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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?

5 Responses to “No-Zero Policies”

  1. paschott

    I don't know if we have a no-zero policy or not, but it wouldn't necessarily surprise me. As you mentioned above, the teachers couldn't talk about it and most teachers are willing to give all sorts of chances to make up tests and eventually turn in work. I'm all for a little lenience in the rare case where someone forgets or life gets in the way, but if a student habitually abuses those privileges, they should get zeros. Of course, with all of the focus on getting the kids through, passing the tests, and keeping their (fake) self-esteem high it's easy to see that some people want to make sure that the kids never fail. 🙁

    I support this teacher doing the right thing, not the politically correct thing. It's sad that he was let go, especially if it was related to this ridiculous policy. I'm hoping there's more to the story than just that, but it wouldn't surprise me if the whole reason was for giving the students what they earned.

    Reply
  2. Kenneth Goldberg

    I don't disagree that it would be scary if a no-zero policy taught children that they could skip on tests or not turn in their homework. However, I don't agree that that is the case. Zeros for homework not done actually teach children negative, acting out behaviors, not homework compliance. This is well rooted in behavioral psychology. The children who get the frequent zeros don't change their behavior. They typically get worse. I address that in my book, on my website, in my blog. Here's a link to a blog post specific to homework zeros. http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=514405694….

    Reply
    • Roger Curtis

      Ken,
      Let's think about this for a minute. Do you really believe that giving zeros in the case you have described actually teaches children negative behaviour? Hmm, if that's true, then I hate to think what impact the courts have on future actions of individuals. Clearly, the idea of interest (on credit cards) must send shivers down your body. Oh yes, grounding kids for say, taking your car without permission is certainly setting them up for a life of negativity. Yes, it's all clear to me know. I just wish that I'd thought of that! While your expert witness makes a case for reducing the volume of homework in favour of just getting out and expanding one's horizons the claim of irrefutable harm is spurious at best. But wait, he's got 35 years experience. Well, let's stack that up against a few zillion parent and teacher-years and I say your assertion gets a zero.

      Reply
  3. miriama59

    I know that the past two years my daughter has gotten worse and worse about turning work in on time. And why not? She is allowed to be late without consequences. She still gets credit..full credit for her work even if very late. One weekend she turned in THIRTEEN assignments for Spanish class. It was okay because late work is fine. I remember getting docked or just failed for late work. Not anymore. And I think this is wrong. I tell her all the time I don't care if it is allowed, you should do your work on time. Things are so different these days and I don't see it as an improvement.

    Reply

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