There are many in education who claim that students should never get a zero for not turning in any work. They claim that a student with zeros has no hope of ever catching up, and loses interest in the course. There is a lot of pressure on teachers to give what is called a “healthy F.” This policy means that a student who does NO work at all gets a minimum of a 50% for a grade, thus ensuring that they have a chance of doing a minimal amount of work at the end of the year to secure the 60 or 70 percent score needed to pass.

Here are two documents that have been sent to teachers in my area in recent days. (pdf alert) I disagree with the premise:

Consider two scenarios: A principal is late on a report and the boss says, “You
didn’t do it on time, so you don’t have to do it.” It’s April 16, your income taxes
haven’t been submitted, and you receive an e-mail from the IRS stating, “Your taxes
are late so you don’t have to pay them this year.” Neither scenario is realistic, yet in
schools many educators have policies that if a student doesn’t complete work on
time, the student earns a zero and the work cannot be completed for credit. Thus,
the student doesn’t do it. It is just the opposite that should be true: Students should
be required to do the work and not permitted to take the easy way out by accepting
the zero grade.

This is ridiculous. The student either meets the learning objective, or doesn’t. You can’t grade what isn’t turned in. When a student doesn’t do the work, what then? The author says that you assign them to an after school “homework club,” and if that doesn’t work, assign them to “Saturday school.” Many of my students don’t even come to regular school. What makes you think that they will come in on Saturday?

Let’s being this to the real world: You boss tells you that he wants a particular project completed by Friday, so it can be completed for an important client. You don’t do it. The boss tells you that you need to come in on Saturday. You don’t. What will the boss do? Fire you. If he doesn’t, he will still be forced to fire you when all of his clients find other ways of getting what they need.

This constant mollycoddling of students is why they are all graduating with expectations of being paid for not really doing anything.

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