In most schools in many states, teachers and parents consider a grade of zero acceptable for incomplete homework. It is common for teachers to give zeros for late or slacked off assignments. Unfortunately, few teachers or parents question the usefulness of the consequence, and students continue to reap the consequences without benefit. Giving zeros as an punished measurement produces failure rather than performance. Administrators conjure up the fact that raising questions about grading procedures could induce powerful emotional responses from all the teachers. Even when school policies exist, teachers often deviate from the prescribed standard to reflect the teacher’s personal preferences for evaluating students. Grading policies usually develop from teachers’ personal school experiences without questioning or considering the validity of the process.
Most teachers agree that grades are a measurement of learning and should reflect the effort of the student rather than the knowledge. However, many grading policies promise zeros for things like not doing homework, having incomplete or late assignments, being tardy, coming to class without books, chewing gum, or failing to follow through with any other required classroom rules. Unfortunately, many teachers combine behavior issues with a students’ academic measurement. Giving zeros for behavior issues is an inaccurate reflection of the student’s academic performance. Academic measurement should only measure learning.
A zero is a mathematically imbalanced measurement as the normal grading scale for most school. Conant using the unbalanced tipped scale for certain performance classes. Letter grades usually have a ten point range or less. For instance, A would be 90-100, B is 80-89, C is 70-79, D is 60-69. Using this method, an evaluation for an “F” should be F as 50-59. It is not required for the “F” to carry 59 points (0-59) while all other grades carry 10 points. An “A” averaged with an “F” should make a “C.” However, if the “A” is 100 and the “F” is 0, averaged they equal a 50 which is still an “F”.
Teachers usually use zeros to motivate students to do better. However, zeros kill motivation. Two zeros, whether just or unjust, can destroy a good average. Zeros produce a sense of hopelessness and certain failure. Many students fail courses due to a lack of organizational abilities rather than defiance. When teachers give zeros for homework assigned for extra credit rather than for the actual learning process, they are using grades as a behavior punishment. Recording a failing grade for assignments not intended for the means of simple knowledge is not reasonable. Assigning zeros for homework issues is especially common for students with organizational issues and dysfunctional homes that lack parental support.
The grade of a zero does not benefit the motivation of a child’s education. Students through laziness take zeros as an easy way out of doing the assignment. Students often avoid assignments like research papers, essays, and reports by taking a zero instead of doing the work. The student barely passes to the next grade without having gained these vital learning experiences. Students with organizational problems do not increase performance skills through the automatic zero. Neither does the automatic zero help students who do not understand the assignment gain the knowledge intended. In fact, the automatic zero threatens failure.
Teachers need to use logical consequences rather than a full blown zero when work is not completed. There are several possible alternatives to giving a zero. The school can include tardiness and other behavior issues in its own discipline policy rather than in the grading system. If the teacher must give a failing grade, give a grade no more than ten points lower than the last passing grade to make the measurement equitable.
The teacher can have a homework detention hall after school to help those who struggle with completing assignments. The student receives a grade of incomplete until the student completes major assignments such as research papers, essays, and reports. The final average for the term is recorded only when the assignments are all received and graded. The student cannot earn credit for the course until these valuable assignments are completed and turned in. A minimal passing grade would be appropriate for extremely late assignments.
For many years teachers have followed grading procedures learned from their teachers without evaluating their effectiveness or appropriateness. Grades should measure academic learning not the slacking effort of the student, for they may have their reasons. Receiving a zero for not putting your name on a paper or failing to do homework does not reflect a student’s lack of knowledge. Zeros promote failure rather than the student gaining more knowledge. Three 100’s averaged with one zero gives a score of 75. The zero forces failure and is not an evenhanded measurement of learning. Anything that is inequitable is unjust. If it is unjust, it is unethical. Therefore, giving zeros as an academic measurement is not proper to the safe learning environment of High Schools.