Zeroes foster motivation

Ethan Samels and Dylan McCabe

Changes to Baltimore County Public School’s mastery grading policy have culminated in significant ramifications for students and teachers alike. Previously, incomplete assignments received a low score code (LS), indicating a 50 percent in the gradebook, even if the work was never attempted. The policy, instituted during the 2016-17 school year, has since evolved, now allowing teachers to input a missing code (M), or a zero, for unattempted work.

While this alteration poses the potential to hurt students’ grades, most recognize the direct impact on work ethic.

“It motivates me to get all of my classwork and homework finished and turned in on time,” junior Finn Drew said. “I want to get good grades, and it’s hard to do that with a zero in the gradebook.”

Senior Matt Lodge also credits the change with encouraging motivation despite “senioritis.”

“As a procrastinator, it’s scary to see a zero instead of an LS, so it motivates me to turn my work in quicker,” Lodge said.

English teacher Alicia Drechsler also agrees with the change, adamant that students need a zero to encourage turning in work.

“As a teacher of standard classes, I believe the reason for adding M back in is to really press the importance of turning in all of your work,” Drechsler said. “If you get an LS for turning in nothing, what is the motivation to do much at all if all you need to pass is a 60 percent?”

Drechsler also appreciates how the policy lessens the end of quarter frenzy.

“I really like the new cutoffs- both interims and a week before the quarter ends. It dramatically cut down on the number of students I had trying to give me excessively late work,” Drechsler said.

Teachers across the country who work in districts with mastery grading policies have disagreed with the implementation of the LS. In southern Florida, a teacher was even fired for refusing to give a student a 50 percent for not turning in homework.

But math teacher Henry McVeigh is hesitant to input zeroes.

“I only give students a missing grade if they don’t apply any effort. An honest effort is the basis of rewarding my students,” McVeigh said.

The only complaint Drechsler has for the new policy is communication. She proposes more frequent reminders school-wide, preferably from administration, about the cutoff dates for late work, considering a significant number of students still receive zeroes on assignments.