The school year may have only just started, but for Diane Tirado — an eighth-grade teacher at West Gate K-8 school in Port Saint Lucie, Florida — it is over. Tirado was was fired for violating the schools “no zero” policy, Newsweek reports.
It was Tirado’s first year at West Gate — the latest stop on her 17-year education career — and she has said that the policy has become more common in recent years. But there has been one crucial difference between similar policies and the unique policy held by West Gate.
At West Gate the no-zero policy has been expanded, preventing teachers from giving a zero at all — even if there is no assignment handed in whatsoever. This policy was confirmed by the parent handbook, publicly available on the school website, which says that students are given a letter grade of I. In the handbook, it says in all-caps “NO ZERO’S(sic)–LOWEST POSSIBLE GRADE IS 50%.”
Tirado’s claim — beyond not having received any work to grade — was that she never officially submitted a grade of zero, having placed a star as a placeholder in the grading system. That was intended to give the students time to submit the assignment before grades were finally due.
“Grades weren’t due for another three or four weeks. I leave things as stars until a week before grades go in. Every teacher does it. We don’t want kids to fail, we want kids to succeed.”
— Joanne Spruce (@JoanneSpruceC21) September 25, 2018
After putting a star in the grading system, Tirado was told that she should already input the grade of 50 percent. Tirado then expressed her displeasure with the policy, describing it as “creating people of entitlement.”
The school responded to Newsweek and argued against Tirado’s claim about the policy, saying that the zero does exist on the grading rubric and is intended for exactly this situation — when student’s do not hand any work in.
Further to that statement, the school said that it had received complaints from parents and colleagues, one of which reportedly led to an investigation of physical abuse.
After being fired, Tirado left a message on her whiteboard explaining why she was fired — and then promptly posted it to her Facebook page, where she called the whole situation “ridiculous.”
Beyond the grading concern, Tirado had issues with the Individualized Education Program, a federally mandated system that allows students in the program more time to complete work, which the school determined violated the law and “put students at risk.”
Tirado admitted that the school never told her specifically that the no-zero policy was the reason for her dismissal, stating that she deduced the reasoning herself.