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Dear Mr. O'Connor,

I teach grades 9 & 12 language arts at Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy in
Prescott, Arizona. Last November, I attended an EL Institute on Grading & Reporting, and
since then I've decided to reform my grades. Northpoint already does a number of the
"fixes" you talk about in your book. But, a sticking point has been not giving zeroes for an
academic grade when work is not turned in. For some reason, this gets the staff's emotions
going. They also fear that there is no accountability, and they fear there is not a good way
to report missing work without the zero there. We use JumpRope, so I am able to report a
zero for a Habits of Work grade and an M for missing as an academic grade. Parents are
able to see those grades. We also have a Friday School program (our normal school week
runs Mon - Thurs) for students with low Habits of Work grades, providing accountability
without punishing students by artificially lowering their grades. Still, many on staff are
resisting. Our director is allowing every teacher to do what he wants, so I and one other
teacher are forging ahead, piloting a program without giving zeroes for missing work. I am
wondering if you have any suggestions for this predicament. How would you handle this
situation and try to bring other staff members (some of whom have had similar PD as I
have) on board? Much thanks for any help you can provide.


Jeff Dyer

Jeff Dyer


Jeff, I am very glad to hear that you are 'forging ahead' doing the right things and I am very
impressed that you have the Friday program that provides the perfect opportunity for
students to complete missing/late assessments and do 'make-up' tests. With this in place I
do not understand - 1. why your director would allow each teacher to do what they want
(this is a critical area for school POLICY), and 2. why your colleagues would be resistant to
doing the right thing. To try to bring your colleagues along I would challenge them about
two things;first, the math of zeros - show them examples of how zeros distort student
achievement and often make it impossible for students to recover, and second, their role
as teachers - true educators look for ways to support and help students to be successful.