Zero Cubed

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Caissa
Zero Cubed

In case there is more to be considered.

Unionist

Caissa

A student has started a petition to get suspended physics and science teacher Lynden Dorval reinstated at his Edmonton high school.

Dorval was suspended indefinitely last month for defying the so-called "no-zero" marking policy at Edmonton's Ross Sheppard High School.

The controversy resonated with Jacob Garber, a Grade 11 student at Ross Sheppard, who never had Dorval as a teacher and only met him for the first time on Monday.

"I support him because it is the right thing to do," Garber said. "If we water down our standards and give kids these behaviour codes for not getting their work done on time, or not at all, it sends the wrong message, not being held accountable for their work.

"And so when you go to the workforce, or to post-secondary, it's not like that at all. It affects everybody in the school system."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2012/06/11/edmonton-student...

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Zero Cubed Mask

Likely illegal in Montreal but not Edmonton.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

 

Grade 10 math.  I think this cube is approaching its limit.  If you can't figure out what it means you get zero.  If you can figure out what it means you are not limited to zero.

But no matter what zero cubed is still zero.

Caissa

I'm swearing off cutesy titles.

oldgoat

I listened to this being discussed this morning on The Current by three Alberta based educators.  They offered some differing perspectives in a pretty reasoned and collegial manner, and I thought it did away with some of the noise on the suject while offering a fair bit of light.

 

What the discussion did do, IMHO was discuss differing and perhaps more effective way of measuring outcomes and approaching educational metrics, not just the false dichotomy of either having standards or not having standards.

Caissa

Thanks for the link oldgoat. I'll have to give it a listen later.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I just listened to that piece. Excellent discussion.  I note that none of the three guests jumped in to say they shared Lynden Dorval's view that giving zeros is a necessary part of teaching.  Even the person arguing on the side of grading as a good clarified that zeros should really be the same as an Incomplete.

Joe Bower's views most closely align with my own and I also thought that Sherry Bennett made a lot of sense.  John Long was consistent in that he seems to believe that the purpose of education is to socialize our youth into the dominant hierarchy and that grades are a useful tool in that goal.  I must say I agree with him but I don't consider it a good but rather the underlying problem with our education system.  The girls interviewed highlighted that they get Mr. Long's message about school loud and clear.

I laughed when Joe described the rational student always picking assignments on the basis of the least amount of work not any real interest in a project.  He was describing my son and his buddies to a tee. Low hanging fruit for research and the bare minimum of  effort got them either C+ or a B-.  To get the B+ or an A meant work and they had better things to do with their time.

I thrived on grades as a kid.  I had very good reading and comprehension skills and a mathematical mind. In elementary school I stood in the top 3 in every subject and class I was in.  I saw my report cards from every school I went to at one time and I was astounded at how every year the comments were the same.  "______ is doing well in all subjects but he asks too many questions." The other comment in most but not all years was, " _____ could do so much better if he tried harder."  I laughed when I realized that two of the teachers that said that were in years when I had the best overall marks in the class.  Funny though they were right that I coasted because I could read three times as fast as any of my classmates and I understood most of what I read. Despite my "success" I hated rote learning and endless tests and teachers who taught to outcomes and had no time for questions.

Caissa

I enjoyed the line about turning students from being learning lovers into grade grubbers.

After listening to it I spent yesterday morning at our youngest son's elementary school watching the love of learning. I was able to get some colleagues of mine at the university (Chemist, botanist, psychologist, engineer and geologist) to volunteer their time to provide some science enrichment at this inner city elementary school. Children had fun, learned some science and also saw some new career ideas. No grades were involved. The only remuneration my colleagues received was lots of smiles, my eternal gratitude and the ability to share their love of science.

Caissa

A teacher, who is the second to face discipline for defying the "no-zero" marking policy at an Edmonton high school, told trustees on Tuesday that giving students zeros prompted them to complete tests and assignments.

Mike Tachynski teaches at Ross Sheppard High School, the same school as Lynden Dorval, the science and physics teacher who last month was indefinitely suspended for giving his students zeros.

Tachynski joined two other members of the public in speaking out against the policy at Tuesday's Edmonton Public School Board meeting. He prefaced his remarks by revealing that he was facing discipline for disobeying his principal's directive.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2012/06/12/edmonton-no-zero...

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I had teachers like those two in high school.  Self righteous assholes who only respected the students who were servile and well on their way to becoming cogs in the machine.  The rest of us they just kept trying to hammer into those fucking square holes.

oldgoat

The first thing that needs to happen is a conversation, supportive and non-judgemental in tone with the emphasis on the listening side, to find out what's going on in the kid's life.  All else flows from that.

6079_Smith_W

oldgoat wrote:

The first thing that needs to happen is a conversation, supportive and non-judgemental in tone with the emphasis on the listening side, to find out what's going on in the kid's life.  All else flows from that.

Good advice, and I think it is something we can all agree on.

Caissa

The Edmonton teacher who was suspended for giving students zeros in defiance of school policy is one step closer to losing his job.

Lynden Dorval was told in a letter he received last week from Ron Bradley, principal of Ross Sheppard High School, that he is facing termination.

After criticizing Dorval for not returning unmarked exams, assignments and lab reports after he was suspended - and not leaving lesson plans for his replacement - Bradley informs the physics and science teacher that his job is on the line.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2012/06/25/edmonton-teacher...

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

If a skule has a "non-zero" policy, can the teacher give a 'one' in lieu of a 'zero'? And, if not, where does the bottom limit begin? 5? 10? 20? Just for showing up in class, is the teacher forced to give the student someting as a grade?

Caissa

The Edmonton Public School Board will review its grading policy, which caused an uproar across the country after teacher Lynden Dorval was suspended for giving students zeros at his high school.

Trustees voted unanimously at a board meeting Tuesday to review how students are graded after hearing from Dorval, who spoke out against no-zero marking in a brief presentation.

"This no-zero policy does not work," Dorval said. "You only have to look at the stats of the number of the high schools that have been doing this thing for a number of years and you look at their diploma results. They're terrible."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2012/06/26/edmonton-school-...

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

An incredibly disingenuous characterization of the no-zero policy by Dorval. 

Unionist

I'm not really sure a "zero" drives home the message sufficiently.

Students who don't complete assignments should be suspended from school until they cough it up. That way, either their parents will make them shape up just to get them out of the house, or at worst, they'll make room for more diligent kids who really want to fit in to the system.

[ETA: I guess I should mention that I was being sarcastic, in case anyone was inadvertently convinced by my "logic".]

Caissa

The whole debate seems to have combined assessment and motivation. They aren't always are related and the former should not be used to increase the latter.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Yes, the fundamental logic of the no-zero policy strikes me as inassailable -- which doesn't mean necessarily that zeroes shouldn't be permitted (although I don't think they should be). That logic is this: giving zeroes for incomplete assignments gives an academic penalty to a behavioural problem. It sends mixed messages and doesn't address the actual issue at play.

For Dorval to dismiss this logic as the result of "overzealous principals" is deeply disingenuous or misguided. It also plays into Ro-Ford-type reactionary rhetoric against bloated bureaucracies, etc.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

It seems that the teacher did not hand his assignments in on time.  I thought he was supposed to be teaching kids that in the real world if your boss says mark those tests you have to mark the tests or there are consequences.  He is a zero and deserves a zero on his employee assessment.  If that means firing him so he will learn to get his assignments in on time that's okay because its for his own good.

Wink

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Here is an excerpt from a letter sent to him.  This total disregard for his students is offensive and destroys any point he was trying to make about the system being bad for students.

Quote:

On June. 5, 2012, the Department Head was advised by the supply teacher that the Unit Exams for two of your Physics 30 classes were missing. Apparently, students had been complaining about not getting back these exams, which had been written on May 11, 2012. Students had also been voicing their complaints that they would need to rewrite the Unit exam because the original exam was missing. Their concerns were somehow picked up by an intern with CHED radio and a reporter for the Edmonton Joumal. The intern emailed an assistant principal of the school on June 6, 2012, advising that she had interviewed you and that you had admitted that you had student exams and other work at your home. I therefore wrote to you on June 6, 2012. I pointed out that the Superintendent, in his May 18, 2012 letter of suspension, had directed you to retum all District property in your possession immediately. Clearly you had ignored his directive. I directed you to retum all District property in your possession immediately by COD courier.

On June 6, 2012, I received some marked Unit exams for your Block 2 Physics 30 class, plus 18 unmarked Unit exams for the written component and one unmarked scantron answer sheet for the multiple choice component for your Block 4 Physics 30 class. This was shocking to me, given that the students had written the exam on May ll, and you therefore had sat on them for almost a month. These are students who within a very short time would be writing their Diploma exam, and I would have thought that the important feedback from a Unit exam would have been provided to them as soon as possible.

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/373970-rosssheppardletter.html

Caissa

Was he expected to mark exams while he was under suspension?

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

He was expected to return all the property of the school when suspended.  He got that letter in mid May.  His replacement could then have done the work. If he wanted to hang onto the students work assignments then he should have marked them and sent them in.  He did nothing to fulfill his obligation to the students let alone his employer. The May and early June period are the critical months for students trying to graduate. This is clearly inappropriate behaviour and deserves discipline. This adds a strange irony to the story. Talk about clay feet on the hero of teaching students responsibility.

autoworker autoworker's picture

Since I failed to become socialized within the "dominant hierarchy", I'll give my tormentors a zero!

Caissa

As you know Kropotkin, I don't support his assessment pedagogy. That said I don't believe his employer has behaved well during this whole situation.

ETA:

A high school teacher who sent sexually suggestive phone texts to his teenage babysitter and another teacher who put masking tape across the mouth of a talkative student are among those who have been disciplined for their behaviour, according to B.C.'s new Teacher Regulation Branch.

The disciplinary decisions were made by the now-defunct B.C. College of Teachers, the body which regulated the profession before the Ministry of Education set up the new branch.

The new branch has yet to hold any disciplinary hearings of its own, but has posted details of 11 cases resolved prior to the dissolution of the college in January.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/06/27/bc-teach...

Caissa

An Edmonton teacher who refused to go along with his school's "no-zero" policy has been fired.

Lynden Dorval, a physics teacher at Ross Sheppard High School, was suspended in May for awarding zeros for work that wasn't handed in or tests not taken, even though it went against the school's policy of not awarding zeros.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2012/09/14/edmonton-dorval-zero-fired.html

Unionist

Good riddance to this narcissist, who spent more time bathing in the media spotlight than he did trying to educate students.

To see the "quality" of support for this individual, just check the right-wing outpouring of support for his silly little philosophy of education. We should stop "coddling" kids. They have to "take responsibility". They need to be prepared for the "real world", where if they do no work, they get no pay cheque. And on and on.

None of these piling-on geniuses seems to recognize that the school has no directive to pass students even if they produce failing work. The "no-zero" policy, whether it's well thought out or not and well implemented or not, is to determine why a student fails to hand in an assignment and help solve the problem.

Dorval should go teach in some private school where he can hand out all the zeroes he wants. But if he can't follow directives from management, he'll get fired there too. That's the "real world" of employment. I'm thrilled that they've stopped coddling Dorval and prepared him to "take responsibility" for insubordination and contempt for colleagues and students.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Unionist wrote:
I'm thrilled that they've stopped coddling Dorval and prepared him to "take responsibility" for insubordination and contempt for colleagues and students.

Heh.

I'll be honest, I saw this story the other day and didn't post it here because I didn't want to start up this mulberry dance again. But to get us started: I will spare myself a quiet smile for Dorval's passing.

Re: his holding on to the exams. This has been the tactic of striking Teaching Assistants in the past. Since exams are the school's property, and the TAs have engaged in work stoppage, they aren't "permitted" to touch the exams. I think I'd agree with this practice in the context of collective bargaining and striking, so it's interesting to think about the situation here. As much as I disagree with Dorval pretty much from top to bottom, I'm inclined to agree with Caissa here.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

First let me say it is my personal experience from dealing with hundreds of employers that the vast majority of the ones I meet displayed inappropriate behaviour towards the rights of their employees.  That is reality.

No matter that the School Board seems to fit the norm of an employer not taking their employees' rights fully into account, I must say this guy deserved to be fired,  That is what I would be telling his union as well as advising them not to pursue a grievance because he was clearly insubordinate and still unrepentant.  No labour arbitrator would ever return an employee back to work under those circumstances.

Caissa

The Edmonton teacher who was fired for giving his students zeros has got a new job at a local private school.

Lynden Dorval, a former physics teacher at Ross Sheppard High School, was suspended in May for giving students zeros for work that wasn't handed in or tests not taken.

That method went against the school's policy of not awarding zeros and on Friday Dorval found out he was fired.

However, less than one week after his termination, Dorval has been offered a new job at Tempo School.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2012/09/18/edmonton-private-school-hires-teacher-gave-zeros.html

Unionist

Unionist, clairvoyant as always wrote:

Dorval should go teach in some private school where he can hand out all the zeroes he wants. But if he can't follow directives from management, he'll get fired there too.

I wish him well at Tempo School. And I especially wish his students well.

 

6079_Smith_W

Piling on, Unionist?

Speaking of that, it's nice to see this round of support for good old by the book following orders, even if I do think it is coloured a bit by the principle we are discussing. I remember once being told in here to cease and desist for daring to point out that one could be both a worker sibling and a slum landlord (in a company truck on company time). So it's good to know we can get into these grey areas without cracking the foundation of labour solidarity.

Whatever got this guy fired, my opinion hasn't changed about the actual principle of the zero. As I said in one of the previous threads, a teacher friend of mine pointed out his application of "no zero" which I found acceptable, and even he thought the Edmonton system was screwed because it did not follow through.

If we want to get back to the math,  zero equals zero. Any of these other value and punitive judgments are just in people's heads. Anyway, nice to see that it has wrapped up with a happy ending for everyone.

 

 

Unionist

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Piling on, Unionist?

Yup.

Quote:
Speaking of that, it's nice to see this round of support for good old by the book following orders, even if I do think it is coloured a bit by the principle we are discussing. I remember once being told in here to cease and desist for daring to point out that one could be both a worker sibling and a slum landlord (in a company truck on company time). So it's good to know we can get into these grey areas without cracking the foundation of labour solidarity.

Hey Winston, we defend our fellow workers who get into trouble for speaking their minds, being insubordinate, etc. But we don't defend their "right" to be insubordinate, with three exceptions: Where following a managerial order would 1. threaten health and safety; 2. require violation of a law; or 3. Cause irreparable harm to workers, the union, etc., while causing at worst symbolic damage to managerial authority. (This third criterion is obviously much tougher to argue and rarely succeeds for that reason.)

A worker who persists in refusing to abide by lawful employer policy, with the above exceptions, gets fired and stays fired. That's the real world. "Solidarity" doesn't mean patting our fellow workers on the back and telling them it's ok to walk over that cliff because "the union is behind you".

One may agree with a "no zero" policy or not. But the proper way to argue the point is (surprise) to argue the point. It is not to become a one-person media magnet practising some caricature of civil disobedience, and then expressing shock and horror when the employer turfs your butt.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Ha! Good call, Unionist, clairvoyant. Who would have thought this cavalier would be so attractive to the private school industrial complex? And yes, the thing about civil disobedience is that it's against the rules. One guideline is that if you've been up to it for awhile and the people most likely to be your allies aren't, in the parlance of today's youth, ur doin it wrong.

Good riddance, brave soul.

Unionist

I think Mr. Dorval will fit in well at Tempo:

Quote:
Tempo School was founded upon the idea that the education of children is the responsibility of parents. The name of the school is an acronym of its Latin motto: Tota Edocenda Maxime Parentum Officium (“all teaching is pre-eminently the duty of parents”).

 

6079_Smith_W

Unionist wrote:

Hey Winston, we defend our fellow workers who get into trouble for speaking their minds, being insubordinate, etc. But we don't defend their "right" to be insubordinate.

I don't disagree, and I'm glad we can talk about it. I do think there wouldn't be quite the same zeal about the process and his fate were it not for our respective positions on this issue. As a matter of fact, if the issue was the dress code we probably wouldn't be talking about this at all.

We don't really know what he was fired for, and there are indications that it could have been for a number of things, including this. I think he should have probably kept his head down too, but I don't think he is an obviously better fit for the evil private system, nor that his students should dread his arrival.

And none of this changes the fact that we disagree about the core principle. What we're really discussing here is following orders.

Unionist

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Unionist wrote:

Hey Winston, we defend our fellow workers who get into trouble for speaking their minds, being insubordinate, etc. But we don't defend their "right" to be insubordinate.

I don't disagree, and I'm glad we can talk about it. I do think there wouldn't be quite the same zeal about the process and his fate were it not for our respective positions on this issue. As a matter of fact, if the issue was the dress code we probably wouldn't be talking about this at all.

Agreed - because a dress code might (or might not) involve a prima facie violation of Section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our union (and many others) have fought and won disputes where employer rules re dress, personal appearance, etc. have been deemed arbitrary, or discriminatory, or otherwise unlawful, or not rationally related to a bona-fide requirement of the business. Those cases involve very different considerations from this one.

Quote:
We don't really know what he was fired for, ...

Sure we do, in great detail: [url=http://www.scribd.com/doc/105947367/Lynden-Dorval-s-termination-letter]Sept. 14, 2012 termination letter.[/url]

ETA: [url=http://www.scribd.com/doc/95458205/Recommendation-letter-for-suspension-... 3, 2012 recommendation letter for suspension[/url]

[url=http://www.scribd.com/doc/95460985/EPSB-letter-suspending-teacher-Lynden... 18, 2012 letter of suspension[/url]

I haven't yet found two letters of reprimand from April 2012, but I think the substance of those actions is adequately summarized in the subsequent correspondence.

 

 

6079_Smith_W

Right, because the official report always tells the whole truth and nothing but.

I didn't mean to send you off on this tangent U, because as I said, this following orders thing isn't really the relevant part of it for me, and I think it is kind of funny that that law and order has become the fallback position from the real question we were discussing. The only reason I mentioned it is because there were some indications that this teacher may have been difficult in other ways. From the first CBC story on his suspension:

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."

Sure, you're right. The only thing going on here is that he refused to follow board policy and made a big stink about it. And teachers can wear white before easter all they want so long as they aren't humiliating students with their bizarre personal grading systems.

 

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

The only thing going on here is that he refused to follow board policy and made a big stink about it. And teachers can wear white before easter all they want so long as they aren't humiliating students with their bizarre personal grading systems.

I agree.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I see your point, Winston, although I think the school board acted correctly in this instance. I'm sure you would too if Dorval had decided that the school board policy on not strapping children was likewise coddling and insufficiently preparing them for the real world (sic). But to take another example, I don't agree with the firing of Prof. Denis Rancourt, whose non-normative pedagogy included giving every student As.

I suppose my criteria is something like reactionary vs. progressive, which is perhaps flawed. Of course, the pedagogy models of post-secondary education are far less codified, so the context is also different. But if Rancourt was a high school teacher, I would likely support him too. The difference is that Dorval was using an ideology that had been tried and rejected by a culture of teachers, educators and researchers -- and that Rancourt was trying to move education forward rather than backward. An important difference, I'd say. And moreover, one worth getting fired over.

6079_Smith_W

@ CF

Well yes, I think the writing was on the wall, and once it was public I can't see how they could have done it differently. I also think, aside from the question of teaching models, that a personal politics may have played a role in it. And I take that assumption both from the way Dorval dealt with this, and some of the allusions that there was more to it than just this issue.

I have certainly seen enough cases of personal politics and double standards in schools - as with most institutions.

But again, I don't see Dorval's firing as the central issue. It really comes down to the question of whether his model is regressive or progressive - whether that grade has a punitive or judgmental quality attached to it, or not. Clearly we see that from very different perspectives, and I'd say it has been talked entirely out. I don't see any point in running around the bush again.

 

 

6079_Smith_W

I believe this has been posted here before. This might be a good way to wipe tha blackboard clean:

http://www.thersa.org/events/video/animate/rsa-animate-changing-paradigms

Although anyone who went to a rural school a few generations ago knows it wasn't all exactly according to the old model.

Caissa

As a schoolboy, Francois Hollande may have daydreamed about growing up to be president so that he could abolish homework.

Now the French leader plans to do exactly that, arguing that schoolwork should be done at school so that kids who don't have support after hours don't fall behind.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2012/10/should-canada-follow-frances-lead-and-ditch-homework.html

Unionist

So guess what? Dorval won. He gets two years' lost salary and a corresponding top-up to his pension.

Slumberjack

So zeroing him out of a job ended up being wrong too.

6079_Smith_W

Interesting. Thanks, Unionist.

He might be assuming a bit much. I didn't see anything there about whether he was right or not; just on the charge of insubordination and his treatment.

I guess that puts us back to square one in kicking this back to the relative benefit or damage of giving zero grades.

But to revisit the question of following policy, it's not so much that I think teachers should be able to be mavericks and ignore board decisions, but the other side is that boards, superintendants and principals sometimes get it terribly wrong, and sometimes in a very partisan way. And it is made more galling the fact that same administration often does not back teachers up in doing their jobs.

Plus, we all assumed this was a school board policy. According to this story (yeah, I know it's a Sun paper, but I haven't found any source saying otherwise, or corroborating) it is just something the principal decided. Begs the question of who was overstepping their authority here. The story also quotes the appeal decision:

“The basis for the suspension appeared to be that the principal viewed any form of dissent as insubordination which was not to be tolerated, despite repeated efforts by teachers to explain why the directive interfered with their professional judgement and could result in illegitimate outcomes.”

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2014/08/29/alberta-board-of-reference-determi...

My dad worked for one of those. I have seen more than a couple of them in the school system myself. And I count myself lucky that the schools where our kids are are relatively free of them.

 

 

6079_Smith_W

Thanks. It was kind of unclear, and other articles (including the globe) just refered to school policy, and other schools doing the same.

I found nothing on the board website either. The Edmonton Journal was more clear, saying that they passed a policy which specifically included zero grades. That doesn't mean they originally had a policy to the contrary, nor that there was any reversal, as the Post reported.

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/zeros+teacher+unfairly+dismissed+Edmonton...

Kind of odd that we missed that; and all of us, including me, did.

 In any case, from that appeal ruling, it seems like there was something else going on quite independent of the question of whether zero grading is valid.

 

 

Unionist

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Plus, we all assumed this was a school board policy. According to this story (yeah, I know it's a Sun paper, but I haven't found any source saying otherwise, or corroborating) it is just something the principal decided. Begs the question of who was overstepping their authority here.

The National Post (another impeccable source) suggests it was a school board policy:

Quote:
In April 2013, the school board reversed its “no-zero” policy which barred teachers from giving students a grade of zero.