Zeroes on schoolwork are a needed learning tool
By KERRY DOUGHERTY, The Virginian-Pilot
© June 30, 2005
Did you see the front page yesterday? Did you quake? Hide it from the kids?
Thought so. So did I.
Right there on A1, with a terrific graphic (a big black 0 with a red slash through its heart) was a story about teachers in Virginia Beach and Norfolk being pressured to give partial credit for missed school assignments.
This could be the end of the zero: naught, nada, nil, nothing.
Seems some school officials are alarmed by zeroes. They’d prefer that teachers award 50 or even 60 points for missed assignments.
At the risk of sounding like a fossil, I’d like to travel back in time. To my school days, when even the slackers understood that if you did nothing, you got nothing.
We all knew it was better to hand in a paper damp with dog saliva than skip an assignment altogether. That homework done in nubby pencil on a bumpy bus ride was better than no homework. And that reading every other page of “Great Expectations” – while a tad confusing – was better than not cracking open the book at all.
I don’t know how we knew what we knew. We just did.
Maybe it was because even the most math-impaired among us – me – could see that a big fat zero averaged into average grades turned even the most relentlessly mediocre student into a bona fide failure.
Things are different today. I blame it on the new math.
According to a story by Pilot reporter Mike Gruss, some school officials are wringing their hands over the effect zeroes have upon grades.
It’s so unfair, they fret.
One education expert lamented that when missing work is graded at zero, the effect is catastrophic compared with assignments that are “done wretchedly” and “worth a D.”
What’s wrong with that? Poor work gets a D. Horrid work gets an F. No work gets a zero. Makes sense to me.
The problem, some experts say, isn’t with the deadbeats who refuse to do their work, but with their teachers.
Gruss writes that while educators in Norfolk and Virginia Beach are not yet forbidden to give zeroes, administrators there “want to ensure that teachers understand how heavily a zero can weigh on a student’s final grade.”
Here’s an idea. Since we’re talking about schools – institutions theoretically set up to educate children – how about we make sure the students understand how heavily a zero can weigh on final grades?
Just a thought.
Because this isn’t only about school. It’s about preparing students to succeed in the real world.
Trust me, kids, out here getting something for nothing doesn’t apply.
Take employers, for example. They want workers who come in every day. Not just most of the time.
Imagine how stunned graduates of a “No Zero” institution will be the first time they miss a day of work and see their pay docked.
Same with mortgage lenders. These grumps insist on monthly payments.
Those who pay sporadically – on the theory that they’ll get partial credit for missed months – will learn a cruel vocabulary lesson.
The meaning of the word “foreclosure.”
And imagine what will happen when someone from a School of No Zeroes decides to skip a car payment or two.
Don’t even try the “there are no zeroes” argument on the repo man.
Chances are he’s old school. He won’t understand.
Reach Kerry at (757) 446-2306 or firstname.lastname@example.org.