Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 14/14.4.1


Shirl Giuliani

Once you reframe your thinking and decide to believe that kids really do want to do well, you'd be amazed at how easy it is to promote a spirit of accomplishment in kids who seem enveloped in failure-Bill Ferriter


  • Students will learn some strategies to deal with missing work
  • Students will learn how a zero can affect a student's grade


There are a variety of reasons for students to miss assignments, ranging from being absent due to illness or being a member of a sports team that has an away event to just not wanting to do the work.

As a teacher, how do handle the missing work? What options do you have? You want your students to pass your class and learn something. Given the option of writing a zero in your gradebook or allowing the student to make up the work, which do you prefer?

Schools and teachers around the country are coming up with so very innovative ways to cancel the zeros and encourage students. They are realizing the effect that a zero will have on a student's grade and the impact that will have on their learning.


Danna Garland, principal at Glenpool Middle School, Glenpool, OK has instituted ZAP (Zeros Aren't Permitted) as a way to counteract students who were failing classes not because they didn't understand the work, but because they chose not to do it (Bafile, 2008). The ZAP program requires students to complete assignments during lunch periods. Since beginning ZAP the "ineligible list" has shrunk from 100 students to 50 students. Garland told Education World, "students attitudes are changing. They are beginning to understand that it is a priority to do the assignments and do them with quality.

The program doesn't ensure passing grades, but it does emphasize being accountable. The students are required to work to the best of their abilities insuring that they will get some credit for each assignment. During the ZAP periods books are provided, as well as one-on-one assistance. Ms. Garland even helps supervise during the periods.

The program has also increased parent contact. If a student doe not complete work during lunch ZAP the school contacts a parent to schedule time before or after school when the student can complete the work.


Another solution to the zero issue was inspired by a conversation that Bill Ferriter, a sixth grade teacher at Salem Middle School in Apex, NC, had with a colleague. The colleague wanted to fail one of her students for the whole year because of his horrible grades in her class, the problem was that his scores on the end-of-grade exams placed him in the top 20% of sixth grade students(Bafile). Ferriter felt that this teacher's desire wasn't so much to identify if the student had mastered the content, but to punish him for not doing the work.

Ferriter realized that grades on a report card are incredibly subjective and dependent on an individual teacher's approach to late work. He worked out a grading system that would be accurately reflective of a student's work behaviors and academic ability. Every child in his class is required to turn in every assignment. When as assignment is not turned in on time, the student must finish it instead of going outside to recess. This is referred to a "working lunch."

The number of missing assignments in his clss decreases quickly over the school year. Students learn that missing work means losing recess, a hard thing for a young adolescent. Ferriter sees his kids taking a positive attitude toward completing missing tasks, and starting to take pride in having good grades for the first time.

Parents are cautious about his grading policies, but they come to appreciate the system because it gives them accurate feedback about their children's strengths and weaknesses. They don't have to guess what a D means. They can look at the work records and to find out what behaviors are influencing the grades and exert positive parental pressure to encourage the kids to improve (Bafile).


The impact of a zero on a student's grade is disproportionate. A zero can bring a B average down to failing. The impact on the student is even worse. There may be things going on at home that interfere with a student doing homework, the student could be bored in the class or they could not understand the work and be afraid to ask for help. Until a teacher starts to look at grades in a different way, they will never know.

Grades are evaluations of learning. A zero, given for missing or late work, does not represent an evaluation of learning. Therefore, that zero is not a grade.


!. What is one common effect of ZAP and "Working Lunch"?

  • A) Passing grades
  • B) Increased parental involvement
  • C) Students don't turn in work so they have to attend
  • D) More work for teachers

2. Bill Ferriter started "Working Lunch" because

  • A) he wanted more work for himself
  • B) his students were failing
  • C) he felt that letter grades didn't accurately reflect a student's performance
  • D) he wanted to punish students for missing work

3. You have a student who consistently misses class and doesn't turn in work, what do you do?

  • A) Refer them to guidance
  • B) Talk to the student and find out what is going on
  • C) Be the "cool" teacher and allow them extra chances to make up work and hope the problem solves itself
  • D) Give them a zero, they're not doing the work, so they should fail.

4. You have a student who gets perfect scores on the SOls, but fails to turn in or do homework or written assignments, what can you do?

  • A) Fail them, they obviously don't understand the subject
  • B) Talk to the student and find out if there is anything going on at home that can impact their work
  • C) Have them tested for a learning disability
  • D) Engage them during class, their learning style may not be compatible with written work


1. B, 2. C, 3. B, 4. B & D

References Edit

Bafile, Cara. Teaching Heroes: Toss the Zeros. Education World August 8, 2008. accessed 19 March 2009 from

O'Donnell, Hugh. The Math of Zero in a Percentage Scale. accessed 19 March 2009 from

Roth. Lauren. For Some Schools, Using Zero Scores Doesn't Add Up. Virginian-Pilot October 5, 2008. accesses 19 March 2009 from

Trim, Diane. Here's What I Do: Zero Papers for Missing Work. accessed 19 March 2009 from’s-what-i-do-zero-papers-for-missing-work-part-one

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