A previous blog discussed grade inflation and its consequent effect on college admissions. Over the last decade, a new version of grade inflation is entering the halls of academia: the “no zero policy.” The argument against the use of zero on a 100 point scale was predicated on the contention that it is a mathematically inappropriate punishment. “To insist on the use of a zero on a 100-point scale is to assert that work that is not turned in deserves a penalty that is many times more severe than that assessed for work that is done wretchedly and is worth a D.” According to this line of reasoning, teachers may not assign any grade below a 50.
Proponents of eliminating the zero maintain that it is not a real measure of learning, but rather a punishment that demotivates students and further dis-engages them from learning when they see no way to pass a course. “Assigning a zero skews the grade, and it tends to be inaccurate.”
On the other hand, critics of the no zero policy maintain that eliminating the zero results in “a diminished degree of student accountability – a crucial executive function skill students need to develop to be successful.” It also disregards effort, an important component of achievement, when a student who puts in no effort, receives a half grade of 50.
The no zero does not prepare students for life outside the classroom where employees who refuse to attempt or complete their work are fired. Rather than encouraging students to complete their work, the no zero grading system teaches them that they can do little or no work without any accountability. This policy is another example of lowering expectations for students.