50, the New Zero!

Usually I am not sure of opinion on educational reform movements. Well, I need some help on this one.

I am working on some research on the 50 point minimum grading scale. I am reluctant to tackle this because I am not really sure how I feel about this form of assessment. If you want to read more about it, you can do so here. Long story short, you use 50 points as the minimum (to replace the zero) as the lowest grade a student can earn.

I proposed this concept to my faculty and I now have a test group of about 25 teachers. This is representative of about 25% of the faculty at my school. We will be rolling this assessment out in the 2010-11 school year and will hit the ground running with the research.

So, wanted to ask this. There are so many "outside-the-box" thinkers in the edublogosphere and I really want to know your thoughts. Do you uses this system? What are your thoughts on this system? What are you doing for assessment in the form of grading?

Help me.

More to come...

Mike Meechin, M. Ed.


Anonymous said...

The first question I have for a teacher who wants to "punish" a student for not handing in an assignment is, "How is that assignment going to show you what the student has/has not learned?" Does the student already know the material? Is it a too-easy math worksheet or something of which he/she has already demonstrated mastery? If so, that student does not deserve a grade reduction.
Grades should be reflective of what a student knows and is able to do. If there's a student who continuously fails to hand in work, yet can demonstrate mastery of content, then let the "work ethic" portion of the report card reflect that. And in the meantime, work with the student to find meaningful assignments, projects that he/she could complete to help you, the teacher, understand more about what the student knows. If they're not doing work, there's a reason why. Do not blame the student. Examine your practices.
I don't know a lot about what you're proposing, but one assumption I have is that the 50 will become the new 0, so there is still the option to "Fail" a student, but it won't wreak havoc on their overall grade due to the mathematical adjustment made. I'm an elem. school principal. We don't think in terms of GPA, we think in terms of learning, which is why we appreciate having content benchmark rubrics. They've mastered it, they're working towards proficiency, or they don't know it.

daveT said...

I this reflective of the real world?

Can I get half my salary for not showng up for work?

A student who works hard to get 45/100 gets same grade as one who gets 0/100?

No I do not like this.

Mike Meechin said...

Hey Lyn...

I appreciate your response. You would be correct in us moving the zero to 50. I also agree with you on all points about assessment. The phase II of the project is to complete some serious self reflection on our assessment. We are at the high school level and bogged down with district mandates. Not enough educators are asking the questions that you do of your faculty. Great input and thanks for the thoughts!

Deven Black said...

In NYC the lowest grade you can give on a report card is 55. That makes about as much sense as anything about the report cards most schools use. Those don't make sense because it is not readily apparent what a B means, or that any two Bs from the same teacher are equivalent. There is almost no way Bs from different teachers can be equivalent.

A much better systen for communicating what a students has accomplished is a narrative. That is the system SUNY/Empire State College uses to communicate teacher assessment of student learning. Yes, it is time-consuming and that is the main difficulty using it for larger classes (largest classes at SUNY/ESC are 15 or so), but it is so much more valuable a tool than giving a 55, an 85, or any other number or letter grade.

Anonymous said...

I use 50s instead of 0s primarily because a 0 is mathematically unfair. Take, for example, a child who earns 100% on 4 out of 5 assignments. In the 0 classroom, the child would average an 80% if she/he didn't do that 5th assignment. In the 50 classroom, the child would average a 90%. I think the 90% is more representative of that child's accomplishments.

paul shircliff said...

We use 45% as the minimum F for report cards (they have not gotten around to telling us 45 minimum for all grades/assignments). The first difficulty we have is midterm/final exams. Many students have the attitude (and verbalize it) "If I just sign my name you have to give me a 45%". 90% of our students (at a good school) do not study for any test (and they perform poorly on them). I have tried to incorporate a two part final, one design/build and one short paper test (short answer, draw, describe...). I have had some skip the design/build part ("You have to give me a 45%"). They also say that for the quarter grade : "it doesn't matter if I do any work, you still have to give me a 45%".

My assignments are not rote worksheets, do the evens at the end of the chapter. I have a mix of short practice, application, describe, discuss, explain. They do not do all the assignments because, 1) "I forgot" (they were told verbally, it is written on the board, it is printed on their weekly lesson plan) 2) "I have a life outside of school" 3) "I thought about it, but ..." 4) "I can do it in the 5 minutes before class during announcements" (no they cannot) 5) "yeah, no, I just didn't do it"

When will we be able to get rid of grades?
Can we just use some mastery assessment/ portfolio / resume of accomplishments?
How would we define mastery?
Once you have shown you have mastery over all the content standards, you can move on to the next class

Heather said...

Very interesting discussion! I agree with Anonymous that "0" is mathematically unfair. As Paul and Lyn have suggested, what does that "0" or "50" even mean? The symbolism of what it means to the instructor, the student, and external stakeholders is an important aspect of the discussion.

If a "0" is only likely to occur for a forgotten assignment that is a different meaning that an inability to do the work.

Mike Meechin said...

Heather, great points. The reality of the research I am working on will focus on the 50 minimum grade policy as a phase 1 approach. Following that we will move on to phase 2, reflecting on assessment. Educators need to really reflect on how, what, and why they are assessing their students. This can be a huge mind "shift" from some in the education field.

Nick J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick J said...

I'm a teacher and I find this policy sickening. Secondary classrooms, with similar grading policies, are failing their students. Teachers that endorse this policy are guilty of 'inflating' the grades in their classrooms by gifting the bottom tier students half-credit on work they didn't complete. How anyone could be unable to see this is beyond me.

The sad truth is: that kids that fail...should fail! Our education system is being destroying by 'no child left behind' slogans and grading scale gimmicks. I work at a Title 1 school and serve a minority based community and I NEVER have lower than 80% of "my" students score under proficient on the writing and reading state assessment exams. But then again, I'm a young teacher with an old school classroom approach. Instead of giving a child 50% of the credit for doing nothing, I will sit down at their table during lunch with paper and a pencil and watch them write their essays and complete their homework. I won't even get into the teachable moments this creates. The bigger problem is that too many teachers are lazy or are looking for a quick fix to a big problem.

Kids today come to school with far more distractions than we can relate too, they often come from broken families, and have issues and problems most of us never even find out about. Changing the grading scale doesn't help them, it's a quick fix on paper. If a child isn't doing the work - they aren't learning. THAT is the issue, NOT passing a class.

Having said that, some kids need to understand that when you dig yourself into a deep hole, metaphorically speaking, it's not always possible to just complete 10% of the work and pass with a D! What happens to unproductive employees - or even unproductive college students? Exactly--how is a grading policy such as this one even being considered? It's just appalling how far our education system has fallen. Cascade Fail.

In summary, the 0 to a 50% grading policy sets kids up to fail later in life. It diminishes responsibility and unrealistically represents what 100% credit really means. To think that 100% is mathematically not fair to a student is hilarious! Think of the grading scale like a pizza - a 100% means the whole pie is there. Sorry you don't like the way percentages work, talking to Heather above, but your sentiments are irrelevant in the bigger picture. We can't call 100% -- 100% anymore -- if we START at 50%!

Thank God I've been able to enlighten the teachers in my district every time this idea has been discussed.

This is a big issue to me, sorry to bring this thread back from the dead (2010), but I had to weigh in.

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