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.




Repair Kit Study Guide: grade book organization and missing work

After two posts of two questions each I think today we’re going to squeeze in three OO-OO-OO wow! LOL sorry not sure what got into me there.

5) I organize information in my record/mark/grading book by source: homework, quizzes, tests, labs etc.

My answer here is almost always.  I did this so that I could look for trends in the grades things such as do students do well on homework but not tests (here comes my big issue: test anxiety can be major issue for some kids as many teachers and parents know).  Maybe students do well on in-class work but not homework or vice versa, is work even being completed?  All of these are important things to know.

However I do NOT EVER weight grades.  My grades have always been calculated from points earned out of total points possible.  I want my students to relax as much as possible on tests.  When test scores are the major component of final grades even students who are normally good test takers get very nervous and second guess themselves more, I was one of those students.  I tell my classes that the tests are to show me what they have learned and what they have retained, tests should not tank their overall grade.  The lower I can get their anxiety level the more accurate the test scores, then I can combine that with the homework scores to come up with an accurate assessment of their knowledge level.


6) I include in final grades zeroes for missing work.

I answered sometimes and by the way I added the word final to the sentence above to make it make more sense to me.

Yes I used to frequently count zeroes for missing work though I did attempt to contact parents/guardians with  notes sent home, e-mails, or phone calls to express concern about missing assignments.  However as I mentioned in #2 that came mostly to an end my last year in my last classroom position due to our Intervention time.  


7) I communicate feedback on assessments, by providing a single letter grade.

I’m not exactly sure what they mean here, I’m guessing it means that tests handed back to students simply have a letter grade/percentage on them but no other feedback.  Ok now that I’ve said it that way I feel dumb that I was ever confused, ah well such is life.

I actually don’t always put a letter grade on tests I hand back.  I do always include percent and total points earned out of total points possible, so I went with sometimes as my answer on this one.  Not only do I put total score on the test I put scores next to each individual question or section.  When it comes to constructed response (one to two sentence answers) and performance events (essays in many classes, large multi-step problems in math that also sometimes require written answers) I try to provide more feedback: additional questions to prompt for more information, comments, highlighting good things, suggestions for improvement.  I also make it a habit to go through the assessment as a class to answer any questions students may have, show quality answers, and make corrections when (yes, when not if) I make mistakes.  When grading hundreds of assessments in a year mistakes will be made, and when I do make a mistake I give the student credit for that question.  I have had teachers myself and met some through the years for whom the test grade is final if they made a mistake while grading that lowers a student’s score they don’t change it.  Conversely if I make a mistake and fail to mark a question wrong and the student points that out to me I don’t change the grade, it was my mistake and if the student was responsible enough to tell me about it I let them keep the points.  Somehow I don’t think the author of this book would approve of that and I’m not sure I’d change that policy.  I suppose it might be a matter of how many points it was and did it truly make a difference in the final grade, often one or two points really don’t.

Well so far I’ve gotten through seven and a half pages of the seventeen pages of notes I took on appendix C.  It should come as no surprise that I have a lot to say, I’m a pretty talkative person after all and when it’s a topic I’m passionate about I have even more to say.  Now question time: what are your thoughts on these questions as parents, teachers, or students?