Several school districts have implemented the “no-zero” grading system, as a growing number of others consider making the move.
Under the no-zero grading system, teachers give students at least 50 percent (on a 0-100 scale) for showing a “good-faith” effort to complete an assignment. It doesn’t matter if the student turns in the assignment late or did a poor job.
Maryland’s Prince George County School District, which is 65 percent African-American, is experimenting with the new system, which offers students a second chances to improve scores and bans teachers from factoring attendance and misbehavior into academic grades.
Segun Eubanks, chairman of the Prince George’s school board, told the Washington Post that the new system is not a “magic elixir” for failing students but keeps them engaged by creating paths to success.
“It gives them more opportunities to show their skills and knowledge, and to improve,” he stated.
Supporters of the no-zero grading system say it prevents students from falling into an academic hole that’s deep and impossible to climb out. Moreover, low grades don’t necessarily reflect a student’s knowledge.
Opponents counter that no-zero policies send the wrong message to students, and questions teachers’ professionalism.
Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association, warned the school board that the policy takes away student accountability.
She stated, via NEA Today:
“How is this making students college and career ready when we are not teaching the basic skills of being timely with your work? Our teachers are professional educators and each educator has a class system for late work. Is your name on a paper ‘good faith’?”
NEA highlights the work of Johns Hopkins School of Education researcher Martha Mac Iver. She said parents and teachers often reject no-zero because policymakers often failure to communicate effectively.
“Attempts at reform to help struggling students backfired, at least in part, because policymakers neglected to spend more time engaging in dialogue with teachers about how to address student motivation issues and the ramifications of failure on high-stakes universally required tasks,” Mac Iver explained.