The Alberta School Board Association (ASBA) is pushing for a thorough evaluation of the provincial high school diploma examinations, and school representatives in the province are also raising concerns about the exams’ quality, noting that they haven’t undergone a review since 2009. / File photoChantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

LAKELAND – The Alberta School Board Association (ASBA) is pushing for a thorough evaluation of the provincial high school diploma examinations, and school representatives in the province are also raising concerns about the exams’ quality, noting that they haven’t undergone a review since 2009. School divisions in the Lakeland region agree that a review is needed. 

In November 2023, Alberta school trustees supported a proposal urging the education ministry to reassess the high school diploma exam format. The aim is to evaluate its fairness as an indicator of student performance and the overall effectiveness of the education system. 

“Therefore, be it resolved, that the assembly adopt the position that the Ministry of Education review the practice of administering provincial high school diploma examinations to ensure the efficacy of this tool as an indicator of both system and student success,” reads information from the Alberta School Board Association. 

Diploma exams, introduced in 1984, are a mandatory element for students in several Grade 12 classes. Anyone graduating from high school is required to write at least two diploma exams, one in Social Studies and the other in English Language Arts. 

Up until 2015, these exams held a significant weight of 50 per cent in determining a student’s final grade for a course. However, following advocacy from ASBA and Alberta teachers, the Progressive Conservative government at the time decided to reduce the weight to 30 per cent. 

Northern Lights Public School board chair Karen Packard confirmed, “NLPS trustees were in attendance at the ASBA Fall General Meeting where member boards voted in favour of advocating that the education ministry review the diploma exam program. The NLPS board of trustees did not have any specific concerns regarding diploma exams but felt there was value in reviewing a long-standing process.” 

Packard added, “We want all of our assessment practices, whether they are provincial diploma exams or in-class assessments, to be appropriate, fair for our students, and provide accurate information to inform teaching and learning in the division.” 

The board chair explains that “NLPS does use data from provincial diploma exams as an indicator of student achievement in the division and to help identify areas to focus on. Since we are accountable to the government and our communities for the results of the diploma exams, it is important they are a fair assessment of how our students are doing.” 

St. Paul Education superintendent Peter Barron also weighed in on the topic, saying, “It is healthy for all organizations to periodically review their practices to ensure they are current and accomplishing their intent. I would expect that as new curricula are rolled out for high school courses, there would be a commensurate adjustment to the exams. 

Barron adds, “As there can be significant variation between teacher awarded grades and diploma results, I believe that diploma exams serve an important purpose in defining a standard.” 

He also spoke in favour of the government’s move toward online exams, which he believes was “overdue.” 

A response from Lakeland Catholic School Division says representatives have not been able to discuss the review of the diploma exam program and were unable to comment on the topic at this time. 

During an interview at the fall general meeting, Alberta School Board Association president Marilyn Dennis also discussed the impact of COVID-19 on diploma exams. The disruptions led to questions about their necessity, especially as graduation rates improved. 

By Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 07, 2024 at 08:06

This item reprinted with permission from   Lakeland This Week   Bonnyville, Alberta

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