To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
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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