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Monday, February 6, 2012

Zero Grade Policy?

I get questions from parents and teachers about what is the status of our "no zero" grade policy. Last year the district administration suggested a change and invited questions to be posted on the web site - which were never posted. They (Administration) have promised a revisit again this year. Below is a report from a district which just recently implemented a zero grade policy.
From the Get Schooled Blog:

No zeros in school any longer. But aren’t there well deserved zeros?

report cardI have been getting lots of emails from Lowndes County folks about their new edicts on grading: Students in grades 3 through 8 cannot be given “zeros” and must be allowed to retake tests until they pass.
As a teacher explained to me: One such policy that was recently implemented by our superintendent completely does away with student accountability. Please go to the Lowndes County Board of Education website and read about the grading policy that was started last week.  Teachers were sent a letter mandating that no grades will be given under a 70. Teachers are to reteach and retest each child until he passes an assignment  — all assignments.  This policy also states that no zeros will be entered in the gradebook.
Here are excerpts from the new grade guide:
All children will be given the opportunity to learn and redo assignments, especially if a child makes a  failing grade. Daily grades and test grades are included. If your child scores  below 70%, the teacher is to re-teach the standard using a variety of resources, including technology. After the intervention/reteaching,  the teacher is to reassess, and your child will receive the higher grade attained – not an average of the two assessments or assignments. Reassessment is required once for all children  scoring  below 70% on assignments used for grading purposes. We want all children to improve. Even,  a child scoring above 70% should be afforded an opportunity to improve as well. Additional reassessments for all children are at the discretion of the teacher and/or school administration.
Zeros are unacceptable. Teachers are to give your child an I (Incomplete) for work not turned in and are to insist that the assignment is completed. Zeros will not be used. If your child consistently scores below 70%, the teacher is to contact you and arrange for a conference. Teachers should seek help in  determining what other resources are available to help your child, including – but not limited to -  academic coaches, team leaders, grade chairs, counselors, administration, or the Response to Intervention process (i.e., classroom modifications, student support team, special education). Teachers are required to communicate often and well with you, and grades are expected to be posted to te Parent Portal grade book no less than once per week.
I had an interesting conversation about this policy, which is not an unusual one, with a metro area administrator who didn’t understand all the fuss.
Her point: The goal of schools should not be to fail students with “gotcha” policies, but to teach them the material until they master it. She asked: Which policy gets kids there faster — handing them zeros and saying, “Sorry, you didn’t get it the first time but we’re moving on without you,” or working with them until they do get it?
There are kids who legitimately struggle with material and for whom this policy sounds appropriate. In fact, there are private schools that promise no failing grades because they “teach to mastery” on the student’s timeline. Students are not penalized because it took them two months to master material that most of their classmates grasped in two weeks. The goal is to get all students across the finish line, but it doesn’t have to be at the same time.
But aren’t there well deserved zeros?
I would argue that middle school teachers have some students who simply don’t do the work. They get it; they just don’t do it. The Lowndes policy calls for multiple interventions for obdurate students, but wouldn’t a zero make an important statement?
How else do adolescents learn that there are consequences for failure to comply with assignments? In the classroom, it is a zero. In the workplace, it is termination.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

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