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Policy on final exams in Alberta schools this year raises concerns for some parents

Click to play video: 'Policy on final exams in Alberta schools this year raises concerns for some parents' Policy on final exams in Alberta schools this year raises concerns for some parents
Alberta is making diploma exams optional for students this year while leaving final exams in the hands of the province’s school divisions. As Erik Bay reports, parents are concerned the difference in how exams are weighted in different divisions could impact students’ post-secondary prospects. – May 21, 2021

The decision by the province to allow students to opt-out of diploma exams, but leaving the decision over final exams up to each school division is causing concern for some Alberta parents.

The Lethbridge School Division is lowering the weight of its finals to 15 per cent of a student’s final grade, but other divisions have scrapped the tests altogether.

Read more: Lethbridge schools prepare for another transition back to learning at home

Rebecca Ash is a parent to two students in the LSD and says keeping exams so heavily weighted hurts students applying to post-secondary institutions against those who didn’t write finals.

“The learning environment has changed so much,” Ash said. “We feel like our kids are being put at a disadvantage.”

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Click to play video: 'Alberta Matters: The pros and cons of standardized testing' Alberta Matters: The pros and cons of standardized testing
Alberta Matters: The pros and cons of standardized testing – Sep 3, 2019

The Westwind School Division is dropping final exams, while the Palliser and Horizon school divisions are leaving the weight of finals up to individual teachers. The Holy Spirit Catholic School Division allows its schools to adjust their final exams.

In an email to Global News, Joanne Siljak, the corporate services coordinator for the Palliser School Division, said “no hard cap” has been placed on final exams.

“All staff have been asked to use their professional judgement, understanding of the learning that occurred this school year and to take into account the emotional stress students have been under over the last year,” Siljak said.

“Students learned differently this year and our assessments should reflect this.”

Read more: Southern Alberta school districts react to COVID-19 rapid testing expansion

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The Lethbridge Collegiate Institute school council is asking for a no-harm clause, which would keep students’ marks from dropping if they perform poorly on an exam.

“This isn’t new. This isn’t something we’ve been upset at this week,” Ash said. “This is something we’ve been upset at for four months.”

“Administrators have had ongoing feedback from parents and principals have engaged in conversation with staff,” a news release from the LSD sent out earlier this week said. “These feedback loops were considered as part of the final decision making.”

Read more: Black students speak out about racism in Lethbridge schools

The division added finals are not necessarily paper and pencil timed exams, but Ash says students are already stressed without the pressure of tests.

“They’re worried about home, they’re worried about family,” Ash said. “They’re worried about friends, being teenagers — which is hard enough.”

A request for a no-harm clause is being sent to the division’s superintendent.

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