Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Zeroes And Grades

I guess I should start the Number 2 Pencil fan club because I'm quoting from Kimberly's site a lot lately. Hopefully it won't fall on me to create the fan club logo, given my lack of artistic ability.

In this post, Kimberly talks about a periodically recurring idea of not giving zeroes when students fail to turn in assignments. The idea, no doubt created by someone who buys into the self-esteem movement, is that a zero has such a disproportionately large impact on a grade that it shouldn't be given. An average of a zero and a 100% is 50%, a failing grade, while the average of an F and an A is a C, quite the difference. So the "logic" goes. One idea is to give a 50% (F) instead of a 0% (F), thereby not penalizing students as much when final grades come out.

But what is our goal? Is our goal to ensure students get good grades, or to teach them as much as they can learn and have their grade reflect what they earned? Obviously, I agree with Plan B. Here's Kimberly's take on it:

What's more, if a struggling student knows that the difference between (a) ignoring an assignment and (b) struggling with the assignment and failing at it is a mere 10 points or so, why do the assignment at all?

Why, indeed.


Edward said...

This is mathematically equivalent to grading terrible work with a harshness appropriate to its quality and then lowering the percentage requirements for each letter grade (saying, for instance, that 20% is required to pass, instead of 60%).

At Cal, we give sucky work sucky grades, and then assign letters on a curve. I don't hear many accusing us of wishy-washy self-esteem nonsense when it comes to grading. Why should students get the first 60 out of 100 points for basically doing nothing more than putting words on the page, even when it's obvious they have no f*%!ing clue what they're talking about? All that teaches them to do is BS.

Darren said...

Your last two sentences assume that someone would give a 60% to sucky work. I wouldn't.

Edward said...

A lot of HS teachers seem to, though.