Starting in November, Grade 12 students will write diploma exams with a 30 per cent weight.
The province announced this change in March. While diploma exams will now only weigh 30 per cent of the total mark, the remaining 70 per cent will be determined by students’ class work. Previously, 50 per cent of the overall mark came from the diploma exam.
“It’s interesting to see this year,” said Lori Gale, a Grade 12 social studies teacher at Robert Thirsk High School. “With the change in weighting for the diploma, there’s still a lot of trepidation, but the reduction in the value has really alleviated some of the concerns of the students.”
The move is said to reflect a more accurate representation of student performance and focus more on in-class material, rather than the exam at the end of the semester.
Many teachers and educators had demanded the change in diploma weight over the course of many years. In November 2014, school boards in Alberta requested that Gordon Dirks, then Alberta’s education minister, consider and discuss the change.
Many Grade 12 students expressed their relief as half of their mark will no longer be determined by an exam lasting three hours.
“It takes off so much pressure,” said Emily Jeung, a Grade 12 student at Robert Thirsk High School. “For someone who doesn’t do well under pressure, this makes me a million times more relieved.”
Earlier this year, Dirks promoted the change, saying diploma exams do not reflect other aptitudes such as presentation skills, collaboration, teamwork and communication.
“It would increase the overall average of students, which is great for when they apply for post-secondary (education). As for me, I struggle with exams,” said Arun Brar, a second-year business administration student at SAIT Polytechnic.
Added, retired high school teacher Stephan Hooker: “It’s a progressive change. I never did well in exams. I was not the most academically driven student in high school. Their marks should not be determined by standardized testing.”
For someone who doesn’t do well under pressure, this makes me a million times more relieved – Emily Jeung
Robert Thirsk High School is one of many Calgary schools taking a step towards assessing students’ abilities over standardized exams.