To Zero or Not to Zero

 

Recently there has been a debate about the use, or in this issue, the not using of a zero to determine a student’s grade. As more and more research is done in education new ideas and theories have surfaced. Some of the theories are based on solid research and supported by results. Some are not, but if someone can present a case that connects with our desire to improve how we educate students they can sometimes convince us, with a proposal that may not be educationally sound.
One of the issues that has risen, as we understand more about how students learn, is the separating behavior from what a student knows. We have all seen the “rebel” student that didn’t fit into the “normal” standards. The student with the long hair, or listen to unusual music, or had tattoos had nothing to do with their ability to perform at a high level of achievement, but too often were denied an opportunity to remain in the classroom because of their individuality.
Today school systems, administrators, and teachers have become aware of the need to develop individual instruction to accommodate both the needs of our very brightest students and those who have a handicap as well as the students that are outside of either category. 
Research has made a strong case to support the belief, in educators, the need to assess a student’s knowledge not their behavior. Alberta Education uses the Principles for Fair Student Assessment Practices for Education in Canada document developed in 1993 as a bases for their report Alberta Student Assessment Study to lay down the guidelines and principles for student assessment. This document stresses that assessment must not be used to reward or punish and not assess behaviour. The document continues that No-zero polices support student-learning outcomes.
As a result many school boards began to in-service their staff with experts and spokespersons with experience with the no-zero philosophy.
One such spokesperson is Ken O’Connor a successful geography teacher from Australia and Ontario who in 1995 became a staff developer and facilitator on assessment, grading, and reporting. Over the years he has presented in 42 states, 9 provinces and 13 different countries. He has become known as the Grade Doctor and has written a number of books on his eight guidelines for grading. In 2007 he organized his ideas into fifteen fixes for broken grades and expanded his eight guidelines to eleven for standards-based reporting. Many consider him a leading expert on how to grade and report.
O’Connor states that there are three problems with giving zeros for missed work. The first was that giving a zero for missed work was to give a numerical value to something that didn’t exist.   Instead of a zero the mark should be NS for Not Submitted and if a student got to many NS’s then their mark should be I for incomplete. Trouble with that is that Alberta Education only accepts a numerical mark.
The second problem O’Connor states is wrong is that using zeros in grades is like calculating the average temperature for a week by only using only six days of data. How do you assess nothing?
O’Connor’s third concern is that too many zeros will result in a student giving up or losing hope and become a discipline problem.  He opposes giving a zero because schools are places of learning and we must always provide hope and opportunities for students to be successful in providing sufficient evidence of their knowledge and understanding of learning outcomes right up to the end of the school year.
In 38 years as a teacher and principal we saw and participated in the changes educators took towards assessment. In the beginning very little leeway was given to a student for when homework, projects, or reports were due. Teachers were open to extending due dates in special circumstances, but rarely accepted the “Dog ate my homework” excuses, even though we did see our dog eat our daughter’s science project! Interesting conversation with her teacher that day.
As time went on teachers began to adapt to the need to assess student work adopted new strategies like throwing out two or three lowest homework assignments or quizzes. Sometimes they would give a penalty for late work like minus five for each day it was late.
Education has long realized that marks are to assess knowledge and skill not behavior. But teachers also have recognized that behavior can have an affect on assessment.  The problem with a no-zero policy has the same affect as a zero policy on students. True if zeros cannot be eliminated by having work turned in late, a student may soon “give up”. However if a student realizes that a zero will have no affect on his final grade then they will have less reason to complete an assignment. 
For the past five years four Edmonton Public High Schools have used the no zero policy for grading. What has been the result? For five years in a row there has been a drop in the schools’ provincial exam average and the provincial average. At the same time there has been a bigger difference between teacher marks and provincial marks. Neither speak well for the no zero policy.
Schools throughout North America have used the no-zero policy for several years, but recently they have begun to pull away from the policy and have returned to more traditional methods of assessment where zeros do play a role. To date there is no empirical or any other evidence that a no-zero policy has been successful other than the odd anecdotal incident.
In every community where a no-zero policy has been accepted parents reaction has been “are you kidding me?”
More Stories:
  • Wheelin' For Jordie & Unexpected Champions Support for Jordie Miller doesn’t seem to be wavering, not anytime soon. This seemed to be the general sentiment at a recent fundraiser to help Jordie Miller, a 25 year old man who is focused on his slow motor skills improvement ...
  • Petition For Changes To Hospital Intersection (Highways 13 & 814) On October 9th, the Whitney/Mayes family lost a very dear loved one at the intersection of Hwy 13 and Hwy 814 in Wetaskiwin. “We have discovered far too many lives have been lost at that intersection and are working on having ...
  • Wetaskiwin Twilighters Visionary Support Group Enjoying New Home Wetaskiwin Twilighters Visionary Support Group, an associate group to C.N.I.B. (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) has been an active non-profit organization in Wetaskiwin for 25 years assisting and supporting anyone ...
  • Regional Spelling Bee Declares Top Winners On February 18, months of hard work paid off for students of grades four to eight of the Black Gold School Division (BGSD). Eleven schools in the School Division #18 enlisted in a battle of brains and confidence to determine ...
  • Shave Heads To Raise Money Ten students from New Sarepta Elementary School and one from NSCHS, shaved their heads to raise money for the fight against cancer at their school’s Valentine assembly on Friday, February 13th. The boys had their pink locks ...
  • Homeless In The County Over five dozen people are homeless in Leduc County. After conducting a study over the past four months, Leduc County Family and Community Support workers found 64 people were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. “We ...
  • Wild Horses To Be Auctioned February 28 If you would like to bid on a wild horse this year, mark February 28th on your calendar and plan on attending the Innisfail Auction Market. This year’s capture season is radically different from those in the past. Wranglers ...
  • Wetaskiwin Ag Society Century Award The Wetaskiwin Agricultural Society was first organized in approximately 1897 and was incorporated March 22, 1898, the same year as the Yukon Gold Rush. In order to be incorporated, 100 people had to register and pay $1 each. ...
  • Leduc County Presents STARS With $6000 Just before accepting their annual grant from Leduc County Feb. 10, STARS representatives told how that money is keeping STARS in the skies. STARS Development Officer Miriam Moison said last year, STARS flew 13 missions in ...
  • Book Signing at the New Leduc Library By day, he is a mortgage specialist, working hard to help his clients. For the remainder of the week, he is a dedicated City of Leduc councillor, a loving husband and family man, a fit and community-focused individual and ...
  • Leduc Authors Last week we ran into David Mackenzie at the Leduc Library. David was setting up a display for his recently release second novel titled “Calypso”. David is the first local author to be featured by the Leduc Library for an ...
  • Maskwacis Hosts At Parkdale The Ermineskin Junior and Senior High School from Maskwacis hosted a supper and entertained at Parkdale School in Wetaskiwin. The Foods class from Ermineskin High School catered the supper, and then entertainment was provided ...
  • Ma-Me-O Legion Continues Tradition Of Generosity: $2000 for Wetaskiwin Hospital The Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre has gained a much deserved reputation, a healthcare facility that provides residents with the comfort of knowing top notch healthcare services are readily available in this community. ...
  • Family Day, A Great Idea Since 1989 On February 16th, 2015, By-the-Lake Park in Wetaskiwin was a flurry of activity (and snow) as happy families and friends participated in the annual Family Day celebration hosted by the Rotary Club and Catholic Social Services, ...
  • Family Day At Gateway Church In several Canadian provinces, Family Day is a statutory holiday occurring on a Monday in February. Two-thirds of Canadians live in a province that observes this holiday. Except in British Columbia, Family Day coincides with ...
  • Coal Lake Lighthorse 4-H Hello everyone! It’s been an awesome start to 2015 with a number of activities for the Coal Lake Lighthorse 4H club! To start things off we had our club meeting on January 5, 2015. Here we discussed details for the upcoming ...
  • Leduc 4-H Beef Club For the Leduc 4-H Beef Club, January proved to be an eventful month and was filled with preparing for Public Speaking and the beginning of a new year. Our monthly meeting was held on January 12th at Eidick’s and we discussed ...
  • Shamburger Champ Leduc resident Austin Johannesen was one of the participants in Shamrock Burgers annual Monster Sham Eating Contest. Johannesen tied with Leduc resident Anthony Lange for second place, each walking away with $100 Feb. 7. ...
  • Firefighters Complete Rooftop Fundraiser Leduc firefighters Tamara Osmak, Mindy Smith, Amber Gall and Kathy Massey braved the cold temperatures on the roof of the Leduc fire hall February 10th - 13th to raise money and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy. Photo by ...
  • Alberta Youth 1st Canadian in Extreme Mustang Makeover Started by the Mustang Heritage Foundation to encourage adoption of American wild horses that have been captured and are in BLM (Bureau of Land Management) corrals and long term holding facilities. The Extreme Mustang Makeover ...




 
  • Leduc Radio Ad
  • Industrial Netmedia
  • Industrial Netmedia
  • Industrial Netmedia