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Q&A #5103

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Grading policy

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From: Loyd <loydlin@aol,com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2001060907:15:44
Subject: Assigning Grades to Classwork-What does Zero mean?

I only tutor nowadays, so I am not up on current grading practices.  

What always concerned me when I taught algebra was the assignment of
zero to a student on a test who failed to understand the concept. In
the teachers lounge, I was criticized once for not assigning zero to
my students but used 60 to represent zilch.  

In my mind, the number zero is unreasonable because just one grade of
zero will condemn a student to fail for the entire six week period in
many cases. Why did the educational system choose zero?  They could
have chosen minus 100 for the bottom grade or minus infinity.  The
result would be about the same; the student will be guaranteed to
fail.  

Suppose you have an eager student and you gave a test on the chapter
and the student worked all the problems but because of a mistake in
reasoning, got all the answers wrong.  If a teacher only checks the
answers and not the work, then the student could get 0.  

If there were four test grades in the period, and the student made 85
on the first three and zero on the last test. (85 + 85 + 85 +0)/4. 
This is a failing grade if 65 is the passing point.  

I found that the early assignment of zero would often make the student
stop working all together, so I used 60 as the bottom grade. Even that
method would not help a student to pass the class unless they tried
and improved, so it never, never amounted to a giveaway.

I have seen teachers do the same thing by always using letter grades
for their students and at the end of the marking period, average the
grades as 65 for each F, and so on.  This amounts to almost the same
thing as what I did when I used 60 as the grading floor.

Here is some additional rational for this grading method in Algebra. 
Mathematics is stair stepped.  What you learn today is essential for
understanding what you will be expected to learn tomorrow.  A student
must always have a little hope.  Thus the floor of 60, seems
reasonable to me.  What is zero anyway?  It is just a number half way
between minus infinity and plus infinity, or there abouts.
 

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