No-Zero policy gets failing grade in the classroom of public opinion

Edmonton high school teacher Lynden Dorval has decided not to challenge his suspension from Ross Sheppard High …The Edmonton Public School Board's No-Zero policy seeks to encourage students to complete their work by prohibiting teachers from assigning them a large red circle as a grade.

Their theory is that by giving students a zero, teachers are effectively giving them a reason to quit. An incomplete encourages them to make up the missing work.

Though this is a simplified summary, a more comprehensive report has been outlined in an Alberta-wide handout.

That means if a student fails to hand in an assignment or show up for a test, even though a zero would be a most appropriate marker to denote the absence of something, under strict the new guidelines he or she receives an "incomplete" instead.

Lynden Dorval, a 35-year veteran of Edmonton's classroom circuit, discovered just how strict these more lenient guidelines were when it came to the other side of the classroom. As the Edmonton Journal has reported, the Ross Sheppard High School teacher was suspended for continuing to dole out zeroes for missing student work.

A second Ross Sheppard High School teacher told the paper he expects to be the second educator disciplined in the controversy. Mike Tachynski claimed his incompletes failed to motivate students to turn in their work, so he resumed using zeroes as "placeholders."

The results, he said, have been marked.

"Last count ... I had 27 kids with 74 different assignments completed, in the last 10 days since I reverted back to putting some zeros in there, so I just wanted to express to all of you that I have had success with giving zeros."

Reaction has swung predominantly in favour of these teachers, with 97 per cent of readers surveyed by the Journal agreeing that zero effort should earn zero marks.

[Related video: No Zero policy backlash]

And if public outcry over the school board's actions hasn't been loud enough, a student — the very demographic the policy claims to be protecting — has started his own petition to reinstate Dorval to his classroom.

Though 17-year-old Jacob Garber doesn't know Dorval, he's collecting student signatures to protest the No-Zero policy and show support for the teachers who

"For about a week, everyone knew about Mr. Dorval's suspension. I wanted to help," he told the Journal. "And (the no-zero policy) gives those who do not want to do their work a way out. It is unfair to those who hand in their work on time."

In true 21st century fashion, a host of Twitter and Facebook pages in support of Dorval have popped up around the Web.

Meanwhile, CTV Edmonton notes that the school board reviewed the No Zero approach during a meeting Tuesday.

A unanimous decision must be reached, or else the issue will be put on the backburner until the fall.

That's going to make it a long summer for Dorval as he awaits his fate.

(Photo courtesy CBC)