By Karlene Skretting
Westwind Weekly News
Starting next school year, Grade 12 students in Alberta will get more credit for their course work and there will be less emphasis on diploma exams.
On Monday, Education Minister Gordon Dirks announced that a student’s final mark will be based on 30 per cent of the provincial exam – not the current 50 per cent. The worth of the course work will be bumped up to 70 per cent from 50 per cent.
Dirks said more emphasis on school work over the course of a year will be a better measure of what a student has learned and retained, read a news release from the government about the decision.
It went on to read, “Diploma exams can not examine the full range of a courses curriculum outcome which include competencies such as presentation skills, collaboration and team work skills and communication.”
It was a welcomed announcement for many Westwind School Division students, particularly the grade 11s who will be the first ones to benefit from the modification. Several Magrath and Raymond students told Westwind Weekly News that they feel it will help to reduce the pressure and anxiety they feel going into the tests.
The first round of diploma exams to be written under the new weighting will take place in November, 2015
During his announcement Dirks also stated that “the new diploma weighting may increase the likelihood of high school completion, or increase the likelihood of students gaining entry into post-secondary opportunities.”
Calls for the weight of diploma exams to be dropped began in the fall, with the Alberta School Boards Association passing a motion in 2014 calling for exams to make up only 30 per cent of a student’s final grade. The Alberta Teachers Association has also called for the reduction.
A single exam mark weighted at 50 per cent does not allow students who may have greater difficulty writing high-stakes exams, or who are undergoing unique stresses on the day of the exam, to fairly excel under the existing weighting regime.
The province said the change will provide an accurate reflection of student performance, with most of the mark coming from the teacher’s assessment of a student’s abilities and knowledge.
“Magrath High School is in favour of this move. It reduces the impact of a single one off exam. The teacher spends much more time doing a variety of assessments with the students and has a much better idea of what the students actually know then a single exam. Over the past few years there has been an increase in student stress, hopefully this may help in reducing student stress,” said Magrath High School principal Rob Doig when he found out about the announcement.
The weight of diploma exams has been lowered in B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba.