A teacher in my department told me she gives a student a zero on assignments assigned when the student has an unexcused absence. Now, I have discussed my feelings on grading and late work before, so my response was “how does that help the student?” This created an interesting exchange between us. While we do not agree, we did have a great conversation.
My contention is that holding a student’s grade hostage is not an effective motivator. If a student is habitually absent, I’m willing to conjecture that grades are not foremost on the student’s mind. This also feels overly punitive to me since every psychology class I’ve ever taken details how reward is more effective than coercion for changing behavior.
Also, I truly believe that the reason a student is absent is unimportant. Who cares about the reason? My job is to teach and help students achieve, not to look for ways to deduct points. I want my students to attempt every practice, not just select ones.
I think the idea of excused and unexcused absences is somewhat silly anyway (looking at this from a classroom teacher’s perspective only). Either a student is present and I can help him, or the student is absent and I cannot. The reason is essentially trivial.
Many teachers to whom I have spoken, including the one mentioned above, say we need to teach students business skills like punctuality, discipline, and work ethic. However, I have never seen these skills mentioned in the learning targets for my content area; still, I want my students to gain these skills but not as part of their grade. The grade should represent what a student has achieved.
I’m going to an all-day professional development session this Thursday regarding grading and what grades mean. I’ll post about the session and fill y’all in on what I learn.