Quebec education minister Sébastien Proulx wants school boards to stop boosting student grades.
It’s a practice some teachers claim they’re forced to do, but English school boards argue there’s no need to crack down because it’s rarely done.
“What’s very concerning is that the minister feels that he can go into the schools and say ‘you need to do this because I’m telling you,'” Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) president Jennifer Maccarone said.
A recent survey by Leger Marketing showed that 55 per cent of high school teachers with French teacher’s union, the Fédération Autonome de l’Enseignement (FAE), claim they’ve been pressured to change their students’ grades to boost their school’s success rate.
It’s not common practice in English school boards, according to the Pearson Teachers Union, but admits it does happen occasionally.
“Sometimes, they do change the marks, but it’s not something that occurs on a regular basis, I don’t think,” said Pearson teachers union president Heidi Yetman.
“This [pressure] is coming from the ministry, the ministry wants to see data on success rates.”
English school boards are not faced with the same pressure as the French system, according to the QESBA, since their success rates are typically higher.
Under the Quebec Education Act, teachers and administrators currently have the right to boost the marks of students who are below the passing grade.
It’s a question of formative assessment, which means evaluating the student’s overall learning and comprehension.
“I think it’s in the best interest of that student to consider moving them from a 58 or 59 to a 60 because we need to recognize that the competency been reached,” Maccarone said.
“It should not be single-minded.”
QESBA ‘s president worries that the education minister’s new directives to stop altering grades may affect the most vulnerable students.
“The minister is saying you should not be boosting marks with the objective of increasing a success rate and we would all agree, 100 per cent nobody wants that,” Maccarone said.
“However, there needs to be flexibility in the evaluation process to provide for a variety of learners.”
Some parents of students with learning disabilities worry that a rigid evaluation process will hinder their children, especially considering the ongoing cuts to the education system.
“It feels like it’s all about results and statistics,” said Nancy Guerin, the mother of a son who she says has benefited from inflated grades.
“We’re not talking about boosting a grade from a 40 to an 80. We’re talking about a vulnerable student passing.”
The Parti Québécois (PQ) says it is also against the education minister’s move to intervene, recommending more be done to see if the problem is truly widespread.
“We’re asking the Quebec minister to listen before taking action,” said PQ MNA Alexandre Cloutier.
“Because now, he’s taking action but doesn’t know how big the matter is.”
English school boards are asking the minister to back off and allow them to use their own good judgement.
“As a minority, certainly we need to be able to protect our rights to manage and control – very important,” said Maccarone.
The Pearson Teachers Union said it would like the focus to shift from performance to real hands-on education.
“Teachers end up spending a lot of time at tables looking at data and trying to find better ways to have better success and that’s not what education is all about,” said Yetman.