09/18/08 — School district looks at 'no zero' policy

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School district looks at 'no zero' policy

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 18, 2008 2:57 PM

School officials say they are re-examining a proposed grading policy that encourages teachers not to give a “zero” to students.

The Board of Education approved policy AR3400 in June but has not adopted it yet, said Olivia Pierce, executive director of community relations for Wayne County Public Schools.

“This is just a draft, and we’re still working through the operational part, but the premise has always been that we want to give children as many opportunities to succeed as possible,” she said.

The policy states that the school board “strongly encourages grading practices that are motivational to students” and contains several criteria.

“Zeros are not to be issued to students,” it starts out. “The teacher shall provide multiple opportunities for students to master learning objectives.”

The policy goes on to say that students’ performance will be evaluated on a nine-week basis. The recommendation is that a “minimum grade of 60” will be issued at the end of the first, second and third grading periods for year-long courses for students who did not achieve a passing grade, “but who made a reasonable effort.”

While the policy has not been enacted, Mrs. Pierce said it is under review.

Part of the conflict has to do with NC Wise, the state’s student management system where enrollment and attendance, as well as grades, are documented online.

“If you put an ‘incomplete’ in our system and you don’t remove it, the system automatically records it as a zero,” she said.

“When the policy went out to the schools (for review), we realized the conflict with NC Wise, so that’s why we’re re-examining it,” Mrs. Pierce said.

Other districts are exploring similar practices, she noted, although those not utilizing NC Wise might have more leeway on how grades are recorded.

In Johnston County, teachers have been “strongly encouraged not to give zeros,” a high school educator told the News-Argus. Johnston County is working on a grading policy to find an alternative to giving zeros, she said, noting that it’s becoming a “hot topic” among teachers.

Wayne County Public Schools, meanwhile, does have an existing policy that was adopted in August 1999, Policy 3410, recommending a minimum grade that can be issued to high school students who fail courses.

The policy states, “A minimum grade of 60 will be issued at the end of grading periods during the first semester for students who did not achieve a passing grade but who made a reasonable effort. For those high schools on the 4x4 plan, a minimum grade of 60 will be issued at the end of the first and third nine weeks grading period for students who did not achieve a passing grade, but who make a reasonable effort.”

Discussion on the issue is expected to continue, Mrs. Pierce said, since another school year has begun and the first grading period will soon come to an end.