Zero policy fails with school board officials

October 21, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

Berkeley County Board of Education member Pat Murphy requested Monday night that any student who fails to turn in an assignment receive an automatic zero, but fellow board members voted against the proposed policy change.

Because some teachers refuse to accept failure, such a policy would hinder efforts to have students succeed, Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said as he argued against the idea.

Murphy's motion failed by a 4-1 vote.

By constantly giving students the opportunity to make up work, or by not giving students zeroes and averaging zeroes into students' grades, teachers are not teaching the fourth "R" - responsibility, Murphy said.


Arvon countered by saying that one of his greatest achievements was working at Martinsburg South Middle School, where teachers refused to accept failure.

Success is demanded, not given, Arvon said.

"The easy thing to do is let them fail," Arvon said. "We must do everything possible to make our children successful."

Teachers can decide whether to give a zero, and Arvon agreed that a student should receive the grade he deserves. However, he said a zero only should be given if other attempts to work with the student on completing a project have failed.

Assistant Superintendent Frank Aliveto said some teachers abide by a philosophy that deems they will not give zeroes. He cited the case of a foreign language teacher, whom he did not name. If a student fails a test, that teacher continues to retest until the student masters the material, Aliveto said.

Although Murphy's motion failed, Arvon said if a need exists, teachers could get together to discuss the idea further.

Two other ideas proposed by Murphy were not discussed at the board's meeting, since no other board member would second either motion.

First, Murphy proposed that the county adopt an anti-nepotism policy, which would prevent one school employee from supervising a member of his or her immediate family.

Murphy's other idea that received no support was a proposition that teachers who miss five or fewer days not be required to submit lesson plans.

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