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:
  • Lions' International Life Membership Award The shiny metal Lions’ International Life Membership Card received by Wetaskiwin Lion, Isabel Peters, on November 24, 2014, is a symbolic recognition of her long time, dedicated service to the Club. The card was presented ...
  • Piatta Forma Singers Perform With The Black Gold Community Band Leduc choir Piatta Forma Singers joined the Black Gold Community Band in an outstanding concert held at Peace Lutheran Church in Leduc city’s downtown core, on the evening of Saturday December 6th. Piatta Forma Singers, a ...
  • Ben Turner - Liberal Hopeful A local man wants to change the face of Parliament. Twenty-two-year-old Ben Turner is vying for a Liberal nomination to run in the newly created Edmonton-Wetaskiwin riding in the next federal election. “I’m not too pleased ...
  • 600 & Counting For Telford Singers On a recent snowy and cold winter night, the Telford Singers celebrated an iconic milestone as they presented their 600th performance to a large crowd of appreciative residents, families and staff of Planeview Place. This ...
  • Millet Winter Carnival On Sunday, December 07, 2014 Millet held the second year of its Winter Carnival. At 10:00 am, the Millet Agriplex was filling with participants, volunteers, families, friends and Santa. The day started with a Carnival put ...
  • Leduc Fundraiser Welcomes Danielle Smith Wildrose members and ‘politically-curious’ residents gathered on Wednesday, December 3rd for a fundraiser hosted the Leduc-Beaumont Wildrose Constituency Association, promoting the Wildrose candidate for our region, Sharon ...
  • The Ash Girl The Wetaskiwin Composite High School (WCHS) Drama troupe performed Timberlake Wertenbakers’ ‘The Ash Girl’ running December 46, 2014. During the first couple of minutes of the performance, one was surprised by the sophistication ...
  • Twas The Night Before Christmas (Almost) Submitted by T.A. Phillips Recreation Coordinator, Town of Calmar After two years in the waiting, the residents of Calmar finally had their very own Christmas in the Park last night, December the 4th. Poor weather over the ...
  • CP Holiday Train 2014 The Christmas spirit swung into full force in Wetaskiwin at 5:30 p.m. on December 8th, 2014 with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train 2014. The train began its journey to raise awareness of the issue of hunger ...
  • A Memorable Ride For the first time this year, Food Bank executives were invited to ride aboard the CPR Holiday Train from Millet to Leduc, representing the Leduc and District Food Bank, Gert Reynar, executive director and Nadine Leming, ...
  • Check Stop On Highway 2A Amid a vast array of flashing lights on Highway 2A in front of the Super 8 Lodge in Wetaskiwin, vehicles were ushered through a Check Stop on December 6th, 2014. Only this time it was a Charity Check Stop where motorists ...
  • 15th Concert In The Country Pig Roast When you combine good food and good music, you have the delightful kind of evening that Millet’s Concert in the Country held for its 15th annual fall Pig Roast. The succulent pork from a whole roasted pig with all the trimmings ...
  • Thorsby Curling Club Donates $27,338 Submitted By Sam Kobeluck Thorsby Curling Club, which has been inactive since the late 80s, has turned over $11,000 to the Thorsby Elementary School for the purchase of a set of handbells for the music program, and a total ...
  • Annual Rotary Cruise Raffle On the bitterly cold morning of Saturday November 29, the exit lobby of Canadian Tire in Leduc saw a table set up with cheerful Rotary Club of Nisku-Leduc members selling tickets to the Annual Cruise Raffle, a popular fundraiser ...
  • CHIPS Went Shopping And Found Wetaskiwin Mall The 2014 CHIPS (Children’s Indoor Play Society) Winter Carnival was held on November 29th, 2014 in the Wetaskiwin Mall in the old Canadian Tire / Western RV space from noon till 4 pm. There were many squeals of excitement, ...
  • Danger At Highway 21 A heartbroken mother wants something done about the deadly intersection that took her daughter’s life. Using the opportunity for the public to speak to Leduc County Councillors on any topic at their Nov. 25 meeting, Shelley ...
  • 7-Year-Old Hero A seven-year-old boy continues to receive accolades for his heroism. t the Nov. 24 City of Leduc council meeting, Brandon Irwin was presented with a Leduc Achievement Award for the actions that saved the life of four-year-old ...
  • Local Woman Needs Community Support Imagine that you’re facing brain surgery, with an estimated recovery time of up to six months. Now imagine that you have $800.00 a month to do it on. This is the reality for one Wetaskiwin woman. Tracey Schmidt’s health struggles ...
  • 50 Years Broadcasting The Gospel The annual Far East Broadcasting Banquet in Wetaskiwin celebrated 50 years as a Canadian organization; brought news that Bob Bowman, founder of FEB Radio International in 1945, had passed away on March 12, four days before ...
  • Lakedale LightHorse 4-H Club By Kate Harink, Club Reporter And we’re off! The Lakedell Lighthorse Club has re-united for the 2014-2015 season. We have come to use our heads for clearer thinking, our hearts for greater loyalty, our hands for larger service, ...




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