Repair Kit Fix 12: ZAP or Zeros aren’t Permitted

Fix 12: Don’t include zeros in grade determination when evidence is missing or as punishment; use alternatives, such as reassessing to determine real achievement or use “I” for Incomplete or Insufficient Evidence.

Initial thoughts: This would seem to be a continuation of fixes 2 & 4.  Before reading I wonder if zeros are still allowed for performance not to be counted necessarily but as a first attempt.  I also wonder how many I’s are allowed before a final grade becomes an I.

“There are three fundamental problems with zeros” (Page 96)

1) Zeros give a numerical value to something that has never been assessed and therefore has no basis in reality.

OK This make so much sense I wonder why I never thought of it before.  I usually leave spaces in my gradebook blank until the final grade is due then I have in the past done one of two things depending on the school/district policy: left them blank/marked I or filled them in with zeros.

2) The can have counterproductive effects on student motivation.

Much like taking points off of late work does not keep work from being turned in late, giving zeros for missing work doesn’t motivate students to turn work in.  If they’re already failing students often think “why bother?”

3) They involve inappropriate mathematics.

Um what?  What does this mean?

“We are faced with the irony that a policy that may be grounded in the belief of holding students accountable (giving zeros) actually allows some students to escape accountability for learning.” (page 96)

These students aren’t being required to complete the work and therefore aren’t being held accountable.  When students are required to make up work they begin to see it may be better to simply do it when it’s been assigned.

“While zeros can doom students to failure very early in the school year, with support and time an Incomplete can most often be made complete.” (page 97)

I know a student who is failing several classes because he does not do his homework, he is however incredibly bright and knows the material therefore his grades are not accurate.  If his grades were calculated by summative assessments he would be passing with flying colors I’m sure.  He chooses not to do the work because he already knows how and he’s bored.  Why force him to do the work.  If for some reason he did poorly on an assessment it would be easy enough to sit down and discuss with him how he thinks he might have scored differently had he completed the practice assignments.  This example may not fit this particular quote well but I think it definitely addresses the Fix.

Student Involvement: The suggestion is made here that student-led conferences could help students recognize their responsibilities.  As most student-led conferences begin with students going over a reflection sheet that they filled out I can see how this would help them identify their strengths and weaknesses.

I’m still left with the question of how many I’s equal an I in the class but maybe that’s to be left up to the teacher, school, or district.




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