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Q&A #6485


Assigning Grades to Classwork-What does Zero mean?

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From: Loyd <loydlin@aol.com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Service
Date: Jun 09, 2001 at 12:34:11
Subject: Assigning Grades to Classwork-What does Zero mean?

Copied from the T2T Teachers' Lounge:
http://mathforum.com/t2t/discuss/message.taco?thread=5103&n=29
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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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