Redo’s, Late Mark Deduction’s, Zeros…

Oh how I love the staff room conversation around these hot button topics.  Never fails to get someone’s blood pressure rising.  I was recently asked what my personal views are on these three issues.  So here they are:


Always and forever will I let kids redo work.  My favourite thing to hear is a student who says, “Can I redo this?  I think I can do a  better job.”  I NEVER turn these kids down.  Why would I?  If they want to put in the work and effort to make their learning better I would be doing them a huge disservice to say, “Sorry, but that assignment is over.”

However, that being said…..I don’t believe in forcing redos.  I don’t hand back things and say, You Must Redo This.  Unless the kid really wants to, it’s pointless.  I encourage and offer guidance and assistance, but I never tell them they have to.

You can drag a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.  And if he isn’t going to drink, why did you waste all that energy dragging him there in the first place?  Wouldn’t it be much better if the horse walked there on his own?


This subject actually came up in my class today when I gave back an assignment.  One kid, who didn’t have it done yet, asked, “If I still do this and hand it in, will I lose marks?”

“No,” I said.

He gave me this shocked look and said, “Really?  How come?”

I looked at him and said, “Two reasons.  One, I want you to learn it.  It doesn’t matter to me if that’s by your schedule or mine.  And two, taking marks off your assignment because it’s late isn’t a true reflection of what you really learned.”

I firmly believe this.  I set deadlines because I’m forced to adhere to some sort of a schedule, but at the end of the day I don’t really care if you took until Wednesday to learn what I had scheduled for Monday.  It’s simply not fair.  We don’t all learn at the same rate or at the same time.  To penalize someone for that isn’t in my ethical code.


I don’t give zeros.  To give someone a zero is to say that they have learned absolutely nothing.  So if a student fails to hand something in, I can’t give him a zero because I didn’t have anything to assess.

I do give “Insufficient’s”.  Some argue that this a “fancy zero” but I disagree.  A zero is still a method of categorization, whether that student legitimately scored that zero or was given the zero as a method of punishment for non-compliance.  When I give an “insufficient” I’m sending the message that I don’t have enough evidence with which to make an informed decision about your level of competence.  Thankfully these instances are few and far between.

Some kids would rather take a “zero” or an “insufficient” than turn in that assignment and “fail” it.  This is something I struggle with as a teacher and it’s really another post all on it’s own.

But for those who wanted to know, these are my personal policies and beliefs.  They are called hot button topics for a reason.  I’m sure every staff room has debated them at some point and there are no perfect solutions.  Thankfully I teach in a school where I am permitted my own autonomy with these types of decisions.  A strict school wide policy has not been in place to force me to give zeros or deduct marks.  I know other teachers aren’t so lucky.

For those who are still debating about these three issues I encourage you to think about your teaching practice and the message that you want to send to your students about what learning means in your classroom.

Is learning a schedule that needs to be strictly adhered to?  If you don’t learn it when I say you should, is fair for me to punish you because you didn’t learn it on my schedule?  Are you classroom assessments designed to motivate learning, or to gain compliance through fear and punishment?

What hit home for me was when I was asked in a seminar six years ago….do your methods promote learning?  Or stifle it?



About Cherra-Lynne Olthof

I've been a middle school teacher for my entire career (which began in 2001). Like my students, I too am a life long learner. My goals include helping my students to achieve their goals, support them in their learning, and to encourage them to think "beyond the grade".
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5 Responses to Redo’s, Late Mark Deduction’s, Zeros…

  1. tbowes says:

    Good for you, Cherra-Lynne! I have the same philosophy as you concerning grading. However, I found that I needed to have some guidelines for the students to follow, otherwise they weren’t owning their learning and it was exhausting me. Message me your email address on twitter if you want a copy – so far it has worked well and parents have also included being in the loop. (A parent signature is required to have a second chance.) Enjoy!

  2. Pingback: The Monday Blogger – March 12, 2012 « Elizabeth Park Professional Development Blog

  3. jplgough says:

    I also give 2nd (and 3rd) chances. My 8th grade algebra learners appreciate and talk about it and how it impacts their learning and confidence.

  4. David Doria says:

    In your section about “late mark deductions”, you say “And two, taking marks off your assignment because it’s late isn’t a true reflection of what you really learned.”

    Do you also have a category in your record keeping for “how many times a student has turned in an assignment late”? I agree that the primary objective is to ensure the students learn the designated material, but there are certainly secondary objectives. If the student turns in every assignment late, they have failed to learn something about responsibility, timeliness, respect, etc. I agree that this lateness should not play into their score on the assignment itself, but it should be noted and analyzed in other ways (explained to parents, used as an entirely separate lesson for them, etc).

    • I 100% agree and yes I do record that. I don’t like to factor it into their mark but it is definitely a topic of conversation I have with many parents. I usually use that information to call a parent and say, “You know, your son has been turning in quite a few assignments late recently. I’d like to talk with you about how we can keep him on track so things don’t pile up on him.” etc. I have the luxury of being a homeroom teacher and staggering assignments so that my kids don’t get too much at once. Different ballgame for them next year though when they have seven different teachers next year! So yes, I absolutely think there is another secondary message that needs to be sent to students.

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