Under scrutiny, the education boom is not doing well


Are you familiar with the name Linden Doval?

it should. Linden Doval was a high school physics teacher who was dismissed 10 years ago by the Edmonton Public Board of Education for opposition to the principal’s zero-free grades. Doval thought it ridiculous that teachers could not penalize students who chose not to submit assignments. He decided to push back.

Most people agreed with Dorval. Not only did polls show overwhelming support for his position, but the State Appeals Commission later ruled that he was mistreated by his employer. In short, Dorval won his proceeding, but it wasn’t easy.

Fortunately, the zero-free policy is less common today than it was ten years ago. In 2012, education consultants promoted a zero-zero policy for schools across North America, and many managers decided to adopt this policy. In some states, especially Newfoundland and Labrador, the Edict without Zero has become universal.

Fortunately, negative publicity about Doval’s dismissal meant that the zero-free policy was the subject of serious scrutiny, and most didn’t like what they saw. Education consultants and managers felt that it made perfect sense to ban teachers from giving zero, but the general public can think that this is a good idea. I felt unbelievable.

The zero-free policy is the brainchild of a valuation gurus who argue that report cards need to strictly separate student behavior from academic performance. They argue that being late, deceiving assignments, or not submitting assignments is an action and should not affect the final grades of the students in the course. Instead, teachers were expected to mark only incoming works.

In the fall of 2012, my research report “Zero Support for Zero Zero Policy” was published by the Frontier Public Policy Center. The report showed that zero-free policies were not endorsed by research, and that the arguments commonly used to defend policies lacked substance. Simply put, the zero-free policy was more about promoting progressive ideology in schools than educating students and taking responsibility for their work.

As I pointed out in my report, anyone who teaches in a real classroom with real students knows that the zero-free policy rarely works. The teacher’s deadline becomes meaningless the moment a student realizes that he or she can submit his or her work at any time or not at all without penalty. This result is clear to almost everyone.

We are pleased that the zero-zero policy has been significantly abolished, but we cannot afford to be complacent. This is just one example of the educational boom that the zero-free policy has imposed on schools. From the math of discovery to the open-area classrooms to the three clues system of reading instruction, teachers are struck by bad thoughts.

In reality, there is plenty of evidence to uncover these educational booms, but they continue to permeate the public education system. That’s because evidence alone is not a policy change. Without publicity, it would be nearly impossible to get these epidemics out of our school.

For example, it wasn’t until after Linden Doval became a popular name that the zero-free policy finally underwent public opinion scrutiny appropriate for them. Similarly, devastating criticisms of the three clues approach of the Ontario Commission on Human Rights (OHRC)’s “Rights to Read” report have finally awakened the public to long-standing problems with reading instruction in the state.

Shortly after this report was published, the Ontario government promised a complete review of the literacy curriculum from kindergarten to 8th grade. This shows that the best way to make meaningful changes in education policy is to publicize the useless epidemics that hold many students and teachers hostage.

There is a reason that most of the education boom is being developed by education professors and consultants rather than regular classroom teachers. Most classroom teachers, especially those with many years of experience, are more interested in doing what actually works than pushing a non-working fad.

If you want to get rid of the useless education boom, you need to make them publicly available. Parents and teachers can find bad ideas faster than many teaching professors and school managers. Good teachers like Linden Doval need the help of their citizens to remove many obstacles to good education.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Michael Zwagstra


Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher, senior researcher at the Frontier Public Policy Center, and author of “The Sages on Stage: Common Sense Thoughts on Education and Learning.”