Fairfax County is reforming its grading policies for high schools and middle schools next year. I support the effort to limit zeros on grades. The Washington Post reports that other school districts are also discouraging or prohibiting teachers from giving out zeros.
In the past, some teachers have used zeros to punish minor failures to follow directions. This is not a productive learning environment. It is particularly unfair to students with attention deficit disorder. I agree with Gregory Hood, the principal of James Madison High School in Fairfax County, who says that a zero on a 100-point scale distorts a student’s overall grade. “A zero provides no information about what a student has learned, and it negatively impacts a student’s grade when averaged with other grades.”
The Post reports that critics of this shift argue that “teachers are losing important tools to enforce diligence and prepare students for college and the workplace.”
Drastic sanctions are just as inappropriate in the workplace as they are in school.
Fairfax County will implement four major changes in the grading policies for middle school and high schools next year:
Limiting or Eliminating Zeros in a 100 Point Scale
- If a student has been given multiple opportunities to complete work and has not done so, a 0 may be entered in the gradebook at the end of the quarter.
- If a student has made a reasonable attempt to complete work, teams are encouraged to assign a grade no lower than 50.
- Schools that have established “no zero” polices in previous years may continue those policies.
Separation of Work Habits and Achievement
- All grades entered into the gradebook will relate directly to the standards listed in the Program of Studies or other designated curriculum and should reflect a student’s mastery of content or skills.
- Student’s attendance, effort, attitude or other behaviors will be communicated to parents through report comments or other means that do not include grades.
- Late work will be accepted to document learning/mastery. Teacher teams must set reasonable guidelines for turning in late work to encourage work completion by their students. If a student misses an assignment, a placeholder (such as M for missed, I for incomplete, etc.) should be entered into the gradebook.
- Patterns of late work should be reported to parents through email or other means.
- Homework for practice or preparation for instruction may account for no more than 10% of a quarter grade.
- Class participation may be included in a student’s grade if it is based on the quality of a student response and not the quantity of responses. If a team will include class participation in a student’s grade, guidelines for assessing must be included in the course syllabus.
- Students will not be given extra credit or grades for activities such as bringing in classroom materials, providing parent signatures, participating in fundraising/charitable events or participating in non-curricular activities.
Maximum/Minimum Weights Grades Can Carry
- Collaborative teams are encouraged to set grading design so that no one assignment/assessment counts more than 30% of the quarter grade.
Retakes with Associated Guidelines
For major assessments, at least one new opportunity to demonstrate proficiency shall be provided to any student who scores below an 80% and completes corrective action determined by collaborative team.
An opportunity to demonstrate increased proficiency may be provided to students who score at or above 80% at the discretion of the collaborative team.
If not all students are afforded the second opportunity then the highest grade that can be earned is an 80%.
If all students are afforded the second opportunity then the highest grade shall be recorded in the grade book.