Posted at: 02/14/2013 9:09 PM
Updated at: 02/15/2013 2:21 PM
By: Gadi Schwartz, KOB 4 On Your Side
In the vast majority of classrooms across New Mexico, if you don't do the work, you get a zero.
It's a concept that has been drilled into student's brains from the time they are in elementary school.
But one school in Northern New Mexico is bucking the status quo by awarding students 50 percent, even when no work is turned in.
In an email obtained by 4 On Your Side, Shiprock Principal Rick Edwards directs his staff not to give zeros and to change any zeros in their gradebooks to 50 percent by the first week in Feburary.
The policy does not sit well with many in the community.
"That's just telling them it's okay, you don't have to do your homework and that's not right," said one resident.
Students who spoke to 4OYS had mixed opinons.
"That's good because if we didn't turn it in, we'll have more time to work on it," said student Kobe Benally.
Student Tniya Sonny disagreed.
"I think it's unfair in my case because I do my work," she said. "It actually makes the school look like it's cheating."
Edwards said the policy is part of an overhaul of the schools curriculum and said schools are trying to think outside of the box.
"As we looked at our grading system we had an extraordinary amount of grades listed in grade books that had very little to do with learning."
Edwards says the revamp of instruction is a push away from busy work and toward a more engaging learning process.
"By giving a zero you are telling a student you learned absolutely nothing and that is not necessarily a reflection on the student but perhaps the teachers performance."
When asked to justify why he was telling teachers to turn zeros into 50%, Edwards said it was because the faculty as a whole had already decided to embrace the change.
"You need to understand that if a teacher had a zero it's because they were not in compliance with what we had originally agreed to," Edwards said.
Teachers we asked about the change declined to comment.
When asked if he thought the policy adequately prepares the students for college, Edwards said yes.
"If you'll look at the standard based grading and this practice, it's not only happening across the nation at high schools it's also happening at colleges."
But Edwards was unable to provide one example of a high school or college that has also implemented the policy.
Edwards said a lot of the policy change comes from the work of an education consultant named Rick Wormeli, who has argued that zeros on a 100% grading scale are statistically unfair.
In a Youtube clip he asks, "Do I give the lowest most hurtful and unrecoverable end of the F range or do I give the most recoverable end of the F range with lots of hope but nevertheless still an F?"
New Mexico's Education Secretary designate Hanna Skandera told KOB 4 that she had not heard of Shiprock's new policy until 4OYS started asking questions.
"If you have an inflated measurement and you start at a 50 percent it's a little bit hard to know where your strengths and your weaknesses are," said Skandera. "I certainly don't think it sets the example we want to set."
Skandera said in New Mexico grading scales are set on a district level but the department is looking into whether Shiprock is abiding by all state laws that govern how grades are given.
In Texas a similar push was blocked by judges and the state legislature when they ruled that such policies were not a "truthful depiction of grades."
LETTER FROM SHIPROCK HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL RICK EDWARDS:
On January 7th at during our Professional Development the staff at Shiprock High School discussed grading practices. The discussion continued during department meetings that afternoon. Each department was instructed to build consensus on common grading practices for each department and for the school as a whole. I have listed a summary of expectations. All teachers are expected to adhere to these guidelines.
How quickly should grades be posted on Powerschool?
· Assignments and projects should be graded between 24 and 72 hours. Powerschool should be updated weekly. (At least one grade)
How quickly should student work be handed back with feedback?
· Assignments and projects should be returned within 24 to 72 hours
How much credit should be given on late work?
· Accepted late work will received no less than 80% up to full credit
How much time should be given for makeup work?
· Make -up work will be accepted following Attendance School but no less than 10 days
How much homework?
· Little or no homework will be given other than practice.
· When homework is given it should be planned, relevant and have a flexible or extended timeline
What should be in our grade book?
· Based on learning. To be determined by department should be content or standards based.
No grades will be given for permission slips, class fees or grade reports. (Maybe extra credit?)
· Effort, attitude and behavior are not stand alone grades.
Do we give ZEROS? · NO, a 50% will be entered in place of zeros. No grade lower than 50% will be entered.
Please have your gradebooks updated by Monday February 4, 2013 to reflect these practices.
PLEASE NOTE: As a result of District wide discussion regarding End of Course exams, there will be a modified formula for weighting final grades. This information will be forthcoming.
Shiprock High School