Ross Sheppard Principal Lashes Out at Media, says He did Nothing Wrong Bringing in ‘No Zeros’ Policy

Media Appearances, Education, Frontier Centre

In face of massive parental discontent with "No Zeros" policy, a defiant Ron Bradley blames media, saying it "deteriorated to the quality of pulp fiction."

Ross Sheppard High School principal Ron Bradley – who is looking to fire a teacher who refused to implement a "No Zeros" policy – used a recent staff meeting to staunchly defend the policy and to lash out at news media for its ongoing reporting of the matter.

The media reports "deteriorated to quality of reporting pulp fiction and talk radio," Bradley said.

In the August 31 talk, which was recorded, Bradley told his teachers that he wanted to address the events that occurred with the suspension of teacher Lynden Dorval last May and June, and which had again come forward in the news.

"I am here to tell you that you did nothing wrong," Bradley said to the teachers, who have been instructed not to give zeros to students who fail to complete their assignments. "Everything you did with regard to student achievement and high school completion was the right thing."

Dorval, 61, a respected teacher with 30 years experience, has been notified by the superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools, Edgar Schmidt, that Bradley is moving to fire him. Dorval will face a hearing with Schmidt on Sept. 10.

In the wake of his suspension last spring, Dorval went public with his stand. There was a massive public outcry in support of him.

More than 13,000 people responded to an on-line poll at this blog, with 12,955 saying a student should get a zero on an assignment they fail to do, and 475 disagreeing with that position.

In response to all this – his first major public statement on the matter – Bradley told his staff: "The lack of accountability with social media and the narrow view of the media created a view that Ross Sheppard was the poster child for every perceived illness of public education. In my opinion the culture of the media deteriorated to the quality of pulp fiction and talk radio. And unfortunately by connection was very easy to feel that as though we were abandoned or dragged under the bus or to question our practices or our decisions or our future. Or to question what are we doing wrong. I am here to tell you that you did nothing wrong. Everything you did with regard to student achievement and high school completion was the right thing.

"It was aligned with the School Act, Board policies and regulations, and they were supported by the Board of Trustees of Edmonton Public Schools and the Superintendent of Schools and many, many, many of our colleagues inside and outside the district. We are doing the right thing. We are maintaining the high road. And we are maintaining and living the lawful structures and practices of organizations that maintain the integrity of the individual and the stakeholder organizations. I need to let you know emphatically we are doing the right thing and we are not alone and abandoned. We are doing the right thing we are meeting and creating meaningful conversations around an important aspect of education. And we are leading and spreading the work because at times it is risky.

"We are leading and we should expect push-back and sometimes it takes unexpected voices.

"We are leading and we remain focused on our expected role. We are focused on student achievement and we are focused on high school completion. And last May and beginning earlier this week you did an outstanding job to ensure that that was meet and that young people were guided, challenged and were successful in that particular endeavor.

"I want to congratulate you, congratulate you, congratulate you. And for families with young people I want you thank you for maintaining the passion and the pride and the tradition of Ross Sheppard. And we need to continue to move forward and we are going to within the culture of Edmonton public schools, Alberta education and North America is leading.

"We need to continue to chop the wood and carry the water."

In response to the No Zeros controversy, the Frontier Centre on Public Policy in Calgary undertook a study to see if the theory was backed by any real research.

In a press release, the Centre reports:

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy is pleased to release a groundbreaking study by Frontier's education research fellow Michael Zwaagstra. The study, entitled Zero Support for No-Zero Policies, demonstrates why schools should avoid no-zero grading policies.

"No-zero policies lack empirical research support, interfere with the professional autonomy of teachers, and are highly unpopular with parents," argues Zwaagstra. "School administrators who choose to implement no-zero policies do so in spite of the evidence, not because of it."

Zwaagstra evaluates the writings of prominent no-zero advocates and finds that they fail to substantiate their claims with hard evidence. "A close examination of the books and articles written by no-zero advocates shows that their arguments are based more on ideology than evidence," notes Zwaagstra.

The no-zero policy debate was brought to national attention earlier this year with the suspension of high school physics teacher Lynden Dorval by the Edmonton Public School Board. In response to this controversy, trustees in Edmonton are about to begin a comprehensive review of their assessment policy. Zero Support for No-Zero Policies makes it clear that school boards should stay away from no-zero policies.