by Lorne Gunter
All the Edmonton Public School Board trustees did at their meeting on Tuesday was punt the issue of the no-zero policy into the fall.
The trustees may have voted unanimously to review whether or not high school teachers should be prohibited from giving zeros to students on assignments they fail to hand in or exams their fail to write, but not a single trustee spoke against the wishy-washy, feel-good policy.
All the trustees did was defer any action until fall, at which time all they will do is establishment a three-trustee committee to study the controversial policy in the context of worldwide methods of assessing student achievement.
This is nothing more than an unvarnished attempt by trustees to make the problem go away.
Expect the review committee to take months and months to analyse various grading methods from around the world. (There might even be a junket or two involved as they visit other school boards to see how things are done elsewhere.)
Then sometime next year when the controversy has died down, expect a report chock-full of bureaucratise and theoretical mumbo-jumbo that vindicates the no-zero approach.
Trustees admitted Tuesday they have weathered a “tsunami” of public outrage since it was revealed last month that Ross Sheppard High School science teacher Lynden Dorval had been suspended for continuing to give laggard students goose-eggs if they refused to clear up missing assignments and tests before the end of term.
Good. Trustees deserved to bear the brunt of a tsunami of outrage, not to mention an earthquake of indignation and a volcano of discontent.
The no-zero policy is preposterous. What does it teach a student (about real life, as well as about academics) to let their missing assignments slide?
That none of our trustees were prepared to push for an end to this policy shows just how far they all have wandered from the common sense of the common people they are supposed to represent. It is an indication of how deeply they have been hypnotized by the bureaucrats, theoreticians and academics who peddle such twaddle as the latest in educational thinking.
Are teachers in favour of the no-zero policy? Undoubtedly many are. But in his fight with his principal and the board, Dorval has had no shortage of support from other educators.
Are parents in favour? Not at all, if we judge by the angry outpouring aimed at the board, Dorval’s school and the school system in general.
Even many students dislike the let-it-slide approach, especially hardworking, conscientious students. They see how the touchy-feely no-zero policy fails to prepare them for university and the world of work. And they know it is abused by lazy students to achieve higher marks than they deserve.
The no-zero policy cheats successful, dedicated students and teachers without providing any real benefit for students who are truly struggling in school.
You can tell that even the trustees have no real confidence in no-zero, since they permitted schools to adopt the practice without informing students or parents. If trustees were sure their no-hurt-feelings approach was so valuable, they would have announced and defended it up front, rather than waiting for a brave whistleblower such as Dorval to expose their scheme.
Trustees must have suspected no-zero would never pass the smell test. But rather than courageously face the music for their decision, they arrogantly decided to hide their gem of a theory from voters. They treated the people who elected them as too clueless to understand.
Now they’re showing their contempt for voters again by thinking they can preserve no-zero by sweeping it under the rug.
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