I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

No Zero Grading Policy, Part III

One year ago, Orange County, Florida,  Schools adopted a "no zeros" plan.

This past January, several anonymous teachers stepped forward in Birmingham, Al, to warn the public about this sort of a no zeros scheme being implemented in their school--and the negative consequences of this.  From

A "no zeros" policy at Birmingham's W.J. Christian K-8 School has some teachers upset, and concerned that students are taking advantage of the policy.."Students aren't learning because we can't get them to do the work," one of the teachers told "When do we hold the students accountable?"

Read "No zeros grading policy awards students half credit for work they don't turn in"

The state of Texas took this bull by the horns, passing a statewide "Truth in Grading" Law disallowing administrators' ability to force teachers to artificially raise student scores to some artificial minimum, like 50.  This excellent blog post describes the resulting court battles over what that law's intention was--and the final appropriate outcome.

As I dig in and research the issue of "No Zero" Grading schemes, I find that they are being utilized widely. I'm told they are used right here in Escambia County. Often, these schemes are being utilized throughout entire school districts, in an "unwritten" manner, individually implemented by principals

 at some schools and not at others--which leads to inconsistency between schools that use this policy and those that don't.

A "70" from a school that rounds everyone up to 50 at the end of a marking period and then allows students to add to this total with extra work is not the same as a "70" from a school where if you blow-off your work you actually can get a "0" and have to work doubly hard to bring the grade up to the "70" level.

These schemes undermine teachers, and they reward students for not doing their work.  Such schemes are why the general public is becoming more and more disillusioned with the public school system in America.  We've dumbed-down discipline, we've set aside personal responsibility, and now we are apparently going to triple-down and take away the negative consequences of not doing school work by rounding everyone up to a 50.

I will not support this, this is the wrong way to go.  We need to keep the bar high, not lower it to make numbers look good and put self-esteem ahead of academic rigor.  I believe the school board locally  must create policy on this issue and I will bring this topic to see where my fellow board members are on this issue.

The bottom line is this:  Teachers should always have the discretion to allow students to make up work on an individual, case by case basis as appropriate, because teachers know their students best.  They know which students have tried and deserve a second chance.  By contrast, teachers  should never be forced, institutionally, to round up the grades of all  poor-performing students.  This takes away all of their autonomy and discretion, could be a violation of state standards, and simultaneously, massively lowers the bar on education. 

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