Was FL Teacher Fired for Giving Zeros on Assignments?

A teacher in Port St. Lucie, Florida claims she was fired for violating her school's "no zero" policy. Diane Tirado says the school she taught at required her to give a minimum score of 50 for all assignments, even if they weren't turned in

Upon leaving her job, she posted a goodbye message on a whiteboard in her classroom and then posted it to Facebook. The message said: "Bye Kids. Mrs. Tirado loves you and wishes you the best in life! I have been fired for refusing to give you a 50% (score) for not handing anything in."

 

WHY A "NO ZERO" POLICY WOULD EXIST

According to Newsweek, the idea of a "no zero" policy was intended to keep students from falling too far behind. That is, they'd get a 50 if they turned in the assignment and at least tried to succeed. I totally understand that and can get behind that idea. While we don't want schools to graduate kids who don't have at least a basic education, we value people who do their best. 

In this case, however, Mrs. Tirado says the school insisted she give a minimum score of 50 no matter what. Don't want to bother with the assignment? No problem, you have a 50 on it. Of course, a 50 is still a failing grade. (It is still a failing grade, right?) But averaged with other scores, you still might pass the class. 

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE TO THE STORY

Before we throw the Port St. Lucie school where Mrs. Tirado worked under the proverbial bus, the school says they did not fire her for handing out zeros. And indeed, the school district claims there is no such policy

The real issue, and something Mrs. Tirado didn't mention on the whiteboard, may have more to do with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Not all students learn at the same pace, and the IEPs can be customized for individual students. The school had allegedly asked the teacher to grant extensions on her assignments to those students with IEPs, and she refused. The school district says these IEP accommodations are mandated by federal law, but her refusal to accommodate "put students at risk." 

The Port St. Lucie School District released this statement to Newsweek

 “Ms. Tirado was released from her duties as an instructor because her performance was deemed substandard and her interactions with students, staff and parents lacked professionalism and created a toxic culture on the school’s campus.… Her dismissal was not a result of grading issues.”

This story was picked up by several media outlets, especially the kind that like a good moral outrage story. But when the school district says that such a policy doesn't exist, it starts to sound a lot more like a disgruntled ex-employee who was difficult to get along with. 

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