Camrose parents, students voice concerns over new grading system

EDMONTON- Concerned parents and students made their voices heard in Camrose Thursday, over changes to the way students in the Battle River School Division (BRSD) are graded.

“I don’t agree with this new system that they’re implementing,” said Grade 11 student Micaela Klutz. “It’s not as accurate as it could be.”

Hundreds of parents and students marched from Camrose Composite High School to the BRSD office chanting “we want change,” referring to the division’s new assessment model.

Under the new assessment model (Administrative Procedure 360), students are given a level of achievement- beginning, developing, achieving, or excelling- rather than a percentage.

“Our mandate in public education is no longer to sort and rank students; Who’s the best? Who’s the worst? Who’s in the middle? Our mandate is to ensure the success of every student,” said Assistant Superintendent Rick Jarrett.

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Under AP-360, a student scoring between zero and 50 per cent would be at the “beginning” level. A student who received a mark between 50 and 66 per cent would be at the “developing” level, “achieving” is between 67 and 83 per cent and “excelling” from 84 to 100 per cent.

“We need to describe, in language, what performance is supposed to look like,” Jarrett said. “The number, for example, tells (students) almost nothing without some form of language that describes their performance. So we’re moving to language.”

However, many students are concerned the new system will not accurately reflect their achievement, and say they’d prefer to see a number instead of a word.

“I would rather see a percent. Yes, the teacher can still give feedback and tell you what you did wrong and what you’ve done right, but with that, a percent goes along and tells you exactly where you sit within your class and how you can do better,” said Danielle Wowk, a Grade 11 student at Camrose Composite High School.

“I don’t know where I stand anymore, like what my percentage on my tests are anymore. They show us (a level) but we don’t know if it’s 58 or 60. It’s just really confusing now,” added Jesse Graham, a Grade 8 student at Charlie Killam School.

Jarrett says teachers’ professional judgement plays a huge role in determining where a student stands. Percentages will be provided to students upon request, and when it comes time to provide report cards, it is up to the teacher’s professional judgement to provide a percentage, Jarrett explained.

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To do that, teachers will use the information they’ve gathered throughout the year “and say you know what, here’s where I’m putting you, this is where I know you’re at because of the learning that you’ve demonstrated and the way that we’ve evaluated your performance,” Jarrett explained.

The new grading model is already in place at elementary and junior high schools within the district, which serves nearly 6,300 students. Three high schools are piloting the new system this year and more are expected to use it starting this fall, with a target date of September 2014 for full implementation.

However, parents say they’re not going down without a fight. They’ve already collected over 2,800 signatures on a petition opposing the new system, and are pushing for more public consultation on the matter.

“You’ve got a system here that works, it’s perfect. Why fix something that’s already perfect?” said concerned parent Robbyn Brown.

Alberta’s Education Minister Jeff Johnson said Thursday, the province does not have any requirements in terms of the specific way grades are reported, those decisions are left up to individual school boards.

With files from Shannon Greer.