'No zeros' policy is the 'right thing,' principal says
Published Friday, September 7, 2012 11:32AM EDT
The principal of the Edmonton school where a teacher is facing dismissal for violating a “no zeros” policy is lashing out at the media for distorting the story.
A recording of an Aug. 31 staff meeting at Ross Sheppard High School was recently emailed to CTV News. In the recording, Principal Ron Bradley is heard saying the news media’s take on the policy is “narrow” and oversimplified.
“In my opinion, the culture of the media deteriorated to the quality of pulp fiction and talk radio,” Bradley is heard saying.
Bradley is also heard reassuring teachers who have been following the new policy.
“I am here to tell you that you did nothing wrong,” Bradley says. “Everything you did with regards to student achievement and high school completion was the right thing.”
The school has been in the spotlight ever since the school’s physics teacher, Lynden Dorval, was suspended in June for repeatedly assigning students zeros when they failed to complete their assignments.
The school introduced a policy two years ago that calls on teachers to assign “behavioural codes” for incomplete schoolwork instead. Those codes include “MPA” for “Missed performance assessment,” or “NHI” for “Not handed in.”
But Dorval, who’s been dubbed the "Hero of Zero," says that giving the students zeros helps prepare them for the real world. He says he doesn’t believe the argument that zeros damage students’ self-esteem or makes them give up.
He also didn’t like that the policy was brought in without any consultation from teachers.
After several incidents in which Dorval deliberately flouted the policy, Principal Bradley sent a letter to the Edmonton Public School Board, requesting Dorval’s termination, The request cites Dorval’s “obvious neglect of duty as a professional teacher, his repeated insubordination and his continued refusal to obey lawful orders.”
Dorval will go before the school superintendent on Sept. 10 for a hearing on the matter.
Meanwhile, a retired teacher from the school says most of his former colleagues do not like the new policy.
Doug Senuik was the head of the Social Studies department for 20 years before retiring last year, and says he never agreed with the policy from the start. But he says the opinions of the teachers were never taken into account.
“It’s safe to say, most of the staff do not support this,” Senuik said. “Morale is low because it is a directive.”
Senuik agrees with Dorval that there is no research to support the claim that the policy helps students.
“Common sense and experience are why, initially, my ‘Spidey sense’ kind of tingled and I said ‘I don’t think this is right’,” Senuik said. “The more and more I looked into it, no research, no collaboration with the staff – a directive from the principal. I just couldn’t do it.”
Senuik says he also refused to adhere to the new policy and continued to give students zeros for incomplete work. Like Dorval, when the work got completed, he would replace the zero with a grade.
He also received a warning letter from Principal Bradley, but was never suspended or fired.
“Perhaps he thought I was the lone dissenter, and perhaps when I retired -- he knew I was going to retire -- that it would all go away,” Senuik speculated.
CTV Edmonton requested an interview with Principal Bradley about the latest developments, but the Edmonton Public School Board declined the request.
With a report from CTV Edmonton’s Veronica Jubinville
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