IS GIVING ZEROS AS AN ACADEMIC MEASUREMENT ETHICAL?
By Elderine Wyrick
(A forum paper presented at Oxford Graduate School, Dayton, TN 2005)
Most teachers and parents consider a grade of zero acceptable for noncompliance of homework. It is common for instructors to give zeros for late or incomplete assignments. Unfortunately, few educators or parents question the validity or usefulness of the practice, and students continue to reap the consequences without benefit. Giving zeros as an academic measurement is inequitable and produces failure rather than performance.
Administrators discovered that raising questions about grading procedures could induce powerful emotional responses from teachers. Many teachers resent directives regarding their grading procedures. Even when school policies exist, teachers often deviate from the prescribed standard to reflect the teacher's personal preferences for evaluating students. Grading policies usually develop from teachers' personal school experiences without questioning or considering the validity of the process (Friedman 1998).
Most educators agree that grades are a measurement of learning and should reflect academic achievement. However, many grading policies promise zeros for things like not doing homework, having incomplete or late assignments, being tardy, coming to class without books, chewing gum, or failing to follow through with any other required classroom detail. Unfortunately, many instructors combine behavior issues with a students' academic measurement. Giving zeros for behavior issues is an inaccurate reflection of the student's academic performance. Academic measurement should only measure learning. Behavior management policies should govern conduct (Dockery 1995, Friedman 1998, Page 2002).
A zero is a mathematically imbalanced measurement. Letter grades usually have a ten (10) point range or less. For instance, A = 90-100, B = 80-89, C = 70-79, D = 60-69. Using this model, a uniform evaluation for an “F” should be F = 50-59. It is not equitable for the “F” to carry 59 points (0-59) while all other grades carry 10 points. An “A” averaged with an “F” should make a “C.” However, if the “A” is 100 and the “F” is 0, averaged they equal a 50 which is still an “F” (Dockery 1995, Page 2002).
Teachers usually use zeros to motivate students to do better. However, zeros kill motivation. Two zeros, whether just or unjust, can destroy a good average. Zeros produce discouragement and certain failure for those lacking self-discipline and parental support (Dockery 1995). Parents of ADHD students report that much of their child's homework is completed but the student fails to give it to the teacher. Many students fail courses due to a lack of organizational abilities rather than defiance or laziness (VanDeWeghe 2004, Christian 2004). When teachers give zeros for homework assigned for extra practice rather than for academic evaluation, they are using grades as a behavior management tool. Recording a failing grade for assignments not intended for academic evaluation is not reasonable. Assigning zeros for homework issues is especially inequitable for students with organizational issues and dysfunctional homes that lack parental support.
The grade of a zero does not benefit the advancement of a child's education. Students through either laziness or avoidance, take zeros as an easy way out of doing the assignment. Students often avoid assignments like research papers, essays, and reports by taking a zero instead of doing the work. The student barely passes to the next grade without having gained these vital learning experiences. Students with organizational problems do not increase performance skills through the automatic zero. Neither does the automatic zero help students who do not understand the assignment gain the knowledge intended. In fact, the automatic zero threatens failure and produces discouragement.
Teachers need to use logical consequences rather than a grade reduction when work is not completed or responsibilities are not fulfilled. There are several possible alternatives to giving a zero.
The school can include tardiness and other behavior issues in the discipline policy rather than in the grading system. If the teacher must give a failing grade, give a grade no more than ten points lower than the last passing grade to make the measurement equitable. The teacher can have a voluntary or involuntary homework detention hall after school to help those who struggle with completing assignments. The student receives a grade of incomplete until the student completes major assignments such as research papers, essays, and reports. These assignments are imperative to the student's education. If the work remains undone, students can be sent to In-House Suspension to complete these major projects. The final average for the term is recorded only when the assignments are received and graded. The student cannot earn credit for the course until these valuable assignments are fulfilled. A minimal passing grade would be appropriate for extremely late assignments. Completing the work is valuable and students should complete the assignments.
Administrators can create make-up sessions as part of the school calendar for each grading term that becomes required for those with incomplete work. Students who have completed their work can either have the day off or attend a field trip or special assembly. School wide grading policies should govern grading procedures for assignments, tests, and homework. The teacher's guidelines should include a no-zero policy. Teachers can be encouraged to inform parents of expected homework assignments and to offer support to families struggling with time management and organization. Parenting classes can be offered to discuss homework and test preparation strategies.The teacher should be reasonable about homework. Many homework assignments are for practice such as writing spelling words three times. Rather than assign a grade for practice assignments, teachers can record the lack of performance and give a discipline response after the offense is repeated three or four times. A school-wide agenda can be used for recording assignments. Agendas teach organizational skills and gives a uniform procedure that helps students build organizational skills
For many years teachers have followed grading procedures learned from their teachers without evaluating the effectiveness or appropriateness of the policies. Grades should measure academic learning. Receiving a zero for not putting your name on a paper or failing to do homework does not reflect a student's lack of knowledge. Such issues are behavior responses not academic. Zeros promote failure rather than the student gaining more knowledge. Three 100's averaged with one zero gives a score of 75. The zero forces failure and is not an evenhanded measurement of learning. Anything that is inequitable is unjust. If it is unjust, it is unethical. Therefore, giving zeros as an academic measurement is unethical.
Dockery, E. Ray. 1995. “Better grading practices.” The Education Digest 60:5 (January) 34-36.
Friedman, Stephen J. 1998. “Grading teacher's grading policies.” National Association of Secondary School Principals, NASSP Bulletin. Reston: 82:597 (April) 77-83.
Page, Bill. 2002. “Improving classroom grading procedures.” Teachers Net Gazette. Electronic website: http://teachers.net/gazette/MAY02/page.html.
Christian ADHD Alternative Treatment List. 2003 “School Woes.” ADHD of the Christian Kind. Electronic website: http://www.christianadhd.com/schoolwoes.html
VanDeWeghe, Rick. 2004. “Research Matters.” English Journal. (High School Edition). Urbana: 93:4 (March) 76-80.
© 2005, Elderine Wyrick
JUDGE ADOPTS A PRISONER
Devotional thought by Elderine Wyrick, 2009
The young boy was required to go before the judge. He was caught stealing from the local grocery store. It wasn’t his first offense. He was guilty and had no one to plead his case. He had no parents or guardians to stand with him. He realized that he was destined to be sent away, cast out and locked up. Filled with shame and fear, he approached the judge with trembling knees. A tear trickled down his cheek as he begged the judge, “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. Please don’t send me away.”
The judge observed him without saying a word. He knew this boy. In fact, he had been watching this kid for a long time. As he gazed intently on the frightened child, his countenance softened. He leaned over his desk and asked the boy to step closer. He tenderly whispered, “Would you like to come live with me?” The boy was startled. He didn’t understand what the judge was saying.
“I would like for you to come live with me and become my son,” the judge explained.
Did this man plan to punish him by making him do his yard and mop his floors. Was that the kind of penalty he was going to get for his crime? The boy didn’t answer. He just darted his eyes to the floor.
The judge sensed the boy’s hesitation and confusion. “Wait a minute young man. I’m not asking you to come be my slave. I’m inviting you to become my child and let me be your father. I want to give you a place at my table and a room in my house. You see, I want to adopt you.”
“But, what about the things I did wrong? I don’t have anything to offer to repay you. Will I have to go to jail?” the confused boy asked.
“I will clear your record. You can start over again as if you had never done anything wrong. I will give you a new name—my name. Everything will be new for you. You will be my son and I will teach you many wonderful things. Your life will become a new life. Old things will be gone. Everything will become new. How about it, son? You want to come live with me?”
The young man nodded his head in agreement. It was a dream he had never dared to have. A new home, a father, a new name—what could he possibly have done to deserve this? The answer was clear—nothing; he had done nothing that brought this miracle to his life. Only his new father’s kindness, mercy and compassion made the new life possible.
It’s been awhile. You wouldn’t even recognize the young boy. His clothes are neat; his head is held high; and his mannerisms look more like his new father’s everyday. The community is proud of his progress, and his father dances over him with joy.
This is the gift Jesus came to bring to us. Our Heavenly Father invites those who are willing to say yes to become His child. Let God adopt you, and allow Him to become your Heavenly Father. You will be amazed at the good things he can bring into your future. It is your decision. Will you come?
Scriptures to ponder from The Holy Bible, King James Version
John 3:16-17 (KJV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
I John 1:9 (KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Romans 8:14-16 (KJV) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
Ephesians 1:4-6--(KJV) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Copyright 2016. Teacher Devotion. All rights reserved.
Articles and Devotional Essays by Elderine Wyrick
The Maze of Life--A Devotional Presentation
by Elderine Wyrick
You are not sure how you got here, but you are here. The path is narrow. The dimly lit corridor stretches before you offering hope of freedom and dread of things to come. Spots of light create hope, yet the shadows of exaggeration and distortion bring confusion. As your hands grope along the wall, you know there is an opening. There is a way through. You take your next step. The floor slightly collapses causing you to grab the wall for support. The lights go out. You stand still and wait for the light. Frustration, fear, panic, and hopelessness try to control you. You begin to doubt your reality. What is true anyway? Then the lights gradually come back up bringing things into focus. Hope builds and you begin to move forward again. Good, you see a turn in the path. You are making progress. The lights begin to dim again. You prepare to make the turn but there is a wall. There is no opening! There is only wall—no door. You can’t find the door! “God help me!” you scream.
“Be still.” You hear a voice. “Be still, and I will lead you!” You continue to spread your hands over the wall in silence trying to make sense of it all.
“Help me,” You finally whisper. “I can’t find the door.” The light increases. Your eyes began to focus again.
“Look up,” You hear the whisper. “Look up for your answer.”
There it is! You push the button and the wall miraculously opens. A lighted path is in front of you. You are finally on your way again. Your steps become more confident. You are no longer alone. You now have “the voice” to lead you—and you have light. Every part of you is aware that you are not alone. You can now see a short distance in front of you. Things are clearer. You begin to gain speed. Each step is not quite so cautious. The light gives you confidence and direction. You are finally moving forward. Then the light begins to dim again. Darkness envelopes the tunnel and the shadows return. “Where did you go?” You cry out into the darkness. “Don’t leave me in the dark!”
“Don’t panic. I will lead you with my voice through the dark times.” His reassuring tone calms you. “There will be light again, but learn to trust me through the darkness. Make a slight turn to the right. Remember you are not alone.”
“Others have conquered the maze. It is your turn.” You tell yourself, “Don’t be a quitter. You can do this! Keep going! Trust the voice. He’s your guide.” You move slowly to the right and find a door. It opens! Ah, light again. However, this light is creating shadows. The shadows are overwhelming. Everything seems to be moving at once. Watching the shadows, you look out into the darkness. Fear begins to take control. Nothing is focused. Nothing is clearly understood. “Help me,” you whisper. “Show me the way through.”
“Keep your eyes on the light,” the voice instructed. “Keep going forward. Concentrate on the light, not the shadows.”
You turn toward the light again and refocus. As your eyes adjust, you see a wall full of doors. “But there are so many doors!” you exclaim. “Which door is the right one?”
“Push on every door.” He instructed. “The right one will open. I will never leave you, so do not be afraid. Keep going. You can do this.”
There are so many locked doors. You almost give up, but wait, this one seems to be opening. You cautiously push the door forward and then you see a wonderfully lit corridor filled with gentle music and colorful lights. Finally, you are enjoying the maze. This room is comfortable. The walls are not so narrow; there is a lounge chair and even a book to read. Things are finally working out for you. You stretch your legs out as you sink into the recliner. You lean back with the book provided and take a quiet respite.
After a short time of rest, you hear the voice, “It’s time to move on. There’s still more maze ahead.”
You become frustrated. It is comfortable here. You do not really need another challenge. “Why can’t I just stay here? I’m finally comfortable. My needs are met. Why should I continue to go forward?” you ask.
“There’s a prize at the end of the maze.” He reminded. “Winners finish the maze. Are you coming?”
You don’t want to be accused of quitting. Reluctantly, you pull yourself out of the easy chair and walk down the next corridor. As you suspected, things begin to grow dimmer and dimmer. You try to look back but your comfort room is no longer there. There is no going back. You realize that the only way out is forward.
Oh no! Another dead end. Suddenly the light disappears. You have been here before—no need to panic. You decide to ask for help. “Which way now?” you ask confidently. No answer. “Hey, where did you go? You promised to lead me!” Still no answer. The darkness seems even darker now. “Do I stand still and wait for an answer or should I try to go forward without the voice?” you ask yourself. You decide to try to find it yourself. “There’s probably another button like before,” you reason. Your hands grope the wall above your head. You find nothing. You try the other wall—nothing. You turn to the third wall and there it is. It’s a little lower than the other button, but you push it. The floor begins to crumble. It’s like quick sand. Oh, no! You are sinking fast. You struggle to get your feet lose from the enveloping pit, but you just sink faster. “Help me,” you cry. “Save me!”
Suddenly you feel solid ground under your feet again. No more sinking. “Why didn’t you wait for me?” the voice asked. “Didn’t I tell you I would guide you? I promised I would never leave you. Learn to trust me. Learn to be still and know that I am working everything out for your good. Wait patiently on me, and I will bring you through the maze successfully. I know the right path for you. I understand the maze.”
With resolution and determination, you begin the trip again. You grow more aware of the presence of the voice even when you’re not hearing it. You now know you are not alone even when things are silent. Trust grows and you relax. Your fears turn to dependency. Life becomes simpler—not in your circumstances but in your perception. You begin to trust the voice enough not to worry about the next corridor. Hasn’t He been faithful? Hasn’t He promised to be faithful? Why should you doubt? He will lead you to the end of the maze. After that is your great reward! You continue on your journey following the voice—wiser and more trusting. You understand now, the only direction is forward. Nothing exists behind you. You must keep walking forward until you win the prize. Only the voice knows where the path leads and how many trials lay ahead, but He has promised to lead you through it all.
NOTES ON “THE MAZE OF LIFE”
1. Life is always going forward. You cannot go backward. There’s nothing there. It is gone forever.
2. There is no “reverse” in life, but sometimes we go in circles.
3. Must adjust our direction as we move forward to change destiny.
4. Repentance is making a U-turn—a forward motion.
5. Our spiritual walk is always a forward motion.
6. Don’t look back! Look up!
7. Gain strength from God and follow Him to new depths or heights.
8. Let Him pull you out of miry pits, clean you up, and set your path straight.
9. God can lead you out of· Depression, Pain, Disappointment, Grief, Sin, Hopelessness, Addiction, Anger, and Unforgiveness
10. Repentance is a daily thing. Permit God to change your direction.
11. God will be your light in the midst of darkness.
12. His voice will be your guide when the light becomes dim.
13. His presence will be your comfort when there is no light or voice.
14. Concentrate on the light rather than the darkness.
15. Put your eyes on Him.
He calls us, “Come, follow Me!” Philippians 3: 12-14 12 "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ EXAMINING PUT DOWNS AND SLURS THROUGH A SCRIPTURAL PERSPECTIVE
Written by Elderine Wyrick 2008
“…[he who] has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman” (NIV) PSALMS 15:1-3
The five poetic verses of the fifteenth chapter of Psalms easily serve as a church liturgy to remind Christians how the Scriptures describe a good man. The author began by asking God two questions. The remaining four verses answer the two all-important questions. The purpose of this Psalm is to show men the way to God. The path described in verses two through five try to convince us that we must be holy and honest to find true happiness and fellowship with God.
The first question asked in Psalms 15:1 was “Who shall abide in thy tabernacle?” The word “tabernacle” refers to the house of worship where men can serve his fellowman and find fellowship with God. The tabernacle was a moveable place of worship; this can easily represent churches operating throughout the world. The Psalmist is asking, “What kinds of people are allowed to serve God in the temple?” The question infers, “Who is worthy to serve as priests or servants in your tabernacle? Or, how shall one find a place in your presence while here on earth?”
Immediately following the first question, the Psalmist asked the second question, “Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” Most commentators write that “The holy hill” refers to Zion where the permanent Jewish temple would be built in Jerusalem and where Christ’s church would be established. Therefore, the Holy Hill represents the everlasting Kingdom of God. He is asking,” What kind of people will be allowed to live with you for eternity?” Both questions asked in verse one are important and weighty questions that each one should personally consider.
In verse two, the Psalmist begins to answer the two questions with three requirements, “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart (KJV). “ A man that walks uprightly walks perfectly throughout his day keeping his eyes on Christ as he continually chooses to do good. He allows God’s Word to rule over his daily decisions and actions. To work righteousness means to consider what is right in every part of his life and then to be determined to fulfill those duties. Those duties include worshipping the Creator, serving your fellowman, fulfilling your daily duties in the roles where you serve whether as a family member or a co-worker, a church member or a member of a community. The third requirement involves speaking the truth. This means desiring from the heart to be truthful, not just telling enough of the truth to pass inspection. This person is a truthful man or woman. They live what they say. Their word is their bond. You can depend on them.
The first verse of Psalms 1:1 mirrors the message of Psalms 15:2 stating that, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, (walk uprightly), nor standeth in the way of sinners, (worketh righteousness), nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. (speaketh the truth.) God is looking for men and women who will love Him with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and will keep His commandments. These requirements are fulfilled through faith in God and his Word, a commitment to follow God in everyday experiences, and choosing obedience to God in every situation.
Verse three begins to address specific choices and actions that are required to please God. “He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour (KJV).” The word “backbiteth” is cross-referenced in the BibleGateway.com website with several synonyms including the words slander, railing, talebearer, uncharitableness, whisperer, gossip and speaking evil. This means that a backbiter is a person that talks behind a man’s back devouring and destroying that man’s reputation. This same word is used in I Timothy 5:13 describing spies that creep into houses, pry into the secrets of families, and discloses them and often misrepresents them in a false light. These type men are the worst of men and are unfit to be in the fellowship of the church. The second part of verse three states that he does not do anything evil against his neighbor. This man does only good to all men whether he is a friend or a foe. He is righteous in his acts toward his neighbor whether it is by the words he uses or things he does, and whether it is toward his neighbor’s person, property, or good name. The third part of verse three says, “nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour (KJV). According to the Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon, reproach is defined as “scorn, taunt, rebuke, or bringing shame or disgrace.” A righteous man does not raise scandalous reports against his neighbor, nor is he willing to listen to such a report from someone else. He refuses to get involved in spreading disreputable reports or gossip against his neighbor even when that neighbor is treating him unfairly.
Although there is much value in the remaining two verses of this chapter, the social application being considered lies in the application of the first three verses.
A Christian’s desire is to dwell in God’s presence and remain in his favor. This chapter clearly sets a standard of conduct that God requires of us to maintain the right fellowship with our Heavenly Father. Whether the Christian worker is assigned in an office complex, a factory, a church, a retail shop, or a school, these same guidelines apply to the code of conduct for a Christian. According to Psalms 15, Christians should not be caught up in the backbiting and gossip that so often permeates workplaces. We are to be the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and the “light on a hill (Matthew 5:14)” that makes a difference in our social setting. Too often, our culture has accepted this type of rude behavior as expected and normal. Teachers say things like, “Kids will be kids.” Principals, supervisors, and administrators need to commit to creating a better work atmosphere and environment by discussing the damage that backbiting, gossip, tale-baring, and snide remarks have on the overall work experience for each employee or student. Only a few years ago, these behaviors were known by most of our culture as being “rude” and “unacceptable.” It is time that we educate our culture and encourage men, women, and children to return to the common courtesies that create a more productive and pleasant work environment. Whether a person is a Christian or not, everyone can benefit from the experience of a positive and uplifting atmosphere at work or school rather than the put -downs and slams that are so common in today’s society.
The Judeo-Christian ethic of caring for your fellowman and treating them the way that you would want to be treated is still needed in today’s modern society. Early television programs such as the Smother’s Brothers, Laugh-In, and All in the Family introduced snide personal and political remarks, slamming statements and put-downs as part of our entertainment genre. The Smother’s Brothers’ television show was cancelled due to their rude and shocking political statements, but their type of comedy was catapulted forward and was destined to change the comedy of the future. This was the beginning of a change in American television and the American social experience. Things that once shocked our society and were not acceptable in the workplace, have now become the modern jokes shared at school, in the office and in the home at someone’s expense. Psalms 15 calls our society back to a higher standard of conduct. The Psalmist encourages Christian to follow the righteous path to God through living right, watching our words, and caring for our fellowman. Let us consider the following as our motto for establishing an acceptable social behavior in our workplaces and schools.
-Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Ephesians 4:29
© 2008, Elderine Wyrick