Diploma exams debated by school boards

What percentage a diploma exam mark contributes to a student’s final grade could be up for a change

What percentage a diploma exam mark contributes to a student’s final grade could be up for a change, and at the Wolf Creek Public Schools’ board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 5, it was evident the trustees’ opinions differed on how much the test should account for.

While the board will vote as a unit at the Alberta School Board Associations Annual Fall Meeting Nov. 16 to 18, trustees wanted to air their opinions beforehand.

Diploma exams are currently worth 50 per cent of a student’s final grade and the question up for debate is whether that number should be lowered to 30 per cent.

Lacombe-Blackfalds trustee Bob Huff was on the fence as to whether the weight of the diploma should be changed and expressed an interest in both sides.

“I don’t mind a change in the weighting,” said Huff early during the board discussion.

The board was concerned that a lower weight to the diploma could mean students’ grade could be more heavily affected by teaching styles, difficulty of tests and teachers biases.

A hypothetical example mentioned was teachers who want to see their students succeed create easier tests to boost marks and enhance chances of post-secondary eligibility.

A pro-argument was that lowering the weight of the diploma exam would result in a more familiar, teacher-driven environment that would be less stressful for students.

“It’s high stakes for those kids, getting where they want to go,” said Ponoka trustee Lorrie Jess.

Huff sees the diploma exam as a tool for the divisions to scan students and not an entrance indicator for post-secondary institutions. “If the diploma exam is not used diagnostically for the new crop of kids coming in, why do we even have it,” he asked.

“I want what’s best for the kids . . . I never felt the diploma exam was a disservice. I’m not sure just lowering the stakes is the answer,” he added.

Bentley-Eckville trustee Pam Hansen is happy with the 50/50 split, as is Superintendant Larry Jacobs while Lacombe-Blackfalds trustee Barb Walker was in favour of 30 per cent.

Board chair Trudy Bratland says the trustees will not decide on their position until other arguments and points are voiced at the fall general meeting. Depending on the results the concept’s next step is an advocating process with the provincial government.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean anything will change,” said Bratland.