No policy on zero grading in CESD
Chinook’s Edge School Division does not have a no-zero policy in place, believing that putting something in policy holds the division to a certain course of action.
Lissa Steele, director of learning services, CESD
The Gazette solicited the feedback of the division on such a policy following the firing of Edmonton physics teacher Lynden Dorval for issuing a zero to a student in his class last year against his division’s policy of not handing out zeros.
“There is no policy and we most likely won’t develop one because a policy really holds you to one point of view where what we really want to do is work with our schools and work with our teachers and work with our kids because our key message in all of our schools is that we’re not going to give up on the kids,” said Lissa Steele, the division’s associate superintendent of learning services.
Steele said the goal of all division staff is to work with students and give them ample opportunity, “because we don’t want to resort to a zero.”
Steele said it comes down to working to meet the needs of every student. The division has spent the last year-and-a-half, she said, developing the mission and vision.
Steele said teachers try to understand the reasons behind why certain students might not be completing their work, whether it’s a learning disability or no support from parents to get their children to complete assignments. From there, staff can better help individual students overcome whatever impediment is keeping them from completing work.
“Our schools put in the time, the energy, the programs, to do everything humanly possible to get those kids through. Ethically, I think we believe in not giving up on kids,” she said.
Colleen Butler, chair of CESD’s board of education, said the division believes in focusing on the learning that happens in schools and that the board has never considered a no-zero policy.
“Teachers work with students to get the best out of students,” she said.
In an email to the Gazette, Karen Swaenepoel, chair of the parent advisory council at Olds High School, said in her 11 years of being involved in PACs, neither the issue of a no-zero policy nor anything else related to grading has ever come up.
“It is my experience that as parents we can trust the school and our teachers to assign appropriate grades,” she said.
In comments from other council members solicited by Swaenepoel and provided to the Gazette, views on a no-zero policy were mixed.
“Olds High School provides every student the opportunity to achieve and succeed if they so choose. My experience has been that the educators at Olds High are proactive in ensuring that no student is left behind. They are engaged in evaluating their processes and seek feedback from staff, students and parents to identify areas for change and improvement,” wrote one parent.
Another parent wrote: “I personally think an appropriate grade can include a zero – if you don’t do the work – no mark. Kind of like real life.”