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FL Teacher Fired for Giving Zeros When Students Did Not Turn in the Work

September 25, 2018

On September 25, 2018, WFTV reported that eighth-grade social studies teacher, Diane Tirado, says she was fired for refusing to assign 50 percent credit to students who did not hand in assignments.

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Diane Tirado

According to the Florida teacher certification website, Tirado was first licensed in 1999.

Tirado began teaching at West Gate K-8 School in Port St. Lucie, FL, in August 2018. She was terminated on September 14, 2018; apparently no details about the terminating event were included since Tirado was still in her probationary period for employment at West Gate K-8.

Upon being fired, Tirado left a message for her students on her classroom’s white board: “Bye Kids. 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.”

Tirado posted a picture of her message on Facebook on September 15, 2018:

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Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

The West Gate CIO (chief info officer) denies that such a policy exists. From the WFTV article:

The chief information officer for West Gate said in a statement:

“There is no district or individual school policy prohibiting teachers from recording a grade of zero for work not turned in. The district’s uniform grading system utilizes letter grades a-f, numerical grades 100 to zero and grade point averages from four to zero.”

Compare that to Tirado’s response:

When several students did not turn in their assignments, Tirado said she found out about a “no zeros” policy, in which the lowest possible grade allowed to be given is 50 percent. The policy is reflected in the student and parent handbook, Tirado said.

So, the simple solution is to consult the West Gate 2018-2019-Student-Parent-Handbook— which I did.

And, sure enough, West Gate’s “no zero” policy is on page 25– and even highlighted in red:

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Lowest F: 50 percent.

So, Tirado refused to follow a school policy that the school CIO publicly denies.

Wrap your mind around that one.

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.

oops

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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25 Comments
  1. Socrates permalink

    I worked for a school where this was the de facto policy. The other ones where I worked encouraged it. Pure insanity. Policies like this one are foremost among the reasons that I am no longer a teacher after seven years in the classroom.

  2. Seems like a great example of prime adminimal behavior to me.

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Chief information officer is uninformed. Fire the CIO?

  4. I called her school and they gave me her cell phone number to call her. The number is gone so I called the school again and was given this department number 772-468-5070. I left a message for them to call me back. Diane Triado needs to sue the school. This is a travesty of Justice! Steve Schran 207-650-7033 Retired Band teacher

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. This specific type of statistics manipulation might not exist if the graduating-on-time (4 years only) school PUNISHMENT game went away. Kids can’t graduate when they have those Fs. Wasn’t it under President Obama that we started to hear about the wonders of a nationally growing graduation rate? How many schools have been invaded and even closed after being publicly labelled “drop out factories” since the graduation rate game came to town?

  6. Hey folks, my interp is that this is a bookkeeping policy, not a grading policy. Their grading software interprets a zero percent as an incomplete. The actual grade is based on a 4 point scale. A student will receive an F (failure) when their recorded score is between 50-59 inclusive. The school is making a one-to-one correspondence between letter grades and the numerical values of 0 through 4. The students do not get credit for earning 50-59% on tests or assignments where their actual graded results are less. They get a 0 or an F if the teacher reports a number between 50 and 59 inclusive. BTW this grading scheme is unnecessarily complex and can lead to a lot of confusion, as it has among your readers. I don’t know why the teacher got fired but if she couldn’t understand this grading policy then perhaps she was deficient in other areas as well. NOTE: I am not defending the policy, only asking that you try to understand it.

    • Receiving 50 percentage points for not turning work in still positively affects that 4-point scale by boosting a zero to a 50, thereby inflating the 4-point outcome. So, actually, the students do get credit for doing nothing– 50 percentage points worth each instance, which allows students to recover from the F much more easily.

      • Which is exactly what you want students to be able to do.

      • I want students to attempt the work and not expect and automatic 50 for doing nothing.

      • You can’t equate the 4 point scale with the 1-100% scale. The relation is quite arbitrary. There is no inflation. If you want to be fair then the grades on each test should be the set {0, 1, 2, 3, 4). When averaged all the grades have equal weight. What you are proposing is the set of integers {0, 1, 2. …. 98,99,100} be used where the integers 0 through 59, receive an F. Note that the grade weights are no longer equal, but that an F has a weight of 60, and D, C, B, and A only have weights of 10 each. An F is weighted 6 times as high as any of the others. Why would you want to do that to anyone?

      • An F is an F is an F. Why make each F into 6 Fs? The school is saying in effect that an F has the same weight as any other grade. You are not giving credit where credit is not due. Again I ask, why would you want to penalize failure so heavily when kids are trying to learn a new skill, or may be having a bad hair day?

      • When push comes to shove I would have only one evaluation score for attempting a course of study: an A. That’s what we expect from any person providing us with either goods or services. That’s what we should expect from our students. In other words I am expecting the student to master the skills required for whatever it is they are attempting to do in order to receive credit for the accomplishment. There would be no penalty for trying. No permanent record of their failures or partial successes.

        Suppose some brilliant administrator in the Department of Education dictated that children everywhere in the eighth grade should be able to solve partial differential equations of the second order using only paper and pencil. The results would be horrific. But that’s what they do to kids in age cohorts in every school in this country every day. Kids whose cognitive skills are all over the map are expected to solve problems for which they are not ready and more importantly have no meaning in their lives. If you go through your entire public school formal education learning to solve someone else’s idea of important problems, when do you learn to think for yourself and learn to solve problems of interest to you? We see the results of coerced educational goals in our society today in the form of many people incapable of thinking and reasoning for themselves.

    • There is a darker side to this and that is computing student grades weighted heavily toward failure. That’s what an actual 0 to 100% scheme does. Suppose at the end of the grading period the student has totally mastered the skills required but only showed that progress in the last couple of weeks when the “lights went on”. But that student got 40s and 50s and 60s along the way and a 100 on the final test (30% of final grade). Their final average might be 65. How is that fair? You have to fail in order to learn any new skill. Should you be penalized for that?

      • LisaM permalink

        @MCS….I am a parent in a district that does everything in its power to give kids good grades so that they don’t have to hear the parents. My own children know this and will calculate how many assignments they can miss without having it affect their grade OR how low a grade on a test so that it doesn’t affect their grade. This angers me as a parent! I want my kids to learn responsibility. I would rather my kid get a 50% for doing the assignment incorrectly than to get a 50% for doing absolutely nothing. How does this teach kids any kind of responsibility?

      • Lisa: I understand your wanting your kids to learn responsibility. Their behavior indicates that they are doing just fine in learning how to game a system which is totally stacked against them. I am with them 100%. You need to understand what I have written above to Deutsch29. It is simply this, a single failure can be weighted up to 6x that of a single success. That is simply not fair to the learner. If we are going to tolerate the grading game in schools, then a single failure should equate to a single success. Why not grade on the 4 point scale? Suppose the student takes 5 tests. They get scores of 0, 1, 2, 3 , and 4. Their average is 2.0. Now using a % scoring system the grades might be 0, 25, 50, 75, 100. The average is 50. In the 4 point system a 2 point average would equate to a C. In the percent system a 50 would be a failing grade. The reason for the huge discrepancy is that the grading systems are not equivalent, and that a 0 on a percent scale has a much higher weight than a 0 in the 4-point system. I would like to hear your response to my argument. Thanks.

  7. Ken Watanabe permalink

    Since it’s in Florida, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this type of whacky school policy. This is just plain ridiculous.

    • Mercedes: Here is an explanation you and your readers may be able to relate to.

      Example: suppose the test/assignment scores are 78, 83, 47, 65, 96, and 0. Now convert these to their 4-point numerical values: 2, 3, 0, 1, 4, 0. Note that both the 47 and the 0 score are mapped to 0 on the 4-point scale. No grade inflation!! The average of the 4-point scores is 10/6 = 1.66 Since 1.66 is closer to the integer 2 than it is to the integer 1 then the final grade point average is 2. The student receives a grade of C. And the teacher has assigned a value of zero for no work handed in or failing to take the test before the agreed upon deadline. Everyone keeps their job. The school policy is abided by. Everyone is happy. One advantage of the discrete values on the 4-point scale is that they compensate to some degree for the inability to build a test whose 100 point scale is exactly correlated with the skill set being tested. Garrett

      • Ken Watanabe permalink

        >suppose the test/assignment scores are 78, 83, 47, 65, 96, and 0.
        >Now convert these to their 4-point numerical values: 2, 3, 0, 1, 4, 0.

        What if you didn’t convert raw scores into numerical values? What convinces you that all teachers would follow that formula?? Kind of bogus math logic Thomas Chetty et al. love for manufacturing phony VAM.

      • Note that this comment was posted without the accompanying figure. A picture is worth a thousand words. In this case maybe a couple of thousand. My comment was derived from replying to one of your email notifications. My comments in that email were not meant for publication here. The numbers are poor substitutes for the visual which is self explanatory.

        In reply to Ken’s reply: my argument simply illustrates that the teacher doesn’t have to do anything differently than they are already doing. A zero is a zero is a zero. In reality, a score of 50 – 59 gets mapped to a zero. The school then can use a numerical entry of zero to mean something else, in this case it is mapped to an “incomplete”.

        It s apparent that the argument of giving equal weights to all grades (A, B, C, D, F) is not acceptable to many readers, and that they would prefer to weight an F as much as 6 times as much as any of the others. The current grading practice of assigning grades based on an arbitrary 10 point difference in numerical value – and as much as as 60 point difference for the F – makes no sense either statistically nor cognitively, and is generally a poor indicator of performance for reasons too numerous to mention here (as when grading is done on a “curve”).

        If you would like to see the figure, or for me to elaborate, contact me directly at gah at garrettahughes.com

  8. Ken Watanabe permalink

    Dear MCS

    Numerical conversion is valid only when gradable scores are a sum of small raw scores attributed to assignment. You don’t make conversion until you get a total of gradable scores accumulated from the set of small assignments(e.g., short papers, pop quizzes). Giving students who did do homework but got 50/100 for poor performance is completely differently from giving students who didn’t even turn in homework or got flunked for cheating. The problem? You will end up giving exactly the same grade for both. Deflation for the former. Inflation for the latter. How could it be accurate or reliable? I’m pretty sure that you will receive a swarm of complaints if you have Asian students in class.

    And I don’t really care about the dispute on 10 point numerical difference. I believe that you have an issue with the owner of this blog, but the fact remains that you intervened into my space for doing so.

  9. Ken: You are right about the result. In either case the student receives a zero for the assignment. But it’s like the force felt from gravity or acceleration: you can’t really make a distinction. The student who does not turn in an assignment or the student who consistently scores 50-59 (or less) will receive exactly the same grade: F. Your distinction is moot at best.

    Your comment about numerical conversion only being valid when gradable scores are a sum of small raw scores is a subjective call. Scores can be converted any way the teacher or administration chooses. Nominative, ordinal, interval, and ratio “measurements” can and are often used interchangeably (and incorrectly). I can get the median value of the jersey numbers on a team of football players if I choose.

    You are unnecessarily conflating the grading game with other aspects of behavior. You want to use grades to “punish” students who do not turn in assignments. In fact, grades are used to motivate students to do things that they would not ordinarily do if it were not for fear of flunking or receiving a poor grade. That is no way to motivate kids. It’s like mental caning. It’s a product of the Middle Ages and British and American education practices well into the 20th century. It was not long ago – even a reality in my high school years – that physical pain was induced to punish poor scholastic performance. Now, because of state laws, we hit them with poor grades, which have much longer- lasting effects than a ruler on the knuckles.

    You say you don’t really care about the 10 point numerical differences, but you cite a half-baked statistical argument to demonstrate a point about grades. So let’s have it one way or the other. You either care about statistics or you don’t. You know quite well that a scoring system of zero to 100 points cannot reflect a person’s understanding and skill level of a given subject in a consistent fashion. Just what does a score of 75 mean in an algebra final exam? And the nonsense is compounded by making enormous distinctions in understanding using 10 point differences. You should care if you are as good a mathematician or statistician as you would like your readers to believe.

    Look: don’t attempt to bully me with rhetoric. I have had more than enough experience as a student and teacher at all levels of education to know when a practice does more harm to students than good. The grading game that students are forced to play is one of the worse. I would rid the school systems of grading as it is practiced and used against students. But if people continue to use it in this way I am going to speak out as forcefully and as logically as I can against these practices.

  10. Ken Watanabe permalink

    MCM: You also seem to forget that converting a 10-point numerical scale into a 4-point numerical before you sum up numbers(10-point scale) cause a lot of mess. That affects not only the students who are not performing well, but it also applies to the students whose scores are on the border of two grades(A&B, B&C, or C&D). Students whose scores are leaning toward higher end will likely get a lower grade by cutting off all 0-9 points with 4-numeric scale. That’s another problem, to me.

    If you suggest otherwise, then bring me any scientific evidence that proves your point. That is
    converting all raw scores into 4-point numerical scale before adding them all up is better, more accurate, and reliable than adding all up raw scores and then converting them into 4-point numeric scale. I cannot come up with any credible math scientist or researcher who boldly suggests that.

    I’m not playing any game or any devil’s advocate. You are. You are making lines of assumptions after assumptions to the detriment of fallacious attribution on me or anything you disagree with. What is your beef, anyway?

    • Here is my email address: ( gah at garrettahughes dot com ). Let’s take this offline where we can bounce the math back and forth, although that is akin to flailing in the wind because it addresses the wrong problems. My beef is with a grading system that people have accepted as viable, but which remains fatally flawed. There are much better ways to evaluate student performance, as there are much better ways to educate kids and young adults.

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  1. “How about I not take this test and you give me a 50?”: More Grading Scale Discussion | deutsch29

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