Monday, November 10, 2008

Fifty is the New Zero

Collier County elementary school students will no longer receive zeroes, but fifties. The new policy requires teachers use 50% instead of 0% when scoring elementary students' work, even if the work was not completed.

I am a high school teacher and I have long believed that an F is an F is an F. I do not use zeroes when evaluating students. That's right--even if they turn nothing in, I put a 50% in the grade book.

Why do we have a 10 point range for letter grades A - D but a 59 point range for an F? Zeroes destroy an average and do not represent what a student knows and is able to do. Imagine you have a student who earned a perfect score on a test. Let's say the student earned 100 of 100 points possible, a 100%, but failed to turn in the next assignment (also worth 100 points) for whatever reason. If you calculate grades using the total points system as many high school teachers do, then that student would now have a 50% average. Does that number truly represent what that student knows and is able to do? Or are we grading a behavior?

When students in my classroom do not turn in work, I mark the grade book with a "DND" for did not do. The DND is a 50%. When I confer with Students and parents about a student's progress, I have yet to meet a parent for whom DND was not descriptive enough. If a student is determined to fail, a 50% won't change that, but for the struggling student working to achieve, the 50% is hope and a second chance.

What do you think? Leave us a comment to continue the conversation!

PS: Want to read more about it? Here are a couple of online sources. For professional books, you might check out Marzano's Transforming Classroom Grading or Wormeli's Fair Isn't Always Equal.

"Competitive Grading Sabotages Good Teaching" by John Krumboltz and Christine Yeh

"The Case Against Zero" by Douglas Reeves

1 comment:

  1. Here in Hawaii, we don't grade with percentages or A-F marks. We grade with an ME (Meets with Excellence), M (Meets), N (Approaching), and U (Well Below). At least that's how it is for K-8 (and for high school eventually, I hear).