Suspended Canadian Teacher Lynden Dorval Explains the ‘No-Zero’ Policy (Part #1)

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no zero policy

"UNLIKE": "No Zero" Policy doesn't prepare students for the real world. (Image:

By now, you have probably heard about the case of Lynden Dorval, the Canadian teacher suspended for giving students grades of zero. Financial Bin contacted Lynden to get his side of the story and learn more about the entire situation. Lynden was kind enough to respond to all of our questions and gave some really great insight into the Canadian school system, his suspension, and why his school instituted a “no-zero” policy.

Here is Part #1 of Financial Bin’s interview with Lynden Dorval:

Financial Bin: What is your philosophy on education?

Lynden Dorval: I’ve never really thought about  my “philosophy”, but I am a strong believer in public education and the importance of having a well educated citizenry to maintain our high standard of living and to maintain our reputation as a “caring” nation.

FB: What is Canada’s philosophy on education? Are there differences between yours and Canada’s?

LD: In Canada, education is under Provincial jurisdiction and I’m not that familiar with Alberta Education’s philosophy, but like many others I am concerned with the rapid increase in public funding for private schools in Alberta.

FB: When did your school institute the “no-zero” policy and what was the reasoning behind such a decision?

Lynden Dorval

Lynden Dorval

LD: The no-zero (ZAP, an American term-Zeros Aren’t Permitted) policy was discussed at the leadership level starting about 2 years ago, was then presented (without staff input) as a directive from the principal (it took three months for me to get an answer about where the directive came from) in February, 2011. The reasoning was that it was research-based (I have since learned that no credible research has ever been done to verify the effectiveness of this approach) and that it better communicated (by the use of behaviour codes-NHI, SKIP, etc.) to parents and students and that the assigning of zeros did not evaluate the learning of concepts and that zeros caused students to “give up.”

FB: What exactly happened that lead to you getting suspended?

LD: From the beginning, I questioned the effectiveness of this approach (being a science teacher, I was suspicious about the so-called research, and after an exhausting search, I could find no evidence of it). I continued to give zeros for work not handed in and exam/quizzes not written (I give “temporary zeros” that can be replaced, but I put the owness on the students to come to me and get the zero replaced). I received a reprimand letter in Feb. 2011, after a meeting with the Principal and two more meetings each with reprimand letters this last year(2012), each letter with increasing threats of discipline. On April 11, 2012 I received a copy of a letter (to the superintendent) recommending me for suspension and after a hearing with the superintendent I was suspended (suspension is indefinite, with full pay and benefits) April 18.

FB: Did you have any other disciplinary action against you before this?

LD: Never (in 35 years).

FB: What was the reasoning behind the administration’s decision to suspend you? Was it simply because they said you broke the “no-zero” rule?

LD: Essentially, yes. Although the initial press release (after I went public the following week) claimed that the suspension had nothing to do with zeros (“It was a serious staff discipline issue”) (the suspension letter cited three infractions: “insubordination”,  failing to follow a “lawful order of the board” , and “unprofessional behaviour”), starting the next day and continuing ever since the superintendent has been vigorously defending ZAPeven though it is not an official policy of the Edmonton Public School Board. The only Board policy is that evaluation must be consistent within the school (many Edmonton Public high schools continue to allow teachers to assign zeros).

FB: Do you know what happened with the second teacher at your former school, Mike Tachynski, who also gave out zero grades?

LD: He has been given several reprimand letters, but no other discipline action has been taken (yet).

Don’t miss Part #2 of Financial Bin‘s interview with Suspended Canadian Teacher Lynden Dorval this Thursday!

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