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Wednesday, 26 November 2014 13:30

Students shouldn’t be judged based on results for one test

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Educators are onto something and we hope the Alberta government, under the leadership of Jim Prentice will take the time to listen.

Last week, the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) got the go-ahead from its members to lobby Alberta Education to change the weight given to diploma exams.
Currently, students work for a semester studying Math or English and earn a grade from the teacher for their work for those five months. Then on one set day, for about two hours, the student writes the diploma exam in the same subject. The mark received for that exam is worth 50 per cent of the student’s final mark in his or her Grade 12 year.
What’s the big deal?
Well, it can be a big deal to those students who struggle with the subject at hand. They may only have a higher grade in the class because they have worked diligently for hours after school or received tutoring from peers or teachers in order to maintain their averages. Then for a two-hour window, one test will judge their knowledge of the subject. Is that really a fair assessment of what the student knows or how much he or she really understands the subject?
What if that student was simply having a bad day. She was stressed about the exam, didn’t feel like she got enough studying in the night before, even though she stayed up to cram, and of course had the often-times “drawn a blank” when reading one of the questions. It happens. Does this mean that student doesn’t understand the subject matter or have a good grasp of the concepts? Likely not.
Sometimes earning a low enough grade on a diploma exam, can cause stress for the student after graduation. The blended class and diploma exam marks may have resulted in a lower grade causing concerns about college or university entrance requirements.
There may also be instances over the years of diploma exam results being poor enough to lower the student’s average, affecting whether the coveted Rutherford Scholarship is earned in one’s Grade 12 year.
In the 1970s, diploma exams were actually worth 100 per cent of a Grade 12 student’s final grade.
The government was wise to make the changes it did to reduce the weight to 50 per cent, but provincial officials need to yet again reduce it further.
In an age of Inspiring Education, where students are being asked to think outside the box when it comes to learning, and demonstrate what they know through presentations or other unique means, it’s time for diploma tests to be re-examined.
The Progressive Conservative government felt it was important to review testing when they announced they would be introducing student learning assessments to grades 3, 6 and 9 students over the next few years in the hopes it would be a better reflection of student knowledge and learning than the current Provincial Achievement Tests system. It’s time to re-think diploma exams too, and we hope Alberta Education Minister Gordon Dirks is ready to listen to those lobbying in favour of a weighting reduction including the ASBA and Alberta Teachers’ Association.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor of the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor