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Diplomas lose ground in students’ overall marks

A movement that took hold late last year has just reached a conclusion with Alberta Education finally agreed to changing

A movement that took hold late last year has just reached a conclusion with Alberta Education finally agreed to changing the weighting in diploma grades from a 50/50 split to enhancing teacher’s mark to 70 percent while diminishing final exam weight to 30.

The Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) board of trustees voted yes on the matter at the Alberta School Board Associations (ASBA) annual fall meeting, Nov. 16 to 18, 2014 and the ASBA as a whole was also pushing for the change.

“This decision was a long time coming and it positively impacts high school students in this province,” said ASBA President Helen Clease, in a press release on the organization’s website. “Today’s decision will be met with cheers from students, parents and staff. Communities have been telling school boards for a long time that this is one of their priorities.”

WCPS superintendent Larry Jacobs is also pleased with the change, and he personally took part in the drafting of the press release by Alberta Education on Monday, March 16.

Jacobs says the primary benefit for students is the government has finally come to the realization that they work in school for an entire year. “A lot of students do work over the entire year, that will give you a better idea of their understanding.”

Many students feel too pressured by the daunting diploma exams and Jacobs says the 50/50 split may not have been the best way to get a feel of what they could actually accomplish.

Alberta Education feels the 70/30 split may have a positive effect on drop-out rates and an increase in the number of students eligible for the Rutherford Scholarship.

In the past, a concern of many was how, with a 70/30 split in the teachers’ favour, it could it be ensured all students would receive the same treatment and standards.

Jacobs feels by following Saskatchewan’s example, the system can succeed. “Provide training for teachers so they will understand access accurately,” he said.

The concept of providing teachers across the province with a common template is called inter-rater reliability. “That’s going to be crucial a critical component,” said Jacobs.

The change will come into affect Sept. 1 of this year, as some students have already written a bout of exams with the 50/50 mark division.

Jacobs says, with the change, post secondary institutions are going to have to adjust how they evaluate prospective students “…which I don’t think is a bad thing.”

“Post secondary institutions have leaned heavily in the past on the diplomas to rank students, for lack of a better word,” he added.

Dual credit partnerships

Also recently announced was a new duel credit opportunity that will give students the ability to earn post-secondary credits or workplace certification while still in high school.

”These partnerships support school boards’ efforts to create new pathways for student learning. Anytime we can create these opportunities for students, it is a good thing,” said Clease.

“Both announcements will make a difference to our high school students. We welcome these initiatives,” she added.