Educational policies and pedagogies are constantly evolving. We are in a time where we are continually rethinking and reimagining educational policies to serve the children best. The No Zero Grading Policy is one such example. Some educators and parents believe that teachers should not be allowed to give Zero to a student.

Even if the student fails to turn in the assignment, he receives whatever the decided lowest grade is. Many schools have adopted similar strategies. They believe that this gives every student a fighting chance and motivates them to do better in academics. Others, however, feel that a No Zero policy allows students to slack off. They put in the least possible effort and still pass. It can also be demotivating to students who work hard for their scores.

While both sides have merit, let’s examine how both the educational policies affect students and teachers.

Why you SHOULDN’T, give zeros.

Giving a zero for a student not turning in work does not assess the student’s understanding or application of the concept he was supposed to learn. Students’ assessments exist for them to get an idea of their growth- giving out zeros defeats this purpose. They can also drastically affect a student’s grade. Someone who scored very well on previous assignments may get a bad final grade when they fail to turn in one assignment. It is not fair to the student. It isn’t acceptable to the teacher either, who may have put in a lot of effort teaching this student and ultimately sees them getting a bad grade.

Students come from diverse backgrounds. There is no predicting the situation that might have prevented them from doing the assignment. Instead of giving a zero for missing a deadline, a better policy may offer them support and guidance to help them complete the assignment. A few extra days & a little extra care may go a long way in improving the academic performance of a student.

Students who do not perform well or frequently miss assignment deadlines could be challenging for teachers to handle. However, it is these students who need the teacher the most. Giving out zeros makes the classroom a sink or swim atmosphere. This is not conducive to learning. A little empathy and motivation from the teacher can go a long way in a student’s relationship with academics.

Why you SHOULD give zeros

If a student has nothing to show for their work, they should be assigned nothing, thus giving zeros. But, if a student puts in some effort on an assignment, their score reflects that. If they put no effort into their work, i.e., they didn’t do it, their score should reflect that as well.

Teachers are often underpaid and overworked. They follow up with students who miss deadlines and making adjustments for select students puts a lot of additional stress on teachers. Additionally, enforcing strict deadlines force the students to turn in work on time. They get accustomed to being held accountable for their result and manner of work. Teachers cannot be expected to have different grading systems for those who turn in work on time and those who don’t. Additionally, it could set a bad example or demotivate students who do their work on time.

Educators also believe that receiving a zero on their report card communicates to the student and their parents that they need to work harder.

Non-zero policy

Equality vs. Equity

Every student is the same in the eyes of the teacher. However, every student is not the same vis-a-vis their situations at home, economic conditions, emotional state, and ability to focus. On the surface, it seems unfair that a student who did the assignment on time does not have an advantage over another who failed to do so. For everyone to be treated with equality, the assessment needs to reflect their classroom performance, including punctuality with assignments.

However, a classroom is not a place for competition. Education is not a race where whoever arrives first wins. To have a genuinely equal classroom, every child must receive the support and motivation they need. Some might need it more than others, but that should not make them unworthy of having a chance at learning. When a student receives a zero, they now have no motive to complete the assignment.

If giving out zeros motivated students to do better, teachers would frequently do so. It does not, and thus the need for better policies that benefit all students, not just the ones who are academically inclined.

Accountability and Responsibility

Those in favor of giving out zeros often stress the importance of Accountability and Responsibility. They argue that it is essential for students to learn to be responsible and held accountable for their actions. While it is true, it is still debatable if receiving a zero helps them understand these qualities. A student’s job at school is to learn, explore, and to know what they are good at.

They are still developing as human beings. And a big part of growth and development is making mistakes. It is unfair to expect a student to learn accountability or responsibility by penalizing them for failure to complete an assignment on time. In the real world, adults are seldom punished for delay or failure to meet deadlines. Even when they are, it is not in a hopeless manner where they have no chance to correct themselves. Then why do we treat students this way?

Non-zero policy

To Sum up the Zeros:

After looking at both educational policies’ merits and demerits, it seems that either a zero policy or a no-zero policy is too straightforward for students. Dealing with children requires nuance, and so does assessing them. There is a complex mix of factors to consider.

Thus, instead of advocating a black & white policy, let us cultivate an assessment system that frequently conveys feedback, expresses the teacher’s expectations for each student, engages parents in the process, and provides context to the grades that a student receives. Further, help the student overcome this hurdle by pursuing remedial measures. Rather than going towards either extreme, it’s time that educators focus on finding the middle ground that preserves student’s self-confidence and interest in learning!

What else do you think can be done in this regard?

Also Read: Written examination: Is it the best way of assessing students?