No-zero policies

There’s been a lot of talk recently about no-zero policies at high schools. And whether or not they are preparing students for the real world.

What are no-zero policies? Well, they usually mean that teachers are not allowed to give out zeros for missing assignments, tests, homework and so on. Instead, they are suppose to mark them as incomplete or not handed in or some other “excuse” and the mark (or lack of) doesn’t affect the students grade. These policies usually come tied together with policies that state that students can hand work in any time right up to the end of the course without penalty.

As you can probably imagine, this is not teaching students great study and work habits as they head into university. Which then often means that these students don’t know how to deal when they are all of a sudden presented solid deadlines. In fact, in a lot of courses now, with assignments being submitted online it’s very easy to set very firm deadlines – with the ability to submit no longer possible after a set time. This is different from drop boxes, which depended on someone collecting (or dropping a paper through the slot) at the deadline to actually prevent late submissions.

In the wake of the discussion I’ve been following about this recently, I came across the following article: Why Johnny can’t fail. This is actually a pretty old article (it was written back in July 1999), but I’m betting things haven’t got much better since. And I’m betting this program is much more widely spread than we would like to think.

I have only TA’d a few times over the years, but every time I’m always amazed at the excuses that I hear. And often these aren’t coming from first year students fresh out of high school. So for me, I find it hard to believe that a no-zero, no-penalty policy, is really more motivating to students. There’s always going to be a group of students who won’t be motivated – zero or no zero. Instead, this just seems to be lowering the bar for all students.

Did you attend a school with a no-zero policy? Or are you seeing effects from policies like this in your interactions with other students (undergrads or grads)?

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One thought on “No-zero policies

  1. Pingback: [Generation Y] Do you "deserve" a good grade?

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