Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Support quality journalism
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
The Globe and Mail
Support quality journalism
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Globe and Mail website displayed on various devices
Just$1.99
per week
for the first 24 weeks

var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){console.log("scroll");var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1);

The dunce cap may be history, but one teacher has found a tool to single out underperforming children: the "catastrophe" award.

A Grade 3 student in Arizona was given the unusual end-of-year award – for having the most excuses for not having her homework done. The card was given out in front of the whole class, and sparked widespread laughter.

The child and her parents have appeared on a news program to defend the girl's homework-doing capabilities, complete with a folder full of completed assignments.

Story continues below advertisement

"I think it's cruel and no child should be given an award like this, said Christina Garcia, the girl's mother. "It's disturbing."

At the other end of the spectrum this week is an Edmonton teacher who has allegedly been suspended after giving out the taboo grade of zero for incomplete or missing assignments or exams.

Lynden Dorval, a physics teacher at Ross Sheppard High School, disagrees with the school's "no-zero" policy, according to the CBC.

"It's a way of pushing kids through even though they're not actually doing the work," he said.

Teachers "were told to no longer give zeros. Instead an uncompleted test or assignment would be marked with a comment. The student's mark would then be based on whatever work is done," reports the CBC.

Mr. Dorval said that the practice gives kids the impression that they aren't accountable for their actions.

A quick look at the school's policy on its website reveals a number of non-zero descriptors teachers may use on assignments, including NC (Not Completed), NHI (Not Handed In), CNA (Chose Not to Attempt) and, interestingly, ELT (Elite Athlete).

Story continues below advertisement

"If a student does not submit enough material to provide an accurate description of his or her achievement, the progress report may indicate 'unable to evaluate.' Such a code note indicates that the teacher is unable to assess the student's progress in the course," reads a document called the Assessment, Grading and Reporting Practice 2011-12.

At least some of the students side with the teacher. "He's a good teacher from what I hear so why stop that just for giving out zeroes to people who don't complete work?" Cassandra Gregory said to CTV.

The Edmonton Public School said Mr. Dorval was not suspended over the zero-grade policy, reportedly calling the case "a staff discipline issue." While the reason for the suspension may be more complicated that Mr. Dorval is suggesting, the question of whether students should be given a zero at all is compelling.

So, are catastrophe awards or grades of zero ever appropriate?

Related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies