# to give a zero or not give a zero, that is the question

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by teresateaches, Aug 17, 2012.

1. ### teresateachesCompanion

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Aug 17, 2012

i know lots of teachers who will not give a zero, even if a child never turns in an assignment.

my issue with this is what if a child turns in an assignment and gets a 40. the kid who turned in nothing, zero, zilch, gets a 50 (what they give in place of a zero). so, turning in nothing gets you a better grade then trying?

i get that a zero is REALLY hard to recover from on assignments that are weighted heavily, but I have a hard time with the above situtation.

what do others do?

3. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

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Aug 17, 2012

I would imagine that if the bottom out grade is 50, then that's the bottom out grade for everyone.

We do incompletes for missing projects.

4. ### teresateachesCompanion

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Aug 17, 2012

What does your incomplete equal to? When I've used Engrade, you can't put incomplete. You put missing which equals a zero.

Perhaps the bottom out grade does equal a 50 for all, but I don't think that has been the case with some teachers. I don't think they have thought it through.

5. ### platypusokCompanion

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Aug 17, 2012

I give zeroes. If they don't turn it in, it's a zero. Some assignments are worth 2 grades.

I understand where the other side is coming from even if I don't agree with it. Luckily, I don't think my school is going to move to the no zero policy any time in the foreseeable future.

6. ### HistTchrHabitué

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Aug 17, 2012

We are supposed to give a zero for missing work at my school. If the grade causes the student to fail for the term, we can send the assignment to credit recovery, where a student can do (or redo) it for up to a 65.

7. ### MathemagicianGroupie

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Aug 17, 2012

"credit recovery" haha---sounds like the repossession department of the school.

8. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

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Aug 17, 2012

In my school, a kid who is missing a major project will receive an incomplete as his trimester grade on the report card.

9. ### lucybelleConnoisseur

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Aug 17, 2012

I give out zeros. If something is really heavily weighted and the kid comes to me to ask to make it up, I'll give them the lowest grade that was made. So if of all the kids that turned in their work on time, the lowest is a 75, that's the highest the make up work can be. To me it's not fair to have late work make a higher grade.

10. ### HistTchrHabitué

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Aug 17, 2012

:lol:
We always joke about the name of the program, too!

11. ### BrendanFanatic

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Aug 17, 2012

We have the same policy, the highest grade earned on the assignment is a 65, unless doing so will cause a failure for the term.

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Aug 17, 2012

I will weigh in on the no zero side. Your grades are supposed to reflect a student's achievement level in your curriculum at any given time. A grade of zero is both punitive, and makes this use of grades impossible.

Consider this:

With zeros if you have a student with 4 assignments who has made a '100' on three of them and is missing one you get this average: 100+100+100+0 = 75/D

Another student in the same class who is a slacker makes this:

75+75+75+75= 75/D

Is the ability level of the two students the same? Plainly no. However, according to the grades with a '0' it sure looks that way.

Try the same scenario using a '60' instead of a '0'. You get this:
100+100+100+60= 90/B

Clearly the example with a 60 yields a much more accurate account of a student's ability while still penalizing them for their missing work.

A zero is not more of an F than a 60. An F is an F. But using a 60 allows you to maintain your grades as an accurate reflection of student ability and achievement. A 0 makes that impossible. It precludes a balanced grading scale.

13. ### giraffe326Virtuoso

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Aug 17, 2012

I am upper elementary, but I will not give a child below a 50 if they attempt to do it. However, if they don't bother at all, they definitely get a 0!

14. ### teresateachesCompanion

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Aug 17, 2012

I'm actually super torn on this and in the past, I have just not done anything. I'll drop it or not put in a grade at all in Engrade. It is just a blank space, so the other items become weighted more heavily.

If there are three test grades a quarter and you only do two, then they average as your grade. Or if you only have one, that is your grade. But, I worked in a low SES school where the kids just did not care about grades. They were used to f's. They bragged about. I'm moving to the polar opposite this year. One of the best schools in the state and one of the wealthiest where I know the parents WILL care and will pick through their grades with a fine tooth comb so I'm weighing my options carefully on this. I will of course, talk to other teachers once we return.

15. ### MathemagicianGroupie

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Aug 17, 2012

I took a seminar taught by a superintendent of a low SES school. She instituted such a policy in her district where 0s are prohibited, and students must make up the work, even if it means making work up INTO THE SUMMER. She explained the same logic to us, and mentioned that it's us math teachers in her district that fight her the most on this. I do see the point but I do take the idea of College Prep. very seriously. I don't know any college professor that would log missed work as anything other than 0. I believe in letting students make it up at a 10 pt. per day penalty, but I am also torn about whether completely ignored work should get any points.

16. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

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Aug 18, 2012

The point behind the no-zero policy is that, instead of just taking a zero and shrugging it off, the kids eventuallly HAVE TO DO THE ASSIGNMENT.

17. ### a2zVirtuoso

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Aug 18, 2012

Yes, true, but that part of the arguement usually gets left off in the discussion. The end of the year the student can have an Incomplete which gives no credit for the course.

18. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

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Aug 18, 2012

It's very, very rarely a problem in my school, but I realize that my school isn't the norm.

But I can still see how it's workable in a different enviornement.

At that point, I suppose things can always be reconsidered. A school policy could be instituted saying that, by the end of the year (or, better yet, of the summer) a grade must replace the Incomplete.

19. ### Go Blue!Connoisseur

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Aug 18, 2012

I give zeros so the kids can see what their grade will be if they don't make up their missed work. But, I allow kids to make up assignments all quarter long (this is a school policy) and they can get those zeros erased if they complete the assignment.

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Aug 19, 2012

This is a huge problem. We just spent about an hour discussing this issue.

What is the purpose of homework? Is it not to make mistakes and learn.
These are question that need to be answered.

Does a student learn anything if they have a zero? No.
Will it motivate the student? No.
IF they are deducted points for being late are they more likely to turn in work next time? No
Are they more likely to finish the work and turn it on the next day? No.

Now the motivated student will answer yes to all those question. But the motivated student in many ways not the concern of the teacher. I was a highly non-motivated student in high school and did not do well. I failed a class I teach now.

I am moving to the position that students need to be allowed to achieve mastery in a subject. Giving a zero does not achieve mastery. When we allow students a zero we fail them.

I am thinking we need to move to a 100% turn in of work and the students need to achieve mastery. This means they do not get by with sloppy work or incomplete work. They have to repeat till done. Now this requires buy-in from the whole staff. Students come in early, stay late, and during lunch till work is completed to mastery level.

Students need to be held accountable for work.

Now before anyone says, it must be nice to be in a school where you can do that. We have over 80% low and reduced lunch. We also have an over 70% minority population.

21. ### mrsenglishRookie

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Aug 19, 2012

I'm a "mostly no zero" kind of person. What that means is late work does receive a point deduction. After three days late, my students are required to come to me during their study hall and physically sit with me and complete their assignment. My goal and motivation is not "did they turn in the assignment" but do they know and possess the skills that the assignment is evaluating.

22. ### a2zVirtuoso

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Aug 19, 2012

I agree with what you have to say in concept. In implementation, it would be difficult at some schools regardless of the make-up of the student population. Transportation is a huge factor. Some schools have complete bussing. Not one student walks to school. While some schools have time dedicated to ease the problem of students needing help, it is sometimes not enough to address the issue. Our other issue is that when students have lunch and when teachers have availability can be two different things.

Our district hs's have a time period every day to allow this to happen, but those students at schools that have walkers are much more able to implement what you suggest than those schools where busses pick up the students 10 minutes after the last bell with no late or activity bus.

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Aug 19, 2012

I agree. We have a van person, this year, to drive the very few students that this applies to. Most of the work though takes place during lunch, and some before school.

Some (not all) have a study hall. All the students have an advisory period at end of day, which catches a lot of this work.

This was implemented mid last year. I suspect now that there is buy-in from (all?) staff this will work really well.

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Aug 19, 2012

Some Thoughts

Good job on implementation. :thumb:

So let me ask the question. What does this teach the student to penalize them if late? I suggest nothing. Will the student get it in late? Yeah maybe? Is it up to snuff. Does the work product show mastery?

What if a student hands in an essay two days late, yet it is the best essay ever written? What if a student handed in an essay on time yet it was typed by a monkey figuring out Shakespeare?

Do these two things deserve the same grade or even one grade different? Let's say a D (monkey) to a C (best). Has not the late student shown MASTERY over the content standards? And even surpassed the content standards? Does this student deserve a B or a C?

Likewise should not the monkey writer come in an work on the essay?

Personally I am thinking we need to move to a pass/fail system in Middle School.

As I said, I am working through this whole process and I do not have all the answers. I doubt I have 1/8 of the answers.

25. ### mrsenglishRookie

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Aug 19, 2012

I take percentages off for late work. 10% the first day, 15% the second day, 20% the third day, and then they are required to complete it with me for 25% penalty. I personally wish I could do standards based mastery grading. It just wouldn't work for high school. I do this for grammar. If we are working on grammar, students cannot move on to the next mastery until they are at an 80% or better on one concept. This not only helps with differentiation but it also makes sure that the kid who fails doesn't just move on, and they actually know the concept and can apply it, not just pass the test at 70% passing.

26. ### chebruttaEnthusiast

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Aug 19, 2012

I give zeros on homework or classwork with no qualms. Since I collect HW at the end of the week, there's very rarely a good excuse for not having it done (it does happen... death in the family, etc). Classwork... well, I really don't see an excuse for not turning in SOMETHING. Even if it says, "I don't get this at all, and I really need extra help." I can work with that.

But projects/essays that go in the 50% category? I put the zero in the gradebook, but I give 'em up to the last day of the grading period to get it in. It doesn't happen often, but every year there's one or two really big, painful zeros.

27. ### SCTeachInTXFanatic

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Aug 20, 2012

I only give a 50 as my lowest grade. It gives kids an opportunity to improve rather than quit trying because of the hopelessness of their grades.

Revise: I DO put the actual grade on the student paper so that the student can SEE what he/she earned. But I am all about helping kids succeed and giving them second chances. It is hard to crawl out of the 0 hole, once you fall in...

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Aug 20, 2012

I am firmly in the "zero" camp. If a student makes ZERO effort on an assignment, then (s)he deserves a grade that reflects that lack of effort. If a student at least attempts the work, I don't have a problem giving a 50 as the lowest grade.

Instead of asking "What does a student learn from getting zero?", I feel we should ask "What does a student learn from not doing the assignment at all?" If you insist on the first question, my answer would be "The child learns that giving no effort at all will earn a grade equal to their effort."

Also, the policies of "give a zero" and "turn in all work " don't have to be mutually exclusive. You can have it both ways. A student earns a zero until they complete the work and turn it in.

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Aug 20, 2012

Good one. I like that idea. Showthe Zippo and give a 50.

What if they do not do the work?

I ran this by the kids today. They actually were okay with the idea. But again, I think, the staff are all on the same page.

Not to be a naysayer but what does this teach the student? you are telling me as an unmotivated student there is no reason to do the work and so it well. I think you are telling them if you are late you are toast.

In high school, for my 9th and 10th graders, I doing mastery pass/fail and then counting the test as the grade. I will see how this goes.

---
Now this is my first year trying this. I am hoping I am not all rainbows and unicorns and bought the kool-aid that was sold. This all makes sense to me, at least for now.

30. ### SCTeachInTXFanatic

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Aug 20, 2012

A 50 is always my bottom line. But, I do call the parent or email and say... I gave your child an opportunity to turn in this work. I will have to grade accordingly. The parent sees the poor grade and usually I no longer have problems with the student. If parents check my gradebook, they see the 50. However I have never once been questioned. If the student is a repeat offender, it is time to have a parent conference.

31. ### mrsenglishRookie

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In my humble opinion, it penalizes the student and reinforces that it's important while also showing that the MORE important thing is the mastery of the skill, not the ability to do it on time. I do call/email parents and let them know that their student isn't doing their work on time and is receiving poor scores because of it. I do have limits on the lateness of the work. I think that if my goal is to make sure the students master something, then giving them a zero doesn't motivate them to practice anything for that mastery without receiving credit for it.

32. ### pvcpaRookie

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Sep 7, 2012

Our school policy is that late or work not turned in is a ZERO. Additionally the work or project still must be completed or it is a violation of our Student Code and will result in Saturday School, detention or other action.

33. ### catnfiddleModerator

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Sep 7, 2012

My school has switched to the weighted four-point scale (instead of 100-point) to see if this a better solution to student disengagement than Case Against Zero. We're only two weeks in, but I like it so far. I'll keep an eye on things and let you know how it goes!

34. ### teresateachesCompanion

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Sep 7, 2012

What is this four point scale thing? How does this work?

35. ### catnfiddleModerator

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A=4, B=3, etc. You assign a letter grade for each assignment or assessment. A skipped assignment is still 0 points but it isn't as dire as on the 100-point scale. The trick comes in weighing the grades. A multiple choice quiz can have a weight of 1.0 while an essay has a weight of 3.0. Extra credit is lower with a weight of 0.25. If a student skips that essay, the consequences will be weighted but, again not as heavily as if it were worth 50 points on a 100 point scale.

It probably works a lot more easily in an electronic grade book that will do the math for you than in a paper one. I've only been using it for two weeks and haven't fully assessed how it affects my classroom, but so far, so good.

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catnfiddle, I would far and away prefer that approach. Research backs it up, and it is actually a fair grading system.

Giving zeroes results in a grading system that cannot be fair. If my child is in a classroom where a zero is given you had better be able to demonstrate quantitatively and qualitatively the EXACT weighted difference between each level of work here. What is the precise difference in a 30 and 60? Show me the difference in a 60 and a 69. If you cannot do that you are explicitly setting your students up to fail. Why set them in a system where they have a range of 30 points for success, but a massive 70 point range for failure? It simply is not justifiable if your grading system does what it is designed to do, and that is reflect each students' mastery of your content.

37. ### teresateachesCompanion

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Sep 13, 2012

I am very interested in this. This year, I tried to do a point system but I'm not sure I did it right. I went with the advice of other teachers. My classwork and homework are set at 10 points each. Tests are 50 points, as are projects and writing assignments. They will get three tests. Three projects and two writing assignments. Homework is daily reading and a weekly vocab contract. They are graded by rubric in class for readers workshop as a classwork grade. They will end up with WAY more point for classwork. It has my head

I want to change it to simplify. Right now, I feel like the classwork and homework is so heavy compared to the rest.