A hot-button topic in education over the last few years is grading and assessment. Should teachers give homework? Should teachers allow late work? Should teachers give zeros for grades? What does a grade really mean? These are just a few things my district has discussed over the last couple years, as we adopted a new grading policy. The three “no-budge” components of the grading policy are: 1) Teachers must allow retakes. 2) Students cannot have a zero has a part of their final grade. 3) Teachers cannot take points off for homework being late.
This new policy caused waves of indignation and anger through the teaching staff. We had been discussing grading and assessment and then it seemed to us like this new policy came out of the blue, without enough input or discussion with and from teachers. I have completely revamped how I assess students now, because of this policy. I never allowed retakes (unless under rare or extreme circumstances) before, and now students are retaking tests all the time. I grade homework and give feedback on homework, but the scores don’t count in the students’ actual grade and are weighted 0% in the gradebook. I no longer count off late points on homework, but do count a responsibility grade for each assignment, that also counts as 0% in the gradebook. So what I explain to students and parents now is that I still consider homework important and students need to complete it for their learning of the content. But their actual grade shows how well they understand the content and their responsibility grade shows whether they are keeping up with the class and completing work on time. But I now have many problems where students don’t see the benefit of homework and choose not to complete it, no matter what I tell them. So they have several zeros, because it just doesn’t count in their grade.
Many teachers agree with me that we understand the intention of the grading policy and why it’s important, but it wasn’t or hasn’t been implemented effectively. We realize that a student’s behavior should not be part of their grade (hence- not counting points off for late work) but how does that reinforce responsibility in daily life? We understand the crucial importance that learning the information is a must and if that learning takes place before the summative test- great! But if that learning occurs two weeks later- how will students show their teachers they now understand? (Hence allowing retakes). But we have seen that most students only care about the points and their grade and actually wanting to learn the information has taken a seat on the back burner.
So- what are your thoughts? Should zeros be allowed in grading? Should retakes be allowed? How accurate is a letter grade to demonstrate a student’s knowledge in your content area? I have an open ear to your thoughts and opinions. I still have a lot to learn and digest myself.