No Zero policy-deux

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Caissa
No Zero policy-deux

Bump.

Caissa

Timebandit wrote:
I disagree with a no-zero policy for schools.  I advocate consequence-based learning.  None of that has anything to do with you.

I believe that there should be consequences for decisions. Where I differ is on mixing consequences into a grade for a student. That changes the metric in my mind. A grade should reflect an assessment of a piece of work created by the student.
There are other ways to deal with tardy production of work. ex. detention until the work is completed, suspension of privileges.

Sven Sven's picture

Caissa wrote:

I believe that there should be consequences for decisions. Where I differ is on mixing consequences into a grade for a student.  That changes the metric in my mind. A grade should reflect an assessment of a piece of work created by the student.

Okay, so I think that is the premise of your argument that a student should not receive a zero for not turning in a particular piece of work.

Can you explain that a bit more?  Why should there be no "mixing [of] consequences"?

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

For me, Caissa, these are not mixing consequences.  One flows naturally from the other in a predictable way.  Especially if the policy is clearly explained beforehand and there are warnings and opportunities to avoid the consequence.

Margaret Wente's column today was on the subject of the teacher from the first thread's OP.  While I don't necessarily agree with Wente's opinions usually, she's not too nuts today.  Anyway, she quotes Dorval on his policy, which seems to result in very few zeroes at the end of the semester in any event.  I think there's been the assumption that zero = completely draconian policy that sets students up to fail.  I don't think there's any evidence that this is the case at all.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/the-classroom-hero-of-zero/article4230726/

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I raised my son using consequences and he is doing well. I don't see how giving zeros is going to help many students and I think that for the students who are most likely to get a zero it will just turn them off of school even more. If giving zeros worked then the graduation rates and overall success of our previous students must be what we are aiming for.  Seems to me an approach that  tries to push kids who don't fit the mold into becoming responsible just pushes them out the door shortly after reaching the age to leave school.  That is of course if they weren't first suspended for missing classes.

We have serious issues with educating kids especially teenagers.  They are teenagers which to me means by definition full of raging hormones and doubt.  Of course teenagers need to learn these things that is why you "harp" at them and then are extremely pleased when they get it by 21 instead of 25.  Telling teenagers to be on time for many of them is like telling them not to sleep for 12 hours a day.

6079_Smith_W

I was half hoping someone would start up another one. I had a post all ready to go last night that got destroyed when the last thread was closed.

I had an interesting conversation yesterday evening over soccer with a teacher friend who supports no-zero, but sees serious flaws in the Edmonton policy (apparently they also do no zero at his school as well - with a difference).

He feels that giving a zero for no work is in fact letting the student off the hook. In his school students just don't get to go any farther until they finish the work. How exactly that works I don't know, but he did say that in the case of one course if the work isn't done in June it will still be there in September. I did not get the details (we were in the middle of a game) but the work does not go away - ever. And that is part of what he felt is missing from the policy in the news.

I can live with that.

In another class (mathematics, I believe it was) if a student hands in the work early he points out which answers were wrong, and the student has a chance to try again. Hand it in late, and there is no such option. Don't hand it in at all, and there is no grade, but the percentage value of the final exam then expands to include that missed work. 

He said he doesn't care if students hand in any course work, so long as they know the material, and if they are willing to risk it all on the final, so be it. So long as there is a final reckoning, it sounds okay to me. If anything, I think that method is a bit more harsh on students, and demands that they learn more self-discipline. SInce although there is an added incentive, there is also greater leeway to procrastinate.

 

Caissa

sven wrote:

Okay, so I think that is the premise of your argument that a student should not receive a zero for not turning in a particular piece of work.

Can you explain that a bit more?  Why should there be no "mixing [of] consequences"?[/sven]

 

My point is that the grade should measure the quality of the work. full stop.

 

Failing to pass a piece of work in on time can be met with uncomfortable consequences.

 

Taking marks off a piece of work for passing it in late taints the integrity of the assessment.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

@kropotkin - Re: kids most likely to get zero - I think you're conflating two different issues.  There's a bigger and more difficult problem there.  And what I've been saying from the start is that if there is an issue that isn't simply the ability to get organized, then that should be identified and there are other supports that should be in place.  It doesn't really matter, for most of those kids, whether there's a no-zero policy or not.  They're still going to need other supports within the school system and where the system falls down is in not providing those.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

@ Caissa - if you're going to measure strictly on the quality of work, then my kid would have straight As and zero motivation to work at her weak spot.  Thanks but no thanks!

The time limit is part of the assignment.  It does not, in that case, taint the integrity of the assignment.

Caissa

I guess we are going not find common ground on this Timebandit. I think other consequences can be found that will make passing in assignments late an unpleasant experience.  

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I'd be interested to hear what those are, Caissa, and how natural or arbitrary they are.  One thing that I've found with my kids is that they're very keen to what seems connected and what doesn't.  Not getting a mark on something you haven't done seems pretty clear.

I was talking with Ms B about this last night, and she seemed to think the only thing that really got her attention was the zero she might get.  The other, softer consequences were things she figured she could live with.  The other component of getting a zero was me knowing about it.  That made her motivated to work a little harder at it, even though she fought us on being involved at first (and still does, periodically).  So I'm looking at this through a lens of having had to deal directly with the issue for the last 9 months, having some trial and error over consequence and rewards.  Bearing in mind, of course, that I'm approaching this as a parent and I don't know normal - I just know my own kids.

6079_Smith_W

@ Caissa

Even though I recognize my friend's position, I have no problem with there being a grade penalty for lateness. 

After all, if you don't wake up in time to make the call to get the tickets for that concert you wind up with a seat that is not as good. Simple, right? 

You don't change the pads on your brakes on time, and you'll be paying to have your rotors machined. 

Don't pay your bill; they cut your phone off.

And in many schools, there is a consequence for too many absences, even though that has nothing to do with comprehension of the course material.

Sorry, but organizational skills are important, and just as much a part of learning as critical thinking. I'd venture to say they have even more of an impact on preparing one for independant living.

Personally, I have no problem with meeting deadlines being part of the learning process. From the sound of it that is probably lesson number one for a lot of kids. And after all, it is not like your high school record follows you to the grave. It is a bit of a paradoxical argument to say that grades have little meaning on the one hand (and what does it mean to say that you cannot receive a zero, if not that? ), while at the same time raising the spectre that they can scar a person for life.

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Conflating two issues in a discussion of something that is multidimensional hardly seems like something to be derided. What is school policy for, including the issues around any no zero policy, if it is not to have as many kids as possible achieve their personal potential?

So Timebandit what are your expectations of teenagers? I personally don't expect teenagers to become adults before they mature.  That is what the maturing process is for.  I also think that few teenagers react positively to things like zeros or even no zeros without a motivated teacher trying to understand who the kid is and then making a connection. 

Consequences are important but as a useful motivator they are irrelevant unless you know the actual child involved.  What motivates your daughter might not have motivated my son.  A set of consequences that my son might find a learning moment might be met with a shrug by another kid who doesn't care about the same things.  I have a hard time seeing the issue of zero or no zero being a useful debate starting point for talking about how to achieve better outcomes for children.

ETA

Cross posted with you Timebandit and it seems that we are making the same point about kids being individuals.

Caissa

I mentioned a few suggestions upthread. Serving detention until the work is completed, losing extra-curricular privileges, inability to move on to next grade if you have not presented a sufficient body of evidence to be assessed etc..

We aren't disgreeing on the importance of organizational skills, Timebandit.

I'm trying to approach this as a teacher and less as a parent. As a teacher might grade should be assessing the quality of the work with which I have been presented. As parents of a high school student with Aspergers, we stay on top of his deadlines and help him to develop a schedule to meet them. If he does not want to complete his work in a timely fashion he loses those things which distract him from doing the work (TV, computers, DS games). He may not have learned the concept of delayed gratification yet but he completes his work in order to have his privileges restored.

6079_Smith_W

kropotkin1951 wrote:
 I also think that few teenagers react positively to things like zeros or even no zeros without a motivated teacher trying to understand who the kid is and then making a connection. 

Who said anything about not having mindful teachers? That is crucial in my mind, and frankly I think that in some cases that includes setting up clear boundaries and requirements and following through on them.

And bear in mind, this policy isn't something that can be kept in reserve for those who need it; it is across the board. That is the main reason why I think it is a mistake.

 

Sven Sven's picture

Caissa wrote:

Taking marks off a piece of work for passing it in late taints the integrity of the assessment.

Why do you think taking marks off for passing something in late "taints the integrity of the assignment"?

As I note below...

Caissa wrote:

My point is that the grade should measure the quality of the work. full stop.

But, the "quality of work" includes more than a mere quantitative measure of a student's understanding of a subject.  A mark - even if used as you envision it - already measures, indirectly but in a very real way, a student's character (no, not their "moral character" but character traits like diligence and hard work).

For example, let's say you have two equally talented (intellectually) students in a class.  One does the bare minimum to pass (and just barely passes) while the other diligently studies her materials, is actively engaged in class, and often foregoes doing fun stuff with her friends so that she can set aside a substantial portion of time away from school doing homework (and she gets a top mark).

When you grade those two students, are you purely measuring "the quality of their work" in any sense that is divorced from "performance character"?  No.  The student who is employing the soft skills (as Timebandit called them) is the one who succeeds.

Being timely with work is just another soft skill - and a skill that will be very valuable to that student later in life, just like the other soft skills that are needed to do well in school.

Caissa

You don't grade students Sven, you grade artifacts that they create.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

@ kropotkin - I don't think we're really all that far apart on this issue, we're just coming at it from slightly different angles.

I don't expect my teenager to be an adult.  In my case, I've got a 14 yr old with a high need for independence, but without all the skills necessary to do well being completely independent.  We're walking a very fine line right now and yup, it can have its volatile days.  I do think, though, that negative consequences when you mess up is part of learning that independence and developing some maturity.  I also know that a no-zero policy would have made teaching her some skills that she needs to have if she wants greater independence much more difficult.

Again, I'm talking strictly from my own perspective.  Also should note that Dorval, the teacher who was suspended in Edmonton, sounds like he was a motivated teacher who was trying to work with his students to help them achieve. 

Sven Sven's picture

Caissa wrote:

You don't grade students Sven, you grade artifacts that they create.

But those "artifacts" are a direct result a student internalizing and adopting powerful character skills (or not).  So, you are already rewarding students who internalize and use those character skills.  In that sense, you really are grading the student.

Caissa

It's impossible to grade a student Sven. It is impossible to grade what a student know or what a student is capable of doing. The artifacts we have them  create is our imperfect way of trying to assess their knowledge and abilities.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I don't like you equating the ability to hit a deadline as a "character skill", Sven.  It's a sort of essentialist thinking that sounds like more of an is or isn't, good or bad, rather than just skills that can be learned, like tying your shoelaces.

Sven Sven's picture

Caissa wrote:

It's impossible to grade a student Sven. It is impossible to grade what a student know or what a student is capable of doing. The artifacts we have them  create is our imperfect way of trying to assess their knowledge and abilities.

Right.  And you're not just measuring knowledge but also, as you say, their abilities.  And abilities are not just intellectual abilities -- they also include character abilities (diligence, hard work, focus, organization, etc.).

So, you're already measuring those soft skills.  Timeliness is just another soft skill.

Sven Sven's picture

Timebandit wrote:
I don't like you equating the ability to hit a deadline as a "character skill", Sven.  It's a sort of essentialist thinking that sounds like more of an is or isn't, good or bad, rather than just skills that can be learned, like tying your shoelaces.

As I said, I'm not talking about "moral character," Timebandit.  I'm talking about "performance character" (see the New York Times piece I linked to above) -- those are learned skills.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Still, I think use of the term "character" has a certain connotation, and not one I'm entirely comfortable with.  What's wrong with just calling it a skill?  Why do we need to connote the innate value judgment?

Sven Sven's picture

Timebandit wrote:

Still, I think use of the term "character" has a certain connotation, and not one I'm entirely comfortable with.  What's wrong with just calling it a skill?  Why do we need to connote the innate value judgment?

Well, it is a value judgment.  Any time you say that it's good to have Skill X and bad (or "less preferable," if you wish) to not have Skill X, you are making a value judgment.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Okay, enough playing silly buggers with you, Sven.  You're implicitly making a value judgment on who and what the student *is*, not what they learn.  That's not helpful in any way.

Caissa

That other issue is we rarely measure what a student learns but rather attempt to measure what a student knows. pre-testing and post-testing would get us closer to measuring learning.

Sven Sven's picture

Timebandit wrote:

Okay, enough playing silly buggers with you, Sven.  You're implicitly making a value judgment on who and what the student *is*, not what they learn.  That's not helpful in any way.

Seriously, take a look at that Times article above.  It will articulate my point better than I can.

Sven Sven's picture

Caissa wrote:

That other issue is we rarely measure what a student learns but rather attempt to measure what a student knows. pre-testing and post-testing would get us closer to measuring learning.

Well, measuring what a student knows is probably more important than measuring their incremental knowledge acquisition over any given period of time.  After all, if you're asked to fix a car, perform a surgery, solve a problem of any sort, give someone a shot, drive a vehicle, or every other thing that needs to be done in life, all that matters is: Do you know how do to it?  Do you have the requisite knowledge to perform the task?

It's probably very useful for an educator to know where a student sits on a particular knowledge spectrum, so that the teacher can focus on the right issues for that student.  But, at the end of the day, does the student know the subject or not?

Caissa

Pre and post testing doesn't preclude you frrom measuring what a student knows,; it just also allows you to measure what a student has learnt.

Sven Sven's picture

Caissa wrote:

Pre and post testing doesn't preclude you frrom measuring what a student knows,; it just also allows you to measure what a student has learnt.

Fair enough.

Sven Sven's picture

I'm sorry, Timebandit, the article I linked to is not "above" but in the prior thread.

Here's the article regarding teaching character is school.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Timebandit have fun. Laughing

My youngest is now 24 and he has exceeded all my expectations.  He too has told me that he did as little as possible in high school until it was required.  In grade 9 and 10 and into 11 his marks were barely tolerable but in grade 12 his marks were C's and B's and he passed all required courses.  His school made him and every other students aware of the university and college entrance requirements.  He still goofed off and had late assignments when he was 20 and in a community college taking UT course. They threw him out for 6 months so he went back to work.  He went back to college after serving his academic probation and got mostly A's.  After a year of that his marks were high enough that he transferred to UBC and is still getting excellent marks.

I see that as a maturing process and yes consequences are involved. If a kid doesn't care about late tests and assignments it doesn't matter whether they get to graduate anyways because when they do they will most likely be unemployed until they mature enough to become responsible. My son grew up in a privileged family with a single Dad who worked as a professional.  He has always seen university as an option unlike most of my nieces and nephews.  Trying to coerce a teenager into doing anything in my opinion is a hopeless cause. My anecdotal evidence is they only listen when the threat is immediate and after that it is like they never heard it.

6078 just because I commented that a motivated teacher is a requirement for learning outcomes it does not mean I said that anyone had said it was not a requirement. Like you I like to give my views and that was a view. Please read more carefully for logical coherence so I don't have to be the subject of your little mini lectures for no reason.

6079_Smith_W

Well kropotkin, with all this talk of zeros being used to shame and punish, the implication seems to be teachers are only there to brainwash and pound any individuality and spine out of students and take their frustrations out on them. 

After all, if a zero shames and punishes, it begs the question of who is doing that punishing.

I don't see it coming specifically and only from you, but I think it is implicit in the argument that many of you are making. I'm just trying to be clear that I see limits, consequences, and yes, zeroes, as something that can be given in a caring and engaged way. 

 

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

blah blah blah I'm better than you are.

I have to agree with your assessment and acknowledge that not only are you superior to me in every way but your opinions are always the correct ones. 

 

6079_Smith_W

I'm not nearly such a good ventriloquist, though. I have to admit that.

 

milo204

when i was in high school it wasn't as rigid.  it was like 20% of your grade lost if it was late, and 10% for each day after that and if you had a good reason for not being on time they could waive that, like "our house burned down this week and it was impossible to complete this stuff on time, can i have a few more days?"

on the other hand, i think it is important to learn that in life you have to be on time for a lot of stuff, and a lot of the time kids don't complete stuff on time not because they couldn't but because they just didn't want to.  Not to mention it makes the teachers job much harder when assignments are coming in all over the place and how long can the kid hold out before they finally get a zero?  days, weeks?  

this brings up a lot of questions for me...i wish i could talk to my 15 year old self!

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Sooow elitist. Is anybody thinking outside the box?

This topic is very important, I wish Unionist chimed in more.

Why are folks here giving credence to our edumacation propoganda?

Doesn't anyone think for themselves? Or can they? It's never too well received when I do it. School is so fucked. But I guess we just gotta go with it, eh?

I can't believe this "discussion". Woe is me.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

@ kropotkin - Thanks, I'm havig a blast with the pair of them!  :)

I take your point and it's awesome that your son has found his way.  I've often said I don't want to pat myself on the back until they're both over 25 and not living in my basement.  You don't know what the future holds, for sure, and there are kids who "get it" earlier and others who do later.  My elder daughter has expressed a desire to not only go to university, but Oxford.  Lofty ambition, but I'm not going to argue with it.  She's also really involved in music and plays in the provincial youth orchestra, so she's often got a (self-imposed!) tight schedule.  So we've had to ask her a lot of questions about priorities and help her work around the commitments. She's smart, ambitious and prone to lose her homework or not bother with assignments in subjects she doesn't like (her Health mark is not good, and it's possibly the easiest class).  I'm hoping we can get some of those skills in place in high school so that some of the big ambitions aren't out of reach for her.  Getting zeroes for the first time rather than teachers making exceptions because she's bright was a heckuva wake-up call.

We haven't had problems with getting reasonable extensions for good reasons, either, or an unwillingness to look at work that has been handed in late.  I don't think a completely inflexible system is workable.  But I think that the no-zero policy is actually a little less flexible overall.

Unionist

RevolutionPlease wrote:
Sooow elitist. Is anybody thinking outside the box? This topic is very important, I wish Unionist chimed in more. Why are folks here giving credence to our edumacation propoganda? Doesn't anyone think for themselves? Or can they? It's never too well received when I do it. School is so fucked. But I guess we just gotta go with it, eh? I can't believe this "discussion". Woe is me.

Caissa

Three letters on the subject in the Globe today.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/letters/june-6-tolerating-zero...

6079_Smith_W

@ Caissa

That third letter is definitely the best when it comes to laying out a reasonable argument, rather than just banging a drum . 

THat doesn't mean I agree, but I am quite aware that the image of this teacher as an underdog fighting the system has clouded the question of what is best. 

In any case, thanks for posting that.

 

Caissa

You're welcome. Needless to say the third letter is the one I identify with pedagogically.

6079_Smith_W

... doesn't mean I entirely disagree either, I should add. I guess more than anything in this issue what I object to it that there is one and only one way. 

Really, I am suspicious, in that the idea that this guy was suspended for this reason and this reason alone (and yes, I know there was something in the letter about missed meetings) doesn't quite ring true. I can't presume to guess where the fault lies, but it just seems like there is more to it than we are being given.

 

Caissa

I have been trying to avoid debating this case and rather examine the idea of giving a zero for a piece of work which is not done.

Unionist

I liked the fourth letter the best.

 

6079_Smith_W

I think there are many aspects of this which are difficult, in that they come down to personal opinion on teaching style, and as well, personal values, politics, and relationships. You probably know better than I that the school system  can create an incredible amount of stress. I know two teachers who have had nervous breakdowns, many who have left the profession, and a couple who were targetted for political reasons. 

On the other hand, two of the teachers who have our kids in their classes decided to stay on, and I am thankful for it.

I don't see any point in debating either, because none of us are absolutely right. 

And really, I don't think it matters, I think it only takes one teacher with a style that resonates with a student to do the trick. I can think of three or four in my school career who had a positive impact, and the rest just fade away, or are relegated to the pile of bad examples.

 

Caissa

Unionist wrote:

I liked the fourth letter the best.

 

D ?

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

The third letter offers some other "consequences" that my kid wouldn't consider consequences.  Sorry.  I also notice that this guy is not a classroom teacher - I have to wonder when was the last time he dealt with 3D teenagers. 

The issue for us is not the learning - she knows her stuff.  It's getting her to cooperate by demonstrating the learning so the teacher knows where she's at.  Making her do the work after school or at lunch hour?  Hah!  My devious little duckling would totally find a way to circumvent that. 

I keep hearing that giving a zero won't work, but I haven't heard a single, concrete strategy that would adequately replace it.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Your child is not all children.  I think the third letter contained strategies that work far better than giving zeros.  My school district has not given zeros on report cards for at least 20 years.  My son and his cohorts don't seem to have been overly affected by not having zeros available as a training tool.  Of course in our district kids get Incompletes and that means they do not have a credit for the class.  Of course for many privileged kids like my son an "I" meant their parents sent them to summer school, so the consequences were significant for him and his buddies. 

The fear of summer school was in fact my son's biggest motivator.  As Dad I used screen time as a motivator for school work.  Bad marks especially the "I" meant that the following term his screen time was reduced to next to nothing. We did that all through high school and it had little effect on his study habits but it did mean he spent a whole lot less time on the computer or watching television or playing a Gameboy.  I figured the "punishment" was actually good for him.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

@kropotkin:  The issue was never issuing zeroes on report cards.  The issue was giving a zero on an assignment that could be completed and given a mark on after the fact if the student so chose.  You are basing your objection on a draconian policy that NO-ONE has advocated.  Straw man argument.

Personally, I think a zero on an assignment is actually less draconian than an incomplete, less expensive and a whole lot easier to deal with than summer school.  Your response also presupposes that none of those other factors - removal of priveleges, video games, etc. - aren't already in play.  Having to go to summer school because of an incomplete is functionally no different than getting a zero or failing grade on a number of assignments.  So what difference does it actually make?  How is that functionally better than getting a wake-up call during the year?

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