For the 2022/2023 school year, diploma exams will be weighted more than last year. However, Kurt Sacher, superintendent of schools for Chinook’s Edge School Division, said this is a move back towards normal after the pandemic.
Sacher said diploma exams were cancelled during COVID and were brought back last year, but they were only worth 10 per cent of a student’s final grade.
“They did that purposely, to show respect for the amount of anxiety and the COVID pieces,” Sacher said, adding that diploma exams used to be weighted at 50 per cent, but students, educators and school boards asked for that to be reduced in recognition of the amount of stress it causes. The goal is to have diploma exams weighted at 30 per cent, but for this school year, diploma exams will be weighted at 20 per cent and will go up to 30 per cent for the 2023/2024 school year.
“Going into this year, this grade 12 class experienced a lot of disruption, and this is a more graduated increase to 30 per cent,” said Sacher. “We were set up for it to move to 30 per cent this year, but they’ve just announced it will be 20 per cent.”
Sacher said he doesn’t see an issue with this gradual increase in weighting for diploma exams, especially considering the amount of disruption and anxiety students have experienced.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) recently sent out a press release stating the decision to reduce the weighting for diploma exams is welcome, but backward-facing.
“The reduction of diploma exams is a stop-gap measure and, sadly, we have seen this move before,” stated the press release. “To truly address missed learning opportunities, the government needs to address the conditions of the classroom: smaller classes, more supports, additional teachers and educational assistants and, finally, make diplomas optional.”
The ATA is also concerned about continued absences due to COVID.
“The government also needs to address the COVID elephant in the room. When COVID-19 first arrived in schools, everyone was caught unawares – it was unprecedented. After two years, we don’t have that excuse. We are increasingly aware of anecdotal reports of absences due to ‘respiratory infections’ in schools and communities. Reducing the weight of diploma exams will not address this, but proper monitoring, reporting and improved ventilation will.”
The ATA ended by saying the priority must be keeping schools open as healthy, safe places to learn and not on standardized testing.
When it comes to the ATA’s press release and position, Sacher agreed that’s their perspective, based on their provincial agenda.
“They’re looking at it on a larger scale,” Sacher said. “From a school board point of view, we’re in a significantly better place than we have been in a few years. Attendance is up, morale is up. We monitor that closely and we’re very pleased with the numbers we see there.”
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lingering concerns from COVID.
“There is still some fallout from COVID, for sure,” Sacher said. “We’ve got a renewed focus with staff and student well-being and that’s one of our goals – social/emotional wellness of staff and students. Moving out of some of those significant COVID restrictions, there’s still some work to be done, but we are very happy with our face-to-face learning environments and we think we are on a really good path to move ahead.”