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The urban high school where I teach is trying to transform to the standards based grading system. One of the things we are asked to do is to not give zeros. I am comfortable with that when it means that I can mark an assignment "incomplete" and require the student to come in and show me what his level of mastery is. What I am uncomfortable with is that we have a policy of never giving a grade lower than 50%, including when a student scores lower than 50%. What is your opinion of automatically assigning a score of 50% vs using 'incomplete' at the high school level?

Connie Navarro


What is your opinion of automatically assigning a score of 50% vs using 'incomplete' at the
high school level?

I believe you should use Incomplete as a grade if a student does not provide sufficient
evidence. (This does not mean they have to provide all the evidence you expected.)
However if you are required to provide a grade based on percentages you should use 50%
as the minimum because it is mathematically incorrect not to do so and because it gives
students the possibility of recovery that is denied by zeros.


Matt Slocomb's


I'm not sure if you can accurately use the term "mathematically correct" without more
information. Let us say for example you give a student a test on the 50 states in the
United States. If the student gets 10/50 correct, the student knows 20% of the
information. Bumping them up to 50% in this instance gives you an inaccurate picture of
what the student knows and is able to do.

The Grade Doctor's


You are obviously correct that the score of 10/50 is 20% correct. The mathematical problem is created by the use of grading scales with many points for the bottom level and a smaller number of points for each of the higher levels (most commonly 50 10 10 10 10) and the use of the mean as the measure of central tendency.