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 A to Z Teacher Stuff Forums Fair grading practices (The Case Against Zero)

#1
11-12-2012, 09:16 PM
 Caesar753 Multitudinous Join Date: Jun 2007 Posts: 12,301
Fair grading practices (The Case Against Zero)

Last week at my school we had a meeting about fair grading practices. We were discussing the equitable distribution of grades, i.e., making an A worth the same number of points as an F. The argument made by the presenters is that on our current 100-point percentage system, there's a huge disparity between the number of points in an F (0-59) and every other letter grade.

I should point out now that I have always agreed with that claim.

Another teacher brought up the fact that As, Bs, Cs, and Ds are all really the same--they're all passing, just different degrees of passing. He pointed out that on our current 100-point percentage system, roughly half the scale is dedicated to "passing" scores and half to "failing". He further pointed out that when we switch the scale to something with a more equitable distribution among letter grades (rather than between simply passing and failing), the same problem originally meant to be eliminated by this scale is still present--just in reverse, resulting in grade inflation.

His argument made a lot of sense to me. I am now finding my own views on the subject to be sort of flip-floppy and on the fence. Can anyone convince me to land on one side of the fence or the other, solidly and securely, confident in whichever system I choose?

#2
11-12-2012, 09:44 PM
 FourSquare Enthusiast Join Date: Aug 2009 Posts: 2,477 7th Grade Special Education
I don't know. (Honestly.) All my kids are on a modified SPED scale...90-100=A, 80-89=B, 70-79=C, 60-69=D, and below 60=F. I think that's pretty reasonable. Do they really know what they're doing if they can only demonstrate a skill less than 60% of the time? I do weight things different...but with stuff like homework you either do it or you don't. No homework=0. Kids need to make some effort.
#3
11-12-2012, 10:04 PM
 Peregrin5 Phenom Join Date: Aug 2011 Posts: 4,217 California 8th Grade Science Teacher
I don't know either. It seems to me like one of the benefits of the current system is that it encourages students to do more than just pass, but also to excel. This is similar to the other thread in which we talk about B's being academic suicide.

It could be due to grade inflation, but anything less than A's aren't acceptable these days in higher learning institutions, and our goal is to prepare students for these institutions (though there is debate on this point as well).
#4
11-12-2012, 10:25 PM
 FourSquare Enthusiast Join Date: Aug 2009 Posts: 2,477 7th Grade Special Education
I find even more pressure as a middle school teacher now since my kids will use these grades to apply for selective enrollment high schools. It is highly unlikely they'd get in with B or C averages. Not that I hand out A's...kid's get what they earn...but I suppose it's made me more thoughtful about what and how I grade.
#5
11-12-2012, 10:28 PM
 Caesar753 Multitudinous Join Date: Jun 2007 Posts: 12,301
Quote:
 Originally Posted by FourSquare I don't know. (Honestly.) All my kids are on a modified SPED scale...90-100=A, 80-89=B, 70-79=C, 60-69=D, and below 60=F.
This is our regular scale, although we do incorporate a minimum F (50%) on any work that was reasonably attempted. No attempt still earns 0%.
#6
11-12-2012, 10:31 PM
 Jeky Comrade Join Date: Oct 2007 Posts: 271 California 6th Grade Math/Science
Caesar, I am in the same boat......I read "The Case Against Zero" article and agree with it. Then I hear/read the counterarguments, and totally agree with them too! I really don't know where I stand on this issue and am looking forward to others' responses
#7
11-12-2012, 10:31 PM
 Caesar753 Multitudinous Join Date: Jun 2007 Posts: 12,301
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Peregrin5 I don't know either. It seems to me like one of the benefits of the current system is that it encourages students to do more than just pass, but also to excel. This is similar to the other thread in which we talk about B's being academic suicide. It could be due to grade inflation, but anything less than A's aren't acceptable these days in higher learning institutions, and our goal is to prepare students for these institutions (though there is debate on this point as well).
In my school, that's not the concern. The concern is that inflating grades is moving students from 35% mastery of a topic into "passing" range.
#8
11-12-2012, 10:32 PM
 Jeky Comrade Join Date: Oct 2007 Posts: 271 California 6th Grade Math/Science
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Caesar753 This is our regular scale, although we do incorporate a minimum F (50%) on any work that was reasonably attempted. No attempt still earns 0%.
This is my current policy. I feel like it maintains a balance between both sides.
#9
11-13-2012, 05:55 AM
 Sarge Enthusiast Join Date: Jan 2007 Posts: 2,492 California Working Class Teacher
If grades are to be based on skills learned, vs. work completed, then a "zero" would mean zero skills learned.

In standards based grading, a zero grade would then seldom be an accurate reflection of a student's skills because even our lowest performing students rarely learn zero in class. They might behave as if they learned zero, but that is not a accurate measure.

In other words, the student who turns in zero work or just sits there and gets a zero on the test is not giving you an accurate assessment. They may know more than what they demonstrate through the assignment or assessment.

With first grade, we deal with this all the time. A child may know how to read, but not be able to wrap their head around the basic idea of taking a multiple choice test - they mark all the bubbles or choose A for every answer.
#10
11-13-2012, 06:24 AM
 Cerek Aficionado Join Date: Nov 2009 Posts: 3,139 North Carolina Middle School Math Teacher
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Sarge If grades are to be based on skills learned, vs. work completed, then a "zero" would mean zero skills learned. In standards based grading, a zero grade would then seldom be an accurate reflection of a student's skills because even our lowest performing students rarely learn zero in class. They might behave as if they learned zero, but that is not a accurate measure. In other words, the student who turns in zero work or just sits there and gets a zero on the test is not giving you an accurate assessment. They may know more than what they demonstrate through the assignment or assessment. With first grade, we deal with this all the time. A child may know how to read, but not be able to wrap their head around the basic idea of taking a multiple choice test - they mark all the bubbles or choose A for every answer.
Work completed is one way students exhibit it the skills learned. The two are not mutually exclusive, they are symbiotic. As you said, if they don't complete the work or tests, then they've not given the teacher any way to assess the skills learned.

There have been some counter-arguments suggesting students should not have to complete homework if they can demonstrate mastery of the material on the test. I disagree because it is only the very rare student that can fully master and understand the material without any practice. So if we just rely on tests, we - and our students - will more likely see they do NOT understand the material as well as they thought, especially app,ications of the material requiring critical thought and application.

For myself, I've begun giving a 50 as my minimum grade IF the student at least tried to do the work. Te only exception to this is a paper handed in with nothing but a list of answers. That earns a 0 because it only shows me the student can use a calculator or copy their friends' paper. They must show some effort on the work and part of that effort includes showing their work.

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