Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Forget the "0" Fight - Change the Scale!

“We are faced with the irony that a policy that may be grounded in the belief of holding students accountable (giving zeros) actually allows some students to escape accountability for learning.”  - Ken O’Connor

I've been in a little slump on "what to blog about" for the past couple of weeks. I've been riding the wave of excitement after our school's #10TuesTweets sessions. Aside from my new obsession with social media for professional learning, my passion is standards-based grading. I'm a disciple of all the greats. Tom Guskey, Robert Marzano, Ken O'Connor, and several others. I've participated with a team of our high school teachers each year for five years in a regional six-day consortium to study, plan, and implement. I'm all in! And a growing number of our high school teachers are all in as well.

My "what to blog about slump" ended while surfing TweetDeck when I found a news piece from Edmonton about a teacher being suspended for refusal to follow his school's "no zero" policy. I wasn't alone either. John Scammell @thescamdog, Cherra-Lynne Olthof @cherraolthof, and Joe Bower @Joe_Bower as well as several others also responded. All of their responses were excellent. (see the grading and assessment page tab from this blog for links) 

As I read each article or blog post, I experienced a range of emotions that elicited groans, cheers, and "are you kidding me's?" But, all I could think about was the grading or scoring scale. There is all this turmoil, disagreement, insubordination, and strong emotion surrounding the idea of whether it's okay to assign a "0," but no talk about what I see as the real issue - the scale.

Marzano has been talking, writing, and publishing about the need for a new scale that measures learning over time. I highly recommend taking a look at his work. From my perspective, the majority of the controversy on the use of zeros in grading is based on the traditional 100-point scale. Here's a newsflash - this scale was designed during the World War I era to sort and rank military recruits! We don't live in a sorting and ranking kind of world in schools any more! Our job is to bring all kids to proficiency on agreed-upon standards. Marzano's work with proficiency scales and grade reporting methods addresses this and makes the "0" argument a moot point.  Let's start talking about learning goals and a scale based on proficiency and learning, not zeros and voodoo math. 

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