Failing grades a last resort, Ottawa school boards say

Ottawa school boards say their policies permit teachers to fail students for not turning in their work, but that should be considered a last resort.

This comes as an Edmonton high school teacher was found to have been wrongly fired for given students zeroes for incomplete work.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board's policy says giving students failing grades doesn't encourage them to work harder and do better.

“Teachers need to find out why a student is not succeeding or why the student is not handing in work,” the policy reads.  “If a student persists in not handing in work, deduction of marks is considered and awarding a zero is a possibility.”

Jennifer Adams, the director of education at Ottawa Carleton District School Board, says her board’s policy is something similar.  She says the policy makes it clear that students can’t get marks for work that’s never completed, but teachers should be giving students opportunities to catch up if they’ve fallen behind before awarding a zero.

“What the policy does ensure is that as educators we’re absolutely vigilant in helping students to get that work done,” she said.

Adams points to programs thought up by individual teachers and principals for making sure students are staying on top of their work, including Sir Robert Borden’s “Zap” program.  She says 70 per cent of students who go through that program come out being able to finish the course.

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