Edmonton teacher suspended for giving 0s

Discussion in 'General Education' started by onestepcloser, Jun 1, 2012.

  1. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    Jun 1, 2012

    Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/offbeat/story/2012/05/31/edmonton-teacher-zeros-sheppard.html

    QUICK SUMMARY: A teacher was suspended for giving marks of zero on assignments that were not submitted. The school feels that the grade should be based on whatever assignments were submitted, and no zeros should be given.

    An Edmonton high school teacher says he has been suspended for giving students zeros on uncompleted assignments or exams.

    Lynden Dorval, a physics teacher at Ross Sheppard High School, has been giving the mark for work that wasn't handed in or tests not taken even though it goes against the school's "no-zero" policy.

    The thinking behind the policy is that failing to complete assignments is a behavioural issue and marks should reflect ability, not behaviour.

    Dorval said he couldn't in good conscience comply with the rule.

    "I just didn't have a choice," he said. "I just couldn't not do it. I tried to talk myself out of it many times, but it was just something so important to me, I just had to go through with it."

    The policy was adopted by the school 1½ years ago, Dorval said.

    Students' mark based on completed work
    Teachers were told to no longer give zeros. Instead an uncompleted test or assignment would be marked with a comment.

    The student's mark would then be based on whatever work is done.

    "It's what they call social promotion," Dorval 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."

    Teachers were instructed to use their "informed professional judgement" at the end of the year when handing out marks, he said.

    "Some would, in fact, lower the mark on what wasn't done," Dorval said. "Other teachers would just let the mark go, so there was a real inconsistency on how (the policy) was being applied."

    Dorval believes the policy leaves students with the impression they don't need to be accountable for their actions, he said.

    'Student should be accountable'
    "That's against what I've been doing my whole career because I believe the student should be accountable for what they're doing."

    Dorval said he always gave uncompleted work what is called "reluctant zeros," where his students were given a number of opportunities to make up the assignment and have the zero replaced with a mark.

    "Most of my students did that," he said. "By the end of the year, I hardly had any zeros at all."

    He does recall however, one student who had only completed six of 15 items.

    Parents are largely unaware of the policy, as teachers were instructed not to speak about it, he said.

    Other schools in the Edmonton public system also use no-zero marking, he said.

    Schools as far away as Ontario and Texas had also adopted, but later abandoned the philosophy.

    Most teachers support him, Dorval says
    Dorval was suspended earlier this month and is no longer allowed on school property.

    But he said most teachers at the school support him and are envious that he can afford to take a stand.

    "I have 35 years. I don't really want to retire now, but if I have to, I can retire and live on my pension.

    He accepts by going public he will likely be fired.

    "To me this is the right thing," he said. "It had to be done."

    The Edmonton Public Schools said Dorval was not suspended over the zero grade policy.

    "The situation is far more serious and complex," the district said on its Facebook site. "This is a staff discipline issue and we can’t speak to the specifics of this individual case.

    "The School Act authorizes suspensions for only three reasons: if there are reasonable grounds for believing the teacher has been guilty of gross misconduct, neglecting the teacher’s duty or neglecting to obey a lawful order of the board."

    The superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools, Edgar Schmidt, refused to discuss the specifics of Dorval's case during a hastily-called news conference Thursday afternoon.

    Instead, he told reporters that it's important for teachers to know and follow the rules.

    "When an assessment plan has been put in place at a school level, it's my expectation that every staff member will stick to that plan and make sure they are supportive of the work of the entire staff and the principal in relation to student assessment," Schmidt said.

    "And giving good information to students about the work they are actually doing."

    Dorval believes he was suspended for insubordination. He will likely appeal his suspension.

    ---

    This is ridiculous to me. So if someone hands in 2/10 assignments but on those two they get 100 their grade should be 100? How does that prepare students for the real world at all?

    What are your thoughts?
     
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  3. UCLACareerChngr

    UCLACareerChngr Comrade

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    We have had a lot of discussion at our site about grading policies and giving zeros...however, the policy and application still remains in the hands of the individual teachers, they just need to explain their policy at the beginning of the year. Not giving zeros for assignments not turned in might seem like a decent thing to do since you are assessing work and not habits, but wouldn't that just give students the incentive to only turn in work they knew they had completed correctly, so if they didn't understand something they would just ignore it...seems like a bad implementation to me.

    Oh, and by the way, I personally believe we should also be assessing work habits and not just the work itself. I believe that HW should be assessed. But, with that being said, I think it needs to be quality assignments and not just busy work...otherwise it loses it's meaning.
     
  4. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    I think the problem is that we grade assignments at all. If learning is our goal grades should be based on what a student knows not on compliance.

    If, however, compliance is our goal then we might as well grade them on sitting quietly, bringing pencils and smiling politely.
     
  5. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    What would be your method of assessing what a student knows? (Not arguing with you, genuinely curious.)
     
  6. MissJill

    MissJill Cohort

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    Why would I hand in anything as a student if I was only graded on what I completed?
    If it was a tough assignment and I knew if I didn't hand it in then it's not counted, why would I try?

    What a stupid policy.
     
  7. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I agree with the philosophy of the school in that a grade should reflect the knowledge the students have and their mastery of the standards. So if you give 10 assignments on basically the same standard and the kid turns 2 of them in and shows that he has mastered the standard through those 2 assignments, then why does he need to do the other 8? So in that case, I agree that his grade should be 100.

    Now if I give 10 assignments that each cover a standard and the kid only does two, then no, I don't think he should pass and I think the grade SHOULD be a 0, because he hasn't proven that he has mastered that standard.

    I agree with Rock Guy here - I would much rather have a list standards and check off if the student has mastered it - and maybe at what level - no mastery, proficient mastery, extended mastery, etc.

    It's probably worth noting too that the Edmonton Schools have really developed an extensive, research based system within their schools - they have the subject of quite a bit of research lately. I know my last district sent several administrators up there to visit the schools and learn about their philosophies. I would have to say that while this philosophy might not work in all schools, it is probably part of a greater philosophy and system in their school, and frankly, if the teacher wasn't a fan of that policy he probably should have looked elsewhere for a job. In my school, students would absolutely just do one assignment all year that they knew they would do well on and just not do anymore work. I am sure their system is not as simple as that.
     
  8. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    The problem with that version of Case Against Zero is that it allows students to bypass as many standards as they wish to skip fulfilling. We can offer the work for it, but the students can decide whether or not they wish to learn them. It just doesn't make sense to have standards such as Common Core and then allow students to skip mastery.
     
  9. UCLACareerChngr

    UCLACareerChngr Comrade

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    I disagree, but I understand where you are coming from.

    I think once they get jobs they'll be required to know how to get work done, stay organized, and be a productive member of a company. Maybe that's a narrow view, but that's what drives my belief that if we give them assignments to complete we should hold them accountable to completing those assignments.

    Just yesterday I had a group of juniors who were supposed to be working on a project in class not work on it - they said they'd work on it tonight...I told them, when you get a job you don't get to decide when you work on projects, if your boss sees you joking around and not working he may be asking himself "do I really need you working for me?"

    But, I do believe that if it's worksheets or complete busywork then I'm less in that camp...if it's meaningful and helpful to them then in my opinion it's actually helping them learn the concepts so tracking the completion of it supports the overall assessment of whether they are learning the material.

    If it's ONLY about mastery of material and not about work habits, then why don't we just put it all online, have them read stuff and watch videos, and get rid of all the teachers...
     
  10. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    If your work ethic is to do only 20% of the work your future aint too bright in my estimation.
     
  11. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    Was this directed to me? I think we are on the same page then - I think students should be accountable for completing assignments (we don't grade daily homework, etc. or what students are using to practice a skill - that is supposed to be used to assess student learning, not evaluate it - but we have assignments/tests that are to be completed to demonstrate that they understand/can demonstrate a skill.)
     
  12. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I think we teach kids both behaviors and mastery of standards. But, at the end of the day, when I give a kid a grade, and anyone in my state (or in the country with Common Core) looks at that grade, they should be able to say confidently - this grade reflects this kid's mastery of this specific set of standards.

    Not how many tissue boxes they donated to class, not that they turned their assignment in early or late, not that they skipped a couple repetitive assignments, not that they brought back their ticket stub from the school play, not how organized they are, etc.

    We teach and assess these soft skills differently. Sometimes the natural consequences of these skills do affect their grades, like organization, for example. Sometimes there are other consequences for these, like punishment for bad behavior. I would also not be opposed to creating a separate set of standards for employability/soft skills/behavior and giving students a separate grade on that. But when someone sees a grade next to a course name, the grade should reflect the mastery of the course and nothing else.
     
  13. UCLACareerChngr

    UCLACareerChngr Comrade

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    No, sorry I was responding to RockKeyGuy, I agree with you...too many replies too quickly! :thumb:
     
  14. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Give them a 1. Problem solved. 1 is not a 0 but just as bad.
     
  15. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I think that's a stupid policy, but it's the school policy and so I get why he was suspended.

    I think a no 0 policy is just as stupid as a no 100 policy. I remember teachers saying "no one's perfect" and even when I would get all questions right on a test, I would only get a 99. What BS.

    Grading assignments is only one form of assessment. Many varieties should be used in order to give a student a proper mark at the end of the year. But, if one kid doesn't turn in homework they deserve no credit since they didn't do anything. Just like if I don't go to work, I don't get paid.
     
  16. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    At my school on report cards all 0s are automatically made 1s by admin.
     
  17. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    Ridiculous and sad. Did you read the source article which includes the opinions of some of these students? We are spoiling our children. We are ruining them and their futures. We are teaching them to expect recognition for doing the smallest amount of work possible and to take the easy way out. We are teaching to them to expect things to be handed to them in return for little or no effort on their end. We are teaching them that someone who expects them to demonstrate any kind of responsibility and/or work ethic is being unreasonable and unfair. What scares me is that instead of seeing this and doing something about it, education seems to be pushing forward in this direction under the misguided notion that we are making improvements! One day these kids will be running things armed with nothing but a false sense of entitlement.

    Sorry, but this infuritated me. I'll step off my soapbox now :whistle:
     
  18. jwteacher

    jwteacher Cohort

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    I don't believe in giving zeros either for incomplete work because grades should never be used to punish behavior. However, if assignments are incomplete, the teacher should have the right to give that student an "incomplete" for the semester with no earned credit until he or she fulfills the course objectives.
     
  19. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    It seems that it wasn't about the zeros so much as his lack of compliance with a stated district policy.
     
  20. Mamacita

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    If I hire someone to do a job, and that someone works when he/she feels like it and does what parts of it he/she wants, that someone will not be working for me for long. School should be preparing our students in more ways than just academics, although academics definitely comes FIRST. Punctuality, timelines, completeness. . . these are all important, too, and they go right along with quality of work.

    I've never taught young children (my hat is off to you who do; I need my personal space!) but with older students, I could not in any kind of conscience whatsoever, give the same grade to a lazy me-first I'll do what I want to do when I want to do it if at all student that I gave to a dependable, hardworking, conscientious student who actually did, or at least tried to do, all of what was supposed to be done.

    As for things like punctuality, deadlines, etc., perhaps some of you don't know this, but when a prospective employer contacts me about a former student, the first questions I'm asked are about attendance, tardies, and deadlines for completing work. Grades are often not discussed at all. The business world assumes, and rightly so, that a lazy do-nothing in the classroom will be a lazy do-nothing on the job. A worker who does a great job on the one or two projects he/she deigned to do, out of ten or more, isn't exactly what I'd call a good worker. Or even a lousy worker. Actually, not a worker at all. Drone, more like it. Entitled drone.
     
  21. teach42

    teach42 Comrade

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    I completely agree with this and this is what I tell my students when they start complaining and slacking off. If it was a job and they behaved that way, they would be fired. There's no excuse for such behavior.
     
  22. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    The "zeros policy" sounds an awful lot like our old friend "Outcome-Based Education" rearing its ugly head again in new packaging.

    In this case however, I'd like to find out what the "other issues" were in this case that actually led to this guy's suspension.
     
  23. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I agree with your points, but I could also argue that the opposite policy could breed the same kind of student. I teach some Honors courses, and many of those kids think that if they do all their work and do exactly what I tell them too, they are all entitled to 100%.

    In my regular class, I have a kid who I would say has really mastered the ELA standards. Extremely insightful when discussing literature, writes well, makes great connections, etc. But he doesn't turn in a good number of assignments. He stays around a steady C and has told me he doesn't care because he knows the grade doesn't measure what he really knows.

    Who deserves the high grade on the report card? Who has the false sense of entitlement?
     
  24. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    This is what my department told me when they wanted to implement a department wide late policy that involved points off to the grade. I then pointed out how many of them had turned in their monthly reports late that month, but they still had jobs, their pay wasn't docked - in fact there was virtually no consequence to them.

    I think we can teach students skills for their lives after high school and still recognize that school and a job are two different things.
     
  25. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    This policy sounds like a great idea, I wish they had it when I was at school. Just imagine. 1st month in you work like stink on your first assignment and get an A+. Then just don't do anything for the rest of the year and hey presto you get an A+ at the end of it! Result!:lol:
     
  26. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    I just posted a link on a UK teachers site about this and one wag commented

    'Nought will come of this'!
     
  27. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Yes blazer, I'm sure that's exactly how it works. You turn in your signed syllabus and the school just lets you skate for the rest of the year... Yep. That's it.

    When people look at grades they are looking at a measurement of learning. When a kid gets an A on a test and runs home to mommy proud does mommy say "Wow, I have such a compliant child!" Of course not. Lets be honest here. Most teachers who grade on compliance do so because that's the only leverage we have. We aren't really doing it to prepare them for the workforce.

    Someone noted they don't get paid for the days they don't work. That's nonsense. I get officially paid for up to 10 days a year that I don't work (not to mention the 190 days that are not work days already.) I did a ton of not-work back when I worked retail and I still got paid every single time. I might as well grade my students' math skills in social studies because they might get a job some day that requires math and not history.

    I wouldn't be against having true career-readiness standards as part of the education system but for now, we don't.

    As far as how I grade students I start with the expectation that work will be completed. I grade those things which truly are assessments and not practice (maybe 1 thing a week like a quiz or written response.) For those kids who end up doing nothing I grade strictly on their district benchmarks. Those are in class and not optional but are designed to measure the standards. If they can do well on those without turning in their work who am I to say they didn't learn?
     
  28. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Perhaps the other teachers at Edmonton should tell the admin they don't feel like attending this weeks' faculty meeting, but they'll do the next one.
     
  29. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I concur with Alice here... this was not a teacher getting fired for giving a zero, this was a teacher getting fired for not following instructions.

    As to the no-zero policy... I generally like it, though I think it requires a reworking of the way we think and grade. I doubt this teacher was willing to do any of that reworking, and so out the door he goes.
     
  30. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    I think it is important to teach work ethic and responsibility in school, especially as fewer and fewer students miss out on those lessons at home. There are consequences for being lazy. But, if we put that aside and focus only on content mastery, the 0 would still be just. The 0 is not the consequence for not turning in the assignment. The 0 is the consequence for not completing the assignment. No answer is a wrong answer! A small difference, maybe, but a difference. An absent answer can't possibly be correct; therefore it can only be incorrect. How can we tell if a student has mastered the material if they do not turn in the material? The same would be true for any form of assessment. You have to show me something, or it doesn't do either of us any good. I have had papers turned in to me on which every answer was wrong, and I gave credit for taking the time to try! Someone who does not put in the effort does not deserve the same consideration; it is unfair to those who did the work.
     
  31. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    :clap::clap::clap::clap::clap::clap:

    This is the best response I've seen.
     
  32. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    I think it's kind of ridiculous when people say that we should not require students to turn in things on time because teachers get away with not turning things on time. If teachers aren't turning things in on time, that should be dealt with. That shouldn't be tolerated in the profession just as it shouldn't be tolerated in the classroom. If administrators are letting this go on under their noses, they need to change it. We do have somewhat of a problem with that at my school and my admin does nothing about it, which bothers me. I work with some wonderful teachers. I'm always impressed at the depth of instruction I see in classes and how easily people differentiate and go the extra mile to help the kids. However, there are 2-3 teachers who are incredibly irresponsible with keeping up with e-mails, meetings, turning in data/other paperwork, etc. I see this a lot running the RtI system in our building. Many teachers are great- but for those that don't do the work, I don't feel like there is ever any consequence. We had a teacher that missed her first meeting this year because she "didn't see the e-mail." I had literally sent 3 reminders. When her sub went to go cover her class, she said she wasn't coming because she didn't know about it. She'd come back from maternity leave a couple of months before and she got away with no one even saying anything to her because of "baby brain." Later in the year, she didn't invite a parent to the meeting and I got 3-4 phone calls about it from an irate parent, even though it was her responsibility. Fast forward to the end of the year where we're gathering paperwork and data to file for next year. Our AP sent out e-mails detailing what needed to be turned in and by what date with 6 weeks notice. He then sent out 4-5 follow up e-mails reminding people, and when he didn't get everything on time, sent out another e-mail reminding people when it was due. This teacher showed up to the meeting with no data, no paperwork, and said she had no idea what we were talking about. Her exact words were, "Was it in an attachment? I probably didn't read it." The AP who was sitting right there said nothing to her. This shouldn't be allowed to continue in what is supposed to be a professional environment. We can't excuse students' irresponsibility by pointing to another problem of teachers' irresponsibility- both are problems and should be dealt with.
     
  33. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I am not saying this is WHY students should "get away with it" - I am just saying that we always say "students will never get away with that in the 'real world.'" Well, #1 - school is the real world, it's just that it's school, not work, and #2 - It's just not true that the second you turn something in late, don't do something, use a curse word, don't dress appropriately, plagiarize (hello Joe Biden) etc., that you are going to get canned or your pay docked.
     
  34. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    CA Missions

    At a school some time back each grade level adopted a theme based on social studies curriculum. For fourth it was California history and at "Fair Night" the fourth graders displayed their California missions which were completed outside class at home. A panel of judges (parents/teachers) awarded ribbons for first, second, honorable mention. First place went to the parents ... um, excuse me ... the kids of the parents who assisted the parents in building the mission as it was obvious Frank Lloyd Wright would have difficulty meeting the tolerances exhibited. One Honorable Mention went to one student. His mission was on a large piece of flatten cardboard. Stick figures made from pop' sticks and torn socks were propped up with fishing line. The mission was a shoebox with mud slopped here and there. Dead dandelions served as trees (bushes?) and a couple attempts at animals gave the impression of more trees.

    I knew this kid. He had issues with academics and behavior. His parents - let's just say they weren't around. It was obvious he had done this project by himself and was quite proud of his effort. I would hire him in a second.
     
  35. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    So, two scenarios - Student #1 writes a completely wrong answer. They obviously don't understand the concept in any way - and you would give them some credit for trying. Student #2 skips the assignment, but you know from a similar assignment and from a class discussion and overhearing him working in a group that he gets the concept. So it's fair for student #1's grade to reflect. If you looked at a transcript of these two students' grades, it will tell the direct opposite of the truth about these two students' mastery of the content.

    I agree with you to a point - if the kid doesn't do enough work to show any mastery of the content, he should not pass that unit, standard, whatever. But like I said before, I seriously doubt that we are seeing the whole story here - I am sure the school has methods to guard against these things. I don't think it's like the kid does one homework assignment at the beginning of the year, gets an A, and rests on his laurels the rest of the year.
     
  36. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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  37. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    Jun 2, 2012

    If student #1 did so poorly on the assignment, he probably wasn't the only one. This shows me I have to go back over the material. If many students failed the assignment, it would not be taken as a grade, the material would be retaught, and a similar exercise would be assigned. If he was the only one, the grade helps me determine what he needs to work on, tutor him, and provide him with another chance to demonstrate mastery.

    Why is Student #2 being given so many "similar" assignments? If he mastered the material, he probably shouldn't be given another assignment of that sort anyway. Maybe he didn't turn the first one in ;) BUT if he understands the material so well, he will probably be able to complete said assignment fairly quickly and easily if he takes the few minutes to do it. If/when he did, I could determine for sure that he understands the concept and provide an appropriate enrichment activity. Again, if he doesn't take the few minutes to complete the original assignment, I have no resource to assist in developing a more individualized and perhaps more appropriate assignment.
     
  38. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Jun 2, 2012

  39. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    Jun 2, 2012

    I give zeros. I agree totally with what you state above - no answer is a wrong answer. What do most of you do when you grade a test and there is an unanswered question? I mark it wrong! If there is no assignment handed in, it is wrong! I get around some of the guff about how in real life we hand reports in late, etc. Yes, that is true. Life happens! That is why I distribute a limited number of homework passes - they allow a student to hand in an assignment a day late without penalty, that is why I tell students that if there is something that happens at home that interferes with completing an assignment, then bring in a note from their parent/guardian and they will have extended time. We tell our bosses when we can't get something in and are usually given extended time, but if it becomes a habit, we lose our jobs. Part of what we are teaching kids is how to work in the real world. Getting projects/assignments in on time is one of those skills. Using the homework passes is akin to us having a certain number of personal or sick days.

    My experience is that one of the problems we have with behavior issues and completion issues in school is that there is little guidance at home - few requirements to behave in a certain way or to do something they may not want to do. Life does not work that way and the kids have to know that or they will have a heck of a time when the real world smacks them in the face.

    There has to be some consequence for late/missing assignments. Is it fair to have a ton of assignments handed in the day before report card grades are due? I like the idea of the 1 instead of a zero, but how long before that is challenged too.
     
  40. TulipsGirl

    TulipsGirl Cohort

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    Jun 3, 2012

    I find it interesting that several of the posters feel that giving a 0 on an incomplete ussignment is unfair , since it grades compliance rather than mastery. Some have even stated that we shouldn't be giving the work place as a 'real world example', because after all, we turn in assignments late at times, and get paid for days off.

    This man was FIRED for non-compliance! Not for failing to teach students content, but for non-compliance. Here is a perfect example of a how you can know your stuff, but if your behavior doesn't fit the bill, if it doesn't comply with what is expected of you in regard to the task at hand, you have not done a satisfactory job. Period.

    When, exactly, will we take seriously our responsibilty to teach students about... RESPONSIBILTY?

    What this district should REALLY do, if they feel that strongly about their No 0 policy , and if they want to be consistent, is say to the kids:

    "This man knew his content and taught you well (assuming that's true). For that, we give him an A+.
    But he didn't comply with certain behavioral standards, and for that, he was fired.

    You, students, knew the content on 2 of your 10 assignments. For that we'll give you an A+. But you didn't comply with certain behavioral standards. For Behavior, responsibilty and work ethic, you get a 20%. That translates into an F."

    Good Luck geting into college. Even better luck getting a job.

     
  41. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    Jun 3, 2012

    The funny thing is the teacher is getting fired for not fulfilling the administration's expectations through not allowing the children to not fulfill the teachers expectations. Rather hypocritical. So it is okay for the students not to do what is expected but it is not okay for the teachers to encourage the children to do what is expected.
     

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