Step 2 A: The Case Against the Zero

The Case Against the Zero

Read the above article.  Then, in the below comment section, answer the question:

What problems with traditional K-12 grading practices does this article raise?  

Please be sure to cite one phrase, sentence, or chunk of text as supporting evidence.

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1,538 thoughts on “Step 2 A: The Case Against the Zero

  1. San Fernando, Banuelos says:

    “To insist on the use of a zero on a 100-point scale is to assert that work that is not turned in deserves a penalty that is many times more severe than that assessed for work that is done wretchedly and is worth a D.” As the quote states, the 100-point scale becomes a punishment and not a tool for improvement or an accurate representation of a student’s academic abilities.

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  2. San Fernando High - Mettlen says:

    This article argues that a 0 on a 100 point scale is an unfair grade for a student who didn’t turn in the assignment. As the article suggests, on a 100 point scale, the interval between letter grades is 10 points, until on gets to between a D, 60 points, and a 0. There is a 60 point interval between a D and an F. But when we look at an 4 point scale, there is only one point between the D and a 0. There for is it unfair as teacher for us to give a score of 0 for an unturned in assignment, and we really should be giving 50 points.

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  3. Andrea Smith says:

    What problems with traditional K-12 grading practices does this article raise? The article, “The Case Against Zero” interprets grading using mathematical accuracy. The article raises the fairness of a 100 point grading scale. He relates the mathematical inaccuracy of the distance between the last two grades a “D” and an”F.” I learned about Mastery Learning Grading a few years back. Grading as punishment doesn’t work. A 100 point system punishes a student if they don’t turn in an assignment. Mr. Reeves believes in a 4-point grading scale. A zero is given in the case of an “F.” This is only 1 point from the “D.” Those students that are motivated to work harder will not have so much trouble catching up when the difference in value in a 100 point scale between “D” and “F” is 60. Very defeatist!

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  4. RHONDA HAKIMOVICH says:

    The article resonated with me for several reasons. If a zero is averaged in, it is nearly impossible for a student’s grade to recover, even if the remainder of the student’s scores are decent. This can inhibit a student’s motivation in the class. It would be much more reasonable to allow late submission or an alternative assignment. Averaging in a 50 is another option.
    The article stated that a few missed assignments, and the resulting zeroes, can ultimately lead to students giving up and dropping out of school.

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  5. Rasheda Young says:

    The article provokes the issue of fairness when it comes to grading. The author states that if there is a range of 10 points from each grade from grades A through D, then why is it a sixty point range from F to a D? It is much more difficult if a student fails a subject (for any reason) at the beginning of the term to try to catch up and earn a passing score at the end of the semester. The author asks how fair is this to our students? What incentive is there for failing students to continue working, if they have already earned a failing course weeks before the semester ends?

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  6. laurenvaron says:

    The article brings up many problems with traditional K-12 grading. One problem the article points out is that grading is being used as a punitive practice with the belief that “punishment through grades will motivate students.” If teachers are using a 100-point scale to grade, then giving students zeroes for incomplete assignments is to harsh of a punishment. Students who receive a couple of zeroes are in jeopardy of failing and entire semester which can then lead to a student dropping out of high school. Instead the article suggests finding a consequence that is more appropriate for students who do not complete assignments. The author also recommends moving away from the 100-point system and adopting the four-point scale. Receiving a zero on a four-point scale will not have the same effect on a student’s grade as it will with the 100-point system.

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  7. M. Seestedt says:

    The problem with k-12 grading that this article raises is that many teachers today use the 100 point scale to grade students. This brings up the issue of what students receive as a grade if they fail to turn in an assignment. Many teachers assign zeros to students that do not turn in an assignment. The author brings up the idea that, “To insist on the use of a zero on a 100-point scale is to assert that work that is not turned in deserves a penalty that is many times more severe than that assessed for work that is done wretchedly and is worth a D.” Furthermore, the author argues that the use of zeros “defies logic and mathematical accuracy.”

    The bigger issue of grading on the 100 point scale and signing a zero to students who fail to turn in an assignment is that, “Just two or three zeros are sufficient to cause failure for an entire semester, and just a few course failures can lead a student to drop out of high school, incurring a lifetime of personal and social consequences.

    Ultimately, the big issue is how do we create a grading system that is fair to students even if they do not turn in an assignment.

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  8. Allison Conant says:

    It makes sense to me in terms of the math and the idea that one or two zeros can sink an entire year’s worth of work. I’m sure many of my students have been dealing with this issue for years by the time they arrive to me in high school, so they are very shut down in terms of their mindset. However, given that I’ve always allowed students to resubmit work, it’s hard to legitimize a grade when nothing at all is turned in. It’s like you have to encourage kids to get off the block or they are not in the race at all. It’s a complex situation, but I have to err on the side of fairness to the student.

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  9. Jill Hagan says:

    It is difficult for a student to get a zero on a project with me, as there are multiple steps and multiple due dates. I do see the argument for using more of a 4 or 5 point scale rather than a 100 point scale. The 60 point range for a F to a D is definitely too much, especially when there are only 10 points separating an A/B to a B/C or a C/D. I look forward to hearing more about Mastery and actually incorporating it in the classroom.

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  10. Brenda Casanova says:

    This article raises issues around the fairness in giving out zeros to our students. The article points out that grading as punishment is ineffective. Furthermore, the article states that we must “determine the appropriate consequence for failing to complete an assignment”. This is especially important because this is a significant problem in our classrooms. The author goes on to provide an alternative and asks that we ask students to complete the assignment instead of giving them a zero. However, this can also be problematic when students still don’t complete the assignments. The article raises how problematic it is when a four point scale is applied to a 100 percent scale because “the interval between D and F is not 10 but 60”. Therefore, the interval is unfair and mathematically accurate. What other alternatives can we think of to help our students complete missing assignments? What other policies can be put into place when students do not complete assignments?

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  11. Noe Solares says:

    The Case Against the Zero is more than just a mathematical problem. It reflects our lack of understanding on how to evaluate and grade a student performance in class. Douglas Reeves argues that it is wrong to use the Zero to punish student who fail to turn in work. A better way to motivate students, he argues, would be to have the students complete the missing assignment or to lose some privileges.

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  12. Angelique McNiff says:

    While the misnomered article, “The Case Against the Zero”, is overly snarky and demeaning at times to its audience, it does bring up the major problem with grading as it exists today: inequity in the grading scale, one overly geared toward failure, with 60 ways to fail and only 40 ways to pass. It suggests teachers intentionally punish students with such a scale, relishing the zero even, without awareness of how detrimental such a grading practice can be. It suggests teachers need to increase awareness of such issues and abandon the 100% grading scale in favor of a 1-4 scale, or even a 0 – 4 scale, so that the grading increments are of equal value and thus the punishment is of equal value. This portion of the article is based on logic and argues for a more logical approach to grading – an approach that few could truly argue against; however, the article’s major shortcomings are evidenced in its weak and poorly thought out suggestions for dealing with students who do not turn in work. The article states teachers should: “require the student to complete the assignment. That is, students lose privileges — free time and unstructured class or study-hall time — and are required to complete the assignment. The price of freedom is proficiency, and students are motivated not by threats of failure but by the opportunity to earn greater freedom and discretion by completing work accurately and on time.” The idea that there is abundant free time in a classroom is frankly insulting, particularly with the decades long approach of teaching bell-to-bell. The author has apparently not studied many advanced classes, particularly those at the High School level, and Mr. Reeves suggestion that we “curmudgeons” don’t take make-up or late assignments as we have a deep seeded desire to punish students lacks awareness of the ways parents and students constantly push, particularly at the end of the semester, to complete work in a haphazard fashion without regard to mastery. Allowing such work would also defeat the purpose of such a grading scale change.

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  13. AmberK says:

    The problems that arise due to tradition grading practices is that students are graded on a percentage basis and when the levels are based on 10% increments until they reach 50, the level is a 50% increment, the students doesn’t have much of a chance to “dig themselves” out of that hole once they reach below 50. The percents are not reflecting an equal grading practice. Yes, a student may not submit work and with no work submitted it is natural to give a 0 for that work, but with a 0/100 as a grade, the student has a challenge trying to work their way up from that if they are trying to reach a passing grade. Just 2 or 3 zeroes can prevent a student from passing and increases the students chance of dropping out.

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  14. Alexandra Castro says:

    In the article, “A Case Against Zero” by Douglas B. Reeves,sates that giving a grade of zero on a 100 point scale is unfair to the student and devastating in terms of feeling unable to make up for the work because on this high point system. If the student does not turn in an assignment, they would be missing 100 points every time they did not turn in their work. This could accumulate into the hundreds rather than single number digit of 4 in the 4321 grading scale which in this turn would be missing 4 points instead of 100 points. This comparison becomes too great for the student’s expectations to make up the work. The higher amount of 100 would be more challenging to make up than the smaller amount of 4 points.This article leans us teachers to incorporate 4 point scale system better for our students to make up work or assignments.The article states that the four-point scale is a more rational system, as the incrementbetween each letter grade is proportionate to the increment between each
    numerical grade — one point.The article also states that on a 100-point
    scale, the interval between numerical and letter grades is typically 10 points, with
    the break points at 90, 80, 70, and so on,so when the grade of zero is applied
    to a 100-point scale, the interval between the D and F is not 10 points but 60
    points. I work in an elementary school, therefore we were taught to use this 4 point grading system which is what secondary teachers are now encouraged to use.

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  15. S Duran says:

    “Giving a zero on a 100-point scale for missing work is a mathematical inaccuracy.” The D-F scale shows disparity. It isalso not based on student performance on learning objectives or standards, but on averages.

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  16. Sonya Kinsey says:

    According to the author, Douglas Reeves, who advises that one important issue,” is to determine the appropriate consequence for students who fail to complete an assignment.” After carefully reviewing this article, I strongly agree with the educators noted in the article, that the answer is to require the students to complete the assignments. In agreeing with requiring students to complete the assignments during free-time or study hall should be made mandatory.

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  17. Susan Enman says:

    What problems with traditional K-12 grading practices does this article raise?

    This article raises the problem weighting of a success, i.e. an A or B, vs. a failure, i.e an F. F’s or 0’s are far more damaging when averaging out a grade, than an “A” is helpful. It also raises the problem of motivation when the student can get an A, but matched with an F, he or she is still failing. In this case, the student is likely to give up.
    “Just two or three zeros are sufficient to cause failure for an entire semester, and just a few course failures can lead a student to drop out of high school, incurring a lifetime of personal and social consequences.”
    Lastly, it raises the question of mathematical logic of using a percentage system. In the percentage system, one has to get 60 points, just to pass. In the integer system, one needs only a single point.
    “To insist on the use of a zero on a 100-point scale is to assert that work that is not turned in deserves a penalty that is many times more severe than that assessed for work that is done wretchedly and is worth a D.”

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  18. Lucrecia Apanay says:

    The excerpt “There are two issues at hand. The first, and most important,
    is to determine the appropriate consequence
    for students who fail to complete an assignment. The
    most common answer is to punish these students. Evidence
    to the contrary notwithstanding, there is an almost
    fanatical belief that punishment through grades
    will motivate students. In contrast, there are at least a
    few educators experimenting with the notion that the
    appropriate consequence for failing to complete an assignment
    is to require the student to complete the assignment.” caught my attention. How does one grade fairly when a student who works hard gets the same grade as someone who does not turn in assignments on time?

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  19. Read the above article. Then, in the below comment section, answer the question:

    What problems with traditional K-12 grading practices does this article raise?
    It actually raises the issue of “punishment” as a means of assigning a grade or critical feedback. It raises the question of fairness in our common grading system.

    Please be sure to cite one phrase, sentence, or chunk of text as supporting evidence.

    “To insist on the use of a zero on a 100-point scale is to assert that work that is not turned in deserves a penalty that is many times more severe than that assessed for work that is done wretchedly and is worth a D.”

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  20. Sara A. says:

    Just two or three zeros are sufficient to cause failure for an entire semester, and just a few course failures can lead a student to drop out of high school, incurring a lifetime of personal and social consequences.”

    I work with high school students with mild to moderate learning disabilities living in mostly low-income households who have been so discouraged by zeros and percentage grades that they feel like giving up, making them that much more likely to drop out. Many students drop out by tenth grade. When they are not encouraged and supported, when their accommodations are not taken into account, when there is no empathy or second chances they often give up in ways that negatively impact the rest of their lives.

    What is the point of this? After all, we are working with children who look to us to help them navigate their own education. Percentages and averages teach students that if they make mistakes they are failures – even though mistakes are inherently part of the messy process of learning.

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  21. ISELA DE LA TORRE says:

    Douglas B. Reeves states that “just 2-3 zeros can lead to becoming a drop out which can potentially lead to a lifetime of personal and social consequences”. Teachers have tremendous power when marking and grading student work. More than just assigning a value to an assignment or task, these numbers have the potential to mark students and their confidence as learners. Grading should NOT be used as a punishment. It should lead students to self reflection and the feedback should help them grow as learners, not defeat their confidence. So rather than a 100 point scale, a return to a 4 point system might be more effective along with productive feedback that will help students grow in their learning. In this case, zero is not a hero!

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  22. Cyrilly Bakewell says:

    In the fourth paragraph of the article, “The Case Against the Zero”, the author states that there are two issues or problems with using a traditional 100 point scale to grade student work.
    The first issue is to decide the appropriate consequence for students who don’t turn in assignments. As suggested in the article, most teachers and schools do not have the time, or a system in place, that would monitor or manage a student’s “free time” in such a way that would motivate them to finish up and submit missing assignments.
    The second issue then, is that if a student fails to turn in an assignment, what is a fair grading response? If teachers are using a 100-point system, the mathematically accurate grade for missing work would be a 50 instead of a zero. The author advocates using a 4 point scale so that, “…at the end of the day in such a system, the F is a zero-one point below the D. It is fair, accurate, and some people may believe, motivational.”
    The problem with a student receiving a zero grade (instead of 50) for missing work on a 100 point scale is that when averaged with the other grades, it brings their grade down so far, that it is difficult to recover, and without some kind of support, it becomes increasingly difficult for the student to go back and complete the assignment.

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  23. David Garringer says:

    There are multiple aspects of the article that resonates. How a few zeros can ruin a semester or a class. This almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The zeros become a failing course, one failing course becomes two, etc. until it impossible to catch up and the student develops a fixed mindset that’s it’s too hard and might as well drop-out.

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