Schools Across the Country 'ZAP' Poor Grades

Attempts to determine exactly how many schools, school districts and local municipalities use ZAP policies — or "Zeros Aren't Permitted" — in their grading of students were unsuccessful. Both the U.S. Department of Education and the National School Boards Association were unable to provide figures on the programs. While by no means a comprehensive list, here's a look at some schools nationwide that utilize either "H" grades or ZAP policies:

Costa Mesa High School, Costa Mesa, Calif.: In a letter to parents in February, Principal Aaron Peralta announced the launch of a ZAP homework tutorial program that would require students who did not turn in homework to stay an extra hour after school. "This program offers your child what they need; it is not a punishment," Peralta wrote. "Furthermore, research has proven that students who consistently turn in their homework assignments get better grades and score higher on mandatory state tests."

Wayzata East Middle School, Plymouth, Minn.: Wayzata students receive ZAP "tickets" for missed homework assignments and are then placed on the ZAP 2 list if the work is not submitted by the next school day. Failure to complete the assignment a third time results in a working lunch.

Little Axe Middle School, Norman, Okla.: At Little Axe, 25 percent of the student's total grade is slashed under its 2008-09 ZAP program, but students can still receive a maximum 75 percent for late assignments handed in up to two days late with a parent's signature. More than two days late? That zero is etched in red ink.

Charlotte High School, Charlotte, Mich.: According to its 2008-09 student handbook, late credit is always preferable to a zero. As such, students who miss their deadlines get "zapped" and are required to attend 55-minute sessions on Tuesdays or Thursdays. And unfortunately for student athletes and musicians, those "zap labs" take precedence over all other school activities.

Fowler Middle School, Maynard, Mass.: Assistant Principal Jeff Mela told parents in a letter last March that the purpose of its ZAP program was twofold: to give students a second chance on missed, lost or "forgotten" assignments and to increase student performance while building pride. "ZAP will not be used as a punishment," Mela wrote in the letter. "The intent is to keep your child from receiving a zero."

Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Although it's believed to be the only school district nationwide that uses "H" letter grades, spokesman John Helmholdt said the mark is essentially the same as an "I," or incomplete, which has been used for generations. "We called it 'H' for hope," Helmholdt told "We held the grade as opposed to issuing an incomplete. But the student and the parent are the one who have to be willing to put forth the effort to improve that grade." But according to figures released earlier this week, the effort may not be working. Just 16 percent of classes failed during the program's initial trimester were converted into passing grades, and in 68 percent of classes students made no attempt to reconcile the grade. Another 15 percent of the classes were failed a second time.

Glenpool Middle School, Glenpool, Olka.: Students here have been thriving under the ZAP program introduced in September 2007, with a reported 1,000-plus assignments resubmitted within the first three months alone.