Edmonton Public Schools’ Assessment Practices

There has been a great deal of interest in our school district’s assessment practices. Below we have compiled the answers to some of the most common questions we’ve received.

Why don’t you give students zeros?

Why were zeros okay when I was in school?

Why does it seem like public education doesn’t hold kids accountable?

Isn’t it our responsibility to teach kids about the real world?

Where can I learn more about assessment?

Why don’t you give students zeros?

  • We need to make sure students do the work that is required of them. We can’t let them off the hook by giving them a zero. If we do that, they don’t do the work and we can’t assess what they know.
  • Assessment is a summary of what a student knows. It is not a commentary on behaviour.
  • Missed assignments are a behaviour issue. Teachers are responsible for finding out why an assignment was missed and take steps to address this issue. This takes a lot of work, but our students are worth the effort.
  • Educational research (see below for links) has shown that many students are not motivated to work harder at learning when they get a zero grade. Some students are at risk of not completing school. We need to keep them motivated, help them learn the curriculum, and give them fair and appropriate opportunities to demonstrate their learning.

Why were zeros okay when I was in school?

  • Like all things, the nature of assessment has changed considerably over the past few decades.
  • At one time, assessment only measured what a student had learned at the end of a unit or course. There was no way for students to benefit from ongoing assessment throughout the year.
  • Educational research has shown that sharing ongoing feedback with students about their progress throughout the year is a better approach.
  • By giving students regular feedback, assessment helps students understand where they are doing well, where there are gaps in their understanding, and what they can do to bridge that gap. This approach is having a great deal of success among students who are struggling.

Why does it seem like public education doesn’t hold kids accountable?

  • Public education works to instill accountability among students. One of the ways we do this is by requiring them to submit missed assignments. We don’t allow them to get off the hook by giving them a zero and moving on. We find other approaches to ensure they get the work done. They are in school to learn. Some of the things students learn as part of their education are concepts of responsibility, commitment and accountability.

Isn’t it our responsibility to teach kids about the real world?

  • For students, school is the real world. They need to get to school on time. They need to attend regularly. They need to study to pass tests. They need to turn in assignments to get a grade. They gain time management skills, learn how to balance competing priorities and discover how to overcome challenges.

Where can I learn more about assessment?

There are many articles that provide great background information on assessment. Some of the best for non-educators are:
Alberta Assessment Consortium – Issues and Trends in Assessment

The Case Against the Zero, by Douglas B. Reeves, Chairman of the Centre for Performance Assessment
Phi Delta Kappan
, Vol. 86, No. 4, December 2004, pp. 324-325

Zero Alternatives, by Thomas R. Guskey, Professor of Education, University of Kentucky
Curriculum and Instruction, Principal Leadership, October 2004, pp. 49-53

For those looking for more in depth information:

Alberta Student Assessment Study - Page 135 of the study states, in part:

  • 12. Assessment practices respect student dignity.
  • 13. Assessment must not be used to reward or punish.
  • 14. Assessment of achievement is not aggregated with assessment of behaviour.
  • 15. Timed assessments are used only when they align with curricular learning outcomes.
  • 16. Neatness is assessed only when it directly relates to learning outcomes.
  • 17. No-zero policies support student-learning outcomes.

The Alberta Teacher’s Association – Information for Teachers About the “No Zeros” News Story