Sunday, February 20, 2011

What does a "0" really mean?

Just read an interesting blog post by Tom Schimmer, "'0' Influence, '0' Gained." His basic premise: a 0 on an assignment is both meaningless AND counterproductive.

I have had similar thoughts as well, that certain kids just "play" the system and continue on with whatever they were doing pre-0...and not learning what we want them to learn in the process. For instance: I had a senior last semester who is incredibly bright and completely apathetic about school - when he was present, he was brilliant; when he wasn't, he totally checked out.

He managed to earn a 7% (ish) for the second quarter of the semester class (if you add in 0's for all the missing work). Now, according to Mr. Schimmer, he should receive an INC for the missing work (I fully support this, by the way). BUT...with college looming near, and second semester transcripts being sent out, I was told I had to give him an F, as I couldn't leave an INC on his transcript.

After reading Mr. Schimmer's post, I think back to my student: what is the more important lesson here - that he have the failure shoved in his face and be given another chance (in a new class) to graduate, or to have to actually make all the work up before moving on? The same argument might be made in early grades as well: if little Johnny has not mastered his multiplication tables, why should he move on to Algebra? Keep the student where he is and provide the help he needs until the material is learned...

My question is: how do we instigate these sort of changes in our schools? Something like this is a paradigm shift, and I can guarantee MANY people in my school, at all levels, would not support this.

TANGENT: Incidentally, I purchased a book over the summer that I have yet to read, Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn. Has anyone out there read it? Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated.