Alberta Changes to Weighing In-Class Effort More Than Exams

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Alberta Education Minister Gordon Dirks fulfilled a long-held request from Alberta school boards and educators to change the weighting system of the provincial diploma exam for Grade 12 students to give more weight to classroom performance.

For thirty years, 12th grade students were graded based on the 50-50 weighting structure where the diploma exam and the in-class performance of students carried the same weight. The Education Minister highlighted in a statement announcing the new weighting that:

“A change to a 70-30 weighting will ensure that we are putting a higher weighting where it belongs on the hard work students put in throughout the school year.”

Alberta teachers felt that the 50-50 grading was putting too much weight on the exam and overlooked the students’ effort in class and on projects completed throughout the year. Proponent of this reform John Tomkinson, the chair of St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic division of Leduc, expressed his contentment, saying it was a “red banner day”.

In a similar vein, the Alberta School Boards Association – which passed the motion last November – and Calgary’s public school board applaud the change of the thirty-year held 50-50 weighting system in favor of in-class student effort. The Calgary public school board expects that:

“[T]he new ratio would provide a better reflection of student performance because the judgment of teachers would carry more weight.”

Joy Bowen-Eyre, chairwoman for the Calgary Board of Education, also expressed her contentment that the government responded to the pleas of stakeholders and educators.

The announcement that the diploma exam taken by 12th graders will only account for 30% of their final mark was met with mixed student reactions. A Centennial High School student, Syameena Pillai, says the development is a relief:

“I don’t think, being in high school, we’re ready for that weight on our shoulders . . . I think it’s better for university than it is for high-school students.”

Other students are still unconvinced and unsure whether the 70-30 weighting is beneficial.

“I still think 50 per cent is better for students who are going to post-secondary because that’s what they’re going to do in university . . . It prepares them for post-secondary,” Kayla Oh, another 12th grader said of the reform.

The minister’s announcement was made 25 years after the Alberta Teacher’s Association made its first plea on changing the 50-50 ratio. The initial request by the Association was a weighting system where the final diploma exam only accounted for 20% of the final grade. After the issue came up several times, the minister agreed that more weight should be attributed to where it should be – to in-class student performance.

The president of the Local ATA Local 38,  Frank Bruskerer, asserts that the government made the right decision, which duly recognizes the effort and energy students put into their classes the entire school year.