‘No-Zero’ policy fails students
June 18, 2012
It used to be that when a student came home with a big fat zero on their report card, they’d have some serious explaining to do.
In a bizarre turn, now it’s the teachers who are having to do the explaining. Last month, a high school physics teacher in Alberta was suspended because he had the ‘audacity’ to dole out some zeros, which apparently violated school procedure.
Some schools in Alberta have adopted a “no-zero” rule. According to supporters of this fail-safe approach, it’s all about not giving up on kids and not letting them off the hook for work.
How about not letting students off the hook for missed deadlines?
News of this teacher’s suspension has ignited strong public backlash for its absurdity.
It makes you wonder what spelling bees are like at these “no-zero” schools. It must be very awkward when a student botches a word. Do the judges just pretend like it didn’t happen? Track and field day must be the worst. Does everybody tie for first place? It must be a tricky job squeezing everyone onto the podium.
A “no-zero” policy sets students up for failure. It fools young people into believing that failure isn’t possible. It sends the message that even if you don’t get the work done, you still get to pass go.
School should be a place to learn English and science, but it should also be a place to pick up some life skills.
In the real world, if you don’t do the work, there are consequences.
You may not get deadline extensions or third and fourth repeats on a task. Instead, you’ll probably be shown the door.
It’s not cynical — it’s reality.
So why are students being taught otherwise? In Ontario, teachers are required to give students multiple chances to submit their work, even when they’ve been caught cheating.
How’s that for a lesson on responsibility and accountability?
High schools aren’t the only offenders. A few years ago, the University of Manitoba granted a student a PhD despite the fact that he had failed prerequisites such as exams and a course. The student allegedly suffered from “extreme exam anxiety,” so the university waived the requirements and gave him his degree anyway. An outraged professor ended up suing the school over it.
The best way to set kids up for success is by letting them fall down once in a while. If teachers are allowed to give As, they should be able to give zeros, too.