District Administration December2017 - 39
'No-fail' grading methods
designed to better reflect
By Deborah Yaffe
ne education researcher calls it
"the academic death penalty": A
grade of zero on a 100-point scale,
a mark that spells disaster for a
student's class average.
"It's such an extreme score in a percentage grading system," says Thomas R.
Guskey, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Kentucky.
"To recover from that single zero, a kid
would have to get at least nine perfect
As educators across the country move
toward standards-based grading-which
often replaces the percentage system with
rubrics linked to a 1-to-4, four-point
grading scale-a growing number of
schools no longer give zeros for late, missing or incomplete work.
Even schools that retain percentagebased grades sometimes set their bottom
mark at a mathematically more forgiving
50-10 points below the lowest passing
score-to replicate the 10-point interval
that separates A's from B's, and B's from
C's. The zero-out-of-100 is just one of
the traditional grading practices schools
are rethinking as they seek to report student performance more accurately. These
efforts, which often accompany broader
conversations about the reliability and
December 2017 39