When students do not hand in an assignment, they get a zero pretty much everywhere in the world — but not at West Gate K-8 school in Port St. Lucie, Florida, apparently. In mid-September, an 8th grade social studies teacher was fired from the school for refusing to follow a bizarre policy requiring her to give students who handed nothing in a 50 percent score. Then, the school lied about it.
The teacher feels a calling to be involved in teaching. And she genuinely loves her students. But apparently, not being willing to let them escape accountability for failure to do their work can be a firing offense at West Gate school in South Florida. Indeed, official lies notwithstanding, school policy required her and all other teachers to give students a 50 for doing absolutely nothing!
According to WFTV, a local ABC affiliate, Diana Tirado lost her job on September 14 over the incident. But before leaving, she left a note for the students so they would know what happened. “Bye Kids,” she wrote on the board, sharing a picture on social media. “Mrs. Tirado loves you and wishes you the best in life! I have been fired for refusing to give you a 50% for not handing anything in. Mrs. Tirado.”
Students and parents agreed with the teacher. Writing on social media, for instance, one student was quoted in the press as saying: “You were right about not giving people 50s, because why would you give them half credit for doing nothing?” wrote a student with more common sense than school bosses. Parents quoted in media reports also sounded flabbergasted that students could receive half credit for zero work.
Sensing a scandal about to blow up, school officials put out a dishonest statement. “There is no district or individual school policy prohibiting teachers from recording a grade of zero for work not turned in,” the school’s “chief information officer” said in a statement. “The district’s uniform grading system utilizes letter grades a-f, numerical grades 100 to zero and grade point averages from four to zero.”
Except that is simply not true. Education blogger Mercedes Schneider went to the school’s website and pulled a copy of the 2018-2019 Student-Parent Handbook. It shows clearly that the school does, in fact, have a policy of making 50 percent the lowest possible score. “*****NO ZERO’s-LOWEST POSSIBLE GRADE IS 50%,” the document says in all capital red letters.
“If the school is so embarrassed by the policy that it would rather lie to the greater public than admit it exists (though the truth is easily verified via the West Gate K-8 parent and student handbook on the school’s own website), then it should forsake its hypocrisy, drop the policy, and reinstate Tirado,” wrote Schneider, an author and career teacher.
Normally, firing teachers at government schools is extremely difficult, if not impossible. But Tirado was a recent hire and so was still on her probationary period. And apparently a major blunder like giving students the score they actually earn is a firing offense at this school.
This writer is a teacher, too, and the idea of giving students 50 percent credit for doing 0 percent work is beyond outrageous. Should employers pay employees 50 percent of their salary when they go fishing or golfing instead of showing up for work? And some people still wonder how government schools can be graduating children by the boatload when they can’t even read their own high-school diplomas!