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Alberta diploma exams will be worth only 30% of final grade

WATCH ABOVE: The province is lowering how much diploma exams will count towards students’ final grade. Tom Vernon has the details.

CALGARY – The province is changing how much of a student’s final mark is determined by their diploma exam.

As of September 1, diploma exams will only count as 30 per cent of a student’s final mark, instead of 50 per cent. The remaining 70 per cent of a student’s grade will be determined by in-class work and exams.

The province made the announcement on Monday, saying the move will help provide a more accurate reflection of student performance by putting a greater weight on teachers’ assessments of students’ abilities and knowledge.

“We want students to benefit from classroom assessments that reflect their abilities over a longer period of time, rather than relying so heavily on one assessment lasting only a few hours,” said Education Minister Gordon Dirks.

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“Diploma exams cannot examine a full range of a course’s curriculum outcomes, which include competencies such as presentation skills, collaboration and teamwork, and communication,” said Dirks.

“I find that the arguments in favour of a 70/30 weighting change are compelling.”

“Many Canadian provinces place less emphasis on Grade 12 exams or do not have diploma exams at all,” added Dirks, “and their students often do just as well overall in comparison to Alberta students on inter-provincial rankings.”

Students write diploma exams for Grade 12 core courses, such as language arts, social studies, mathematics and sciences.

“I think this is fantastic news for students,” said Helen Clease, president of the Alberta School Boards Association. 

Clease says the new weighting will make a big difference for teachers and students, for whom it will relieve anxiety.

“You put a 50 per cent weighting on one test, one day, three hours, multiple choice and it weighs as much as everything you’ve done all year.”

“Today’s decision will be met with cheers from students, parents and staff,” she added.

“Communities have been telling school boards for a long time that this is one of their priorities.”

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READ MORE: Should Alberta diploma exams be worth less? 

At the ASBA’s November 2014 meeting, 82 per cent of Alberta school boards supported a motion calling on the government to drop the weight of diploma exams.

John Tomkinson, chair of Leduc’s St. Thomas Aquinas school division, which pushed for the change, was very pleased.

“Consultation and discussion with our staff, with our parents and with our students has raised the issue numerous times,” he explained.

“We felt, with the teachers’ support and the Alberta Students Council Association’s support, now was the time to bring the issue forward to the provincial agenda and talk about diploma exams.”

Tomkinson said the change is welcomed by teachers because the 50 per cent weighting was not reflective of curriculum objective outcomes nor was it in line with Inspiring Education. He said it’s also welcomed by students.

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“This is a win for students all across the province.

“To shift the weighting from 50/50 to 70/30 puts the students first whether they be the student who goes to post-secondary or the one in skills training or the one out in the community. It’s a win for them all.”

The first round of diploma exams to be written with the new weighting will take place in November 2015.

The province has also announced Monday 24 more dual-credit partnerships for high school students. Dual-credit partnerships allow students to earn post-secondary credits or workplace  certification while completing high school.