The issue around no-zero policies recently dominated the media in Alberta as well as nationally. Posts in social networking sites and letters to the editor revealed that the public has strong opinions on the issue; the comments also revealed that there were significant misunderstandings.
The term ‘no-zero policy’ is actually a misnomer, as it would be unlikely to find such a policy within an Alberta school jurisdiction. Whereas policy documents tend to be based on broad research-based principles, specific practices, such as those surrounding the use or non-use of zero are most often articulated within the procedures section of these policy documents. While the principles of sound assessment practice would be fairly consistent across the province, having been informed by the same universally accepted research base, procedures would vary based on a number of contextual factors.
Questions regarding the use of zero are best considered within the larger context of
- consideration of educators’ legal obligations in regard to assessment;
- understanding the various purposes for assessment;
- understanding the reasons why punitive grading practices are ineffective; and
- determining alternative assessment practices that support student learning, thereby reducing the reliance on punitive assessment practices.
The following documents provide information on various aspects of the no-zero question.