Story Archive

No Tolerance for Zero

Lynden Dorval, 61, has been a physics teacher at Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, Alta., Canada, and has worked in the local public school system for 35 years. At the end of the school year in June, he faced a dilemma: a school policy that forbids teacher from giving a zero grade to students (the new requirement: “assigning behaviour codes for formative assessments”) was in the way of his doing just that to students who had failed to turn in their work. “It’s promoting students without having them do the work,” he says, so he ignored the policy in favor of grading the kids on actual work. But, he said, “students were always allowed to make up their zero.” He was suspended for 21 days. When he appealed the suspension, he was terminated. He now faces a new dilemma: he can retire, and protect his pension, or file a lawsuit, and risk losing everything. Other Canadian provinces have given up on their “no zero” policies because “it proved to be a complete disaster” for students, a teacher in Manitoba said. (RC/Canoe) ...It doesn’t look too good for the few remaining teachers with integrity, either.
Story Update: Edgar Schmidt, the superintendent who fired Dorval kept pushing, asking the Alberta Teacher’s Association to declare the teacher engaged in “unprofessional conduct” — and that he did not return school exams or attend staff meetings. The ATA cleared him of all three charges in 2014. Dorval was awarded back pay, but he really wanted his job back. Meanwhile, the school board reversed the policy of never giving zeroes to students who fail to complete their work. Dorval didn’t get his job back, but he was hired by a private school that appreciated that he cared about his students.
Original Publication Date: 16 September 2012
This story is in True’s book collections, in Volume 19.

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