Why do we grade students the way we do?

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about no zero policies. Edmonton Public Schools does not have a district-wide no zero policy.

Each school makes decisions on how to assess students, based on guidelines from Alberta Education. Teacher observation, assignments, quizzes, group work, conversations and formal tests are some of the ways a teacher determines how a student is doing.

Teachers do not assess how students are doing compared to other students. They are required to assess an individual student’s understanding of the curriculum.

Edmonton Public Schools believes assessment should demonstrate what a student knows at a given point in time, as well as give feedback to students on areas they need to work on to do better.

Some schools believe that giving a zero does not provide a student with high quality feedback. This is because a zero means an absolute lack of understanding of the curriculum. This is rarely the case.

For example, if a student does not turn in an assignment, there is no way to determine what they know about the curriculum, so the teacher does not assign a zero. They see it as a behavioural issue and look at other ways to address the situation. The goal is to ensure the student submits something upon which to assess their knowledge and understanding.

Education Consultant Damian Cooper has written a great article explaining this point of view.

There have also been a number of media stories about the suspension of a district staff member. Because it is a confidential staff discipline issue we can’t speak to the specifics of this individual case, but can say that the situation is serious and complex. The Superintendent does not make such decisions lightly.

The School Act authorizes suspensions for only three reasons: if there are reasonable grounds for believing the teacher has been guilty of gross misconduct, neglecting the teacher’s duty or neglecting to obey a lawful order of the board.

More information:

Board Policy: Student Achievement and Growth

Administrative Regulation: Communicating Student Achievement and Growth (Progress Reports and Individual Program Plans)