Student Grades…Who’s Responsible?

Image licensed from copyright Daryl Cagle, All Rights Reserved.

I’ve been seeing this image more and more lately, each time I smirk, shake my head. It provokes a number of thoughts:

beginning with, defensively….

but soon morphing into…

What do you think?

Why I don’t do zeros.

Listen to these ideas. (Go here to see a mindmap of this podcast and links to resources I refer to in it or just keep reading normally. Whatever turns your crank.)
[haiku url=”″ title=”Why I don’t do zeros”]


report card

Image: from Not So Good by zephyrbunny, found on flickr and made available through a creative commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license

It’s Saturday morning, a little over 2 weeks until the school year starts again for teachers at the New Frontiers School Board, where I work. My mind lately, as it usually does around this time of the summer, has been shifting from summer to practice, and this morning it opened up to assessment. Here’s the flow chart of how it hit this groove:

Saturday Morning FlowChartMind Map made with

And here is that comment I made over on Hugh O’Donnell’s post (which you better go over and read if you want any context):

That’s right, not radical at all. We do NOT need to give zeros and, I’m sorry, but the excuse that we’ve got so many initiatives thrown at us warrants the practice? (the practice = completely demoralizing children and doing nothing to help improve their learning) Come on. A zero as feedback gives me no hope.

I really began to learn the art of assessment about 5 years ago, when I met Ken O’Connor at a conference in Ottawa. And then I started to read everything I could about it, which I’m still in the middle of doing ;)

So I guess I’m one of those teachers who read. And you know what I do when I am reading? I do it publicly – I carry the book around with me, I talk to others about what I am reading and about how, if at all, it is helping to change my practice.

So it DOESN’T need to be top down. If we sit around waiting for someone else to do something, well…wouldn’t it be lovely for there to be the perfect piece of grading policy to fall from above that all teachers would embrace and follow. (where’s the smiley guy for sarcasm?) Un-unh. I’m not waiting for policy to inform my practice. I prefer to focus on my practice and allow it to inform policy.

I googled Ken O’Connor and found this. An administrator’s notes from one of his sessions from last year. I particularly like the list at the end – repair kit for grading.

he he – first comment of the weekend. Guess the coffee is kicking in ;)

(and that’s the edited version…)

Assessment informs learning. I assess before, during, and after units of study so that my students and I know where they stand with the learning that is going on. If a student is NOT meeting the expectations for ANY reason – be it ability, interest, learning style, or socio/emotional issue – it us up to me to address it and assessment is data that shows me if how I am addressing it works. Evaluation is when I look critically at all of the data that I’ve culled from assessment, and reporting is how I share that with parents.

So…I don’t do zeros because of my professional ethics, which are closely tied to my core values:

Very often a zero is tied to behaviour. It is a punishment for skipping class, not studying, acting jerky or disrespectful, whatever. When these things happen to me (and they do) I focus on why this is happening instead of trying to punish it. It makes more sense for me.


Podcast Map, made with Labyrinth.

Podcast Links

Scroll back up to keep reading or stay here to look at the map and play with the links to anchor you while you listen.

and now…youtube.

my previous post about facebook got me to thinking about other online venues where kids are commenting on their teachers. If you go to YouTube and search for teacher, angry teacher, mad teacher, you will find quite a few cell phone videos of teachers who are out of control. (Teacher Yelling at Student, Angry Teacher)

We can react by asking what cell phones are doing in classrooms. We can react with shock at the kids who are acting out. We can go on about how technology is taking over.

I react by saying that kids are bearing witness to us. We can no longer expect what goes on in our classrooms to stay there. That is the reality. I choose to accept the fact that the technology is there and to teach my students about how to use it responsibly.

I also choose not to yell at my students or to treat them in an unacceptable way. As a teacher I know that I am one of the biggest models in a students life. Everything I do is under scrutiny. When they see me angry and yelling they see a teacher out of control and no way do I want to model that kind of behaviour!

Maybe this technology is a flashing light, reminding teachers to be accountable for the way they treat their students. More importantly, reminding schools to provide support for teachers so they don’t get to the point of not knowing what else to do but yell, scream, belittle, humiliate.

Some argue that teachers are at times being provoked by students for the sole purpose of making these videos. Regardless – the teacher is the adult. At what point would I allow myself to get so provoked by events or behaviour that I would act in this way?

Powered by ScribeFire.