No-Zero Policies

Each teacher is different. The teaching style of every teacher varies greatly depending on age, the grade they teach, their personality and a number of other factors. So each year when our child begins a new grade with a new teacher we rearrange our standards and expectations to mesh with a new teacher and his or her teaching style. But there is one basic expectation that we carry with us each school year and into each classroom no matter how different the teacher may be. The expectation of that teacher to do their job.

That is why I was shocked to read about Lynden Dorval, a physics teacher at Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton Canada that was fired for giving students zeroes for work not handed in and tests not taken. Or in my opinion, for doing his job. Which goes against Ross Shepard High School’s “no-zero” policy. This policy was implemented because of the school’s belief that failing to complete assignments is a behavioral issue and that marks should reflect ability, not behavior.

Dorval doesn’t agree. “It’s what they call social promotion,” he said “It’s a way of pushing kids through even though they’re not actually doing the work. It’s a way of getting them through, getting their credits and of course making the staff look very good.”

Parents at the school are mostly unaware of the policy, as teachers have been instructed not to discuss it. According to Dorval he was suspended a month ago for “insubordination.” Though the district won’t confirm why he was suspended, they deny it was because of the policy. Most teachers at the school are supporting Dorval and his zero marks.

Schools in Ontario and even in Texas have similar “no-zero” policies though like in Edmonton, they are not widely known about.

Personally I think teaching kids that they can skip on tests or not turn in homework without consequence is a scary thing. I applaud Dorval for refusing to give in to the policy and forcing his students to actually do the work.

This story is an important lesson for parents of school-aged children. Take some time to visit your local school district’s website and get to know the policies where you live in. When the new school year starts, ask teachers outright what their expectations are in regards to homework and classwork.

Is there a “no-zero” policy where you live? If so, what would you, as a parent, do about it?