Standardization was the key.  Everyone had to be exactly the same, so I ditched the 5 point grade scale.  Now I only use between 6 and 8 assessments per grade period to determine grades, the summative assessments.  The work and practice assessments, called formative, counts for nothing toward the grade.  It is just practice.

    But what about kids that don't do the summative assessments?  Simple, all summative assessments must be completed and must be at least a 70%, C-.  If they don't get that we remediate until they do.  If they don't do the work they get an incomplete.

    What about formative assessments, you ask.  Will they do the work when there is no grade?  Maybe not, but if they can get the grade they want on the summative, so what?  But if they don't get 70%, the first thing I ask them to show me is their formative work.  No formative work, then go back and do it, that is the first step in the remediation.  

    Now you can't do this by yourself.  If you have no Response to Intervention infrastructure, you will go mad trying to remediate.  So maybe you can use some of this, maybe you can't.  

    If you are in the PLC model, you recognize the questions:
    1.  What do we want students to learn?
    2.  How will now when they learned it?
    3.  What will we do when have learned it?
    4.  What will we do when they haven't learned it?

    If you give a zero for not doing something, what are you really assessing?  What they know or their behavior?  

    Good luck!  If you figure out something that works, don't tell anyone!  Write a book and make a fortune instead.

    Wisconsin, Forward!

    by astroguy on Wed Apr 18, 2012 at 07:31:06 PM PDT

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