Florida teachers defend “no zeros” policy

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (WPTV/NBC News) – Teachers at a Florida school making headlines with its controversial “no zeros” policy are defending the grading system.

“I’ve seen a lot of people say it’s a free ride,” says Courtney Kline, who teaches fifth-grade science at West Gate K-8 School in Port St. Lucie. “That’s been the quotes I’ve seen on Facebook or whatever. That’s not how it works. You get it done. There’s learning lunches. Before school starts from 9 to 9:30, we’re in the classroom. They can come and get it done then. There’s ways. Usually 99.9 percent of the time you reach out to a parent, they make it happen. We make it happen. It takes a village.”

West Gate invited news organizations into the school to hear from teachers Wednesday, two days after a fired teacher, Diane Tirado, spoke about the school’s “no-zero” grading policy, indicated in the student and parent handbook, requiring the lowest grade possible to be a 50 percent.

Tirado’s story and whiteboard goodbye to her students about the policy went viral.

Four teachers spoke in a news conference, but the room was filled with other teachers and staff members, who stood up and applauded at the end of the discussion.

“Once you give that child a couple zeros, they can’t come back from it,” said Nancy Small, who teaches middle school history and critical thinking. “So we’re telling them right off the bat, don’t even bother the rest of the semester.”

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