Diane Tirado, an eighth-grade history teacher at Westgate K-8 School in Port St. Lucie, Florida, has been fired after giving her students zeros for missing homework assignments. She had recently given her students two weeks to complete an explorer notebook project, which several students never submitted. As a result, she graded them accordingly, giving them a zero on the assignment.
Now, Tirado is out of a job. The elementary school, which apparently has a rule called the “no zero policy," says that the lowest possible grade that a teacher can give a student is a 50, even if they don't submit anything. Although she was aware of the rule, Tirado does not agree with it and decided to ignore it. Before departing, she decided to leave her students with some words of wisdom on the whiteboard in her class.
"Bye kids. Mrs. Tirado loves you and wishes you the best in life. I have been fired for refusing to give you a 50 percent for not handing anything in. Love, Mrs. Tirado"
She then shared her story on Facebook, hoping to explain her side of the story. “A grade in Mrs. Tirado's class is earned," she said. “I'm so upset because we have a nation of kids that are expecting to get paid and live their life just for showing up and it's not real. The reason I took on this fight was because it was ridiculous. Teaching should not be this hard."
The post has gone viral with most commenters agreeing with her position.
Florida teacher Diane Tirado was fired from her job for giving students zeros for not completing an assignment. She was told the lowest grade she could give the students was 50 percent. Diane spoke to Unews about what happened and her thoughts on education #UNews pic.twitter.com/P3Oa9QM2ds— Univision News (@UnivisionNews) August 2, 2019
A spokesperson for the school district contradicted Tirado’s version of events, saying that neither the district nor the school has a policy that prohibits teachers from recording a grade of zero for work that has not been submitted. The spokesperson added Tirado was fired for “sub-standard” performance and interactions with students and parents that “lacked professionalism and created a toxic culture.”
Other teachers at the school have created further confusion, stating that the policy does in fact exist and that they believe in it. "Failure, as we have spoken about as a school, as a district, is not an option," teacher Julie Leofanti said.
Several teachers at Westgate K-8 School have stated that automatically giving students a zero for uncompleted assignments sends the wrong message. "Once you give that child a couple of zeros, they can't come back from it. So we're telling them, right off the bat, don't even bother the rest of the semester," teacher Nancy Small said.
The teachers believe that giving students a lowest possible grade of 50 percent isn't a handout, but rather a hand-up. "So you can move forward and understand and learn, which is our main goal, what it is we're trying to teach you to be able to move to that next step and become that productive citizen," Leofanti said.
Not all educators, however, agree. Many believe this sets an incredibly low standard for students and allows them to do the bare minimum to move their grade up from a zero to a passing grade.
Montgomery County high school scraps 'No Zero' policy after FOX 5 report https://t.co/wxe1jFs6xF— FOX 5 DC (@fox5dc) September 8, 2019
“[Our 50 policy] had unintended consequences that undermined instruction. Many students learned to subvert the system and would do nothing two quarters [of the] year, collect their 50s, and do well during the next two quarters and on the final,” teacher Rachel Kent said. “In essence, they were smart kids who didn’t want to do the work (or didn’t want to come to school) and knew they could take half of a year off and still pass.”
Some schools have tried the “no zero policy” and finally decided against it. Leominster Public Schools in Massachusetts reversed their no-zero grading policy. “We really felt that after years of doing it that way, kids just weren’t learning to be responsible,” said Sky View Middle School Principal Tim Blake.
According to some educators, a no-zero policy enables students who haven’t learned the material to continue onto harder subjects, next grade levels, or even college without being properly prepared, thereby, creating a hole for students that they may never climb out of.