Counting Zeroes and Missing Work from Students

Dear Rick,

I have a question about grading zeroes and missing work for different assignments.  I understand if an assignment is at a zero on a 100-point scale, you should actually put it down as 60, but what about assignments worth 50, 30, 15, etc?  I know you did address this during your recent seminar in Green Bay, but I did not get it written down. Your input would be much appreciated.

Bill, Appleton, WI

Rick's response:

Thanks for considering this. On a 100-point assignment, anything less than the 50, 59, or 60 becomes the new “zero” level in your grade book. For example, if a student tries hard, and only achieves a 47, it’s re-appointed as a 60, the recoverable end of the F range in many school districts. So would a 50, 30, and 15. The results are the same: the score doesn’t unduly distort the accuracy of the grade when we investigate what went wrong, and we adjust our instruction accordingly so the student learns the material. To keep things clear, we might color code the 60’s (or 50’s or 59’s); students who turned in nothing get red 60’s while those who tried but just fell short get the same color font as the passing scores.  It’s helpful to keep records of who does not turn in anything versus those who try but fall short.

Now using your example of a 50-point assignment, I would make 30 the re-appointed number for all zeroes because that number as a percentage of 50 is 60%, which is the upper end of the F range – the most reasonable, recoverable end of the F range.  An A is 45 to 50, which is 10%, a B is 40 to 44, which is 20%, and so on.  All I have to do is consider what influence each grade should have on the overall grade, then determine the percentage accordingly, making sure one grade, in this case the F, doesn’t have an unequal influence on the grade tabulation.