Overheard today in a Pittsburgh school:
Teacher (to Student A, who was refusing to do work): "How many points do you get if you do nothing?"
Student B: "Zero"
Student A: "Fifty"
[Student A continues to refuse to do the assignment]
And that's why I whined so much about Pittsburgh's new grading policy when it was implemented (here, here, here, and here)
If a student has ten assignments, gets 93% on 8 of them, 75% on one, and doesn't complete one, a 50 on the uncompleted one will give him a B+; a zero will give him a B-. Which better reflects the overall quality of his work?
Zeros have a disproportionate effect.
Let's say I have a job writing for a newspaper. I get ten assignments. My editor is 93% happy with 8 of them, 75% pleased with one, and I don't turn in the 10th. What will I get overall?
It's called "authentic assessment" I think.
Michael: The problem is less in the way the math works out and more in the way that the math changes. When students are used to getting a 0 when they don't complete an assignment but they now receive a 50 it sure seems like not completing an assignment isn't such a bad thing.
And, like Robert says, I think a 0 deserves a fundamentally different treatment than a 50.
As I've posted before, I like the policy embraced by many of my former teachers and professors over the years: Grade all assignments, but allow the students to drop the lowest one or two assignments at the end of the semester. That way, if a student does not turn in one homework assignment or misses one quiz, they will not be slammed for it. However, the students also will not get a blank check to goof off on multiple assignments, which I think is encouraged by giving kids a 50% for no work.
How about the way they do it some sports competitions: throw out the lowest AND the highest
Robert: Interesting idea, but I have to say I still side with my concept of throwing out only the lowest grade. My reason: A very low grade (such as a zero on an assignment) is much more likely to be a fluke and not representative of the student's abilities. For example, a student could get a zero on an assignment because he accidentally left his notebook at home, although the assignment was completed.
I think high grades are much less likely to be flukes. It's difficult to accidentally get a 100% on a math test or accidentally write a well-researched paper.
My position is also designed to combat the argument that "one bad grade will ruin a GPA." These policies (like ones that prevent students from receiving zero's) are artificially raising the kids' grades, not lowering them.
This is the common student problem if we start accumulated grading ... If one performs outclass in four subjects and performs on some genuine ground poor so accumultedly he suffers. I don't feel it as a good evaluation policy.
If we assessed and assigned credits to students based on achieving mastery of the standards, and only gave a grade on completion and correctness of homework, wouldn't that be the most authentic of all?
Sounds fair. But it's a lot easier to write a one sentence theory about how we should grade than to implement an actual system.
New news on Pittsburgh's grading policy -- stay tuned for an update later today.
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