"A no-credit-for-effort rule is mindless. The main reason many, if not most, kids do well in school is due to effort. Some kids get good grades on wits alone. Often their study habits are rotten, but they are bright and have good memories and problem-solving skills, so they do well on tests and write to the prompt essays [composing a long answer to an essay question]. They often do poorly on projects and research papers since those things require a degree of planning and discipline to complete.

"Other kids may not be particularly gifted but have model study habits. They tend to do well on those things study prepares one for. Writing to prompts and timed problem-solving are not usually their strengths, but they'll do well on most tests.

"Clearly the second group of kids is succeeding due to effort while those in the first group are doing well without effort, at least for the most part. This is where rules against giving credit for effort fall apart. I think it is obvious that the rulemakers are not referring to the second group but to a third group who may not do well on tests for a whole variety of reasons -- less wits, poor reading skills, going through the motions of studying but not achieving a good end result, etc. -- but who never miss a homework assignment and who often put in for extra credit.

"Effort rules are not intended for the second group of kids. The rules are for the kid in the third group. I often think the type-two kid never enters the mind of the people who make up such rules, or they would grasp how silly such rules are."

-- Jim Jarvis, former science chairman at Chantilly and Westfield high schools

and currently teaching geosystems at Thomas Jefferson High School

for Science and Technology in Fairfax County.