Today’s editorial in The Edmonton Journal was thoughtful, well researched, and presented both sides of the issue of awarding zeros. Whoever wrote it was on a roll, right until the end, when he or she made an illogical leap.
…the student who fails to respond to all those well-meaning and time-consuming attempts by educators, and probably by parents as well, must eventually face some consequence greater than a new set of letters.
Bring back the zero. Consider it a life lesson for our future doctors, lawyers and yes, teachers, for rare is the boss who will pay an employee to do nothing.
No educational consultant, researcher, principal, teacher, or otherwise would ever suggest that a student who demonstrates no understanding of the curriculum should pass the course. We are not giving free passes by not assigning zeros. The student “who fails to respond to all those well-meaning and time-consuming attempts by educators and probably by parents as well” will face some consequence greater than a new set of letters (meaning codes like NHI = not handed in, etc). That student will have to repeat or extend the course. While his classmates move on to the next level, he will repeat that level. It’s a fail. It happens in high school all the time. It’s a logical consequence of doing nothing.
We are trying to prevent it from happening so often in high school by encouraging a culture of responsibility. Our messages to high school students are:
- Responsibility means finishing what you start.
- Responsible adults meet their obligations.
- We are holding you accountable by insisting you complete our assignments.
- We will not let you choose the easy way out. Taking the zero and being off the hook for doing the work is the quitter’s way out.
Again, for emphasis: We will not pass students who demonstrate they cannot do the material, or students who don’t give us enough evidence to tell whether they can do the material. No free rides in school or in life.