Diploma exams will be optional in November, but ATA president Jason Schilling hopes to see the decision extended to the entire school year.
The recent decision to make November diploma examinations optional as a result of COVID-19 should be extended for all provincial tests this school year, says ATA president Jason Schilling.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced via Twitter on Oct. 13 that students and parents would be able to opt out of diploma exams in November. Students who opt out will have their school-awarded mark counted as their final mark.
A number of school divisions in the province moved to quarter-semester systems in order to enhance student cohorting efforts and to create more entry points into courses given the uncertainty COVID-19 presented for this school year. This meant that more students would have been participating in November writings than normal.
“The priority for this year must be on student wellness and well-being,” Schilling said. “We would have preferred a clear and definitive decision that took all provincial testing off the table this year, but this is an important first step.”
A government release announcing the decision states that normal administration of diploma exams is expected for the balance of the school year and that decisions on future writings will be made one administration at a time.
This approach concerns Schilling, who says the pressure of diploma exams may induce some students to ignore or downplay COVID isolation requirements to avoid missing classes.
“COVID has created so much uncertainty and anxiety in schools, and many students and staff are missing large chunks of school time as a result of requirements to quarantine or self-isolate,” he said. “Diploma exams would not be fair to students and, this year in particular, would not produce reliable results.”
Schilling says the Association had advocated for a change to provincial testing regimes since the summer and appreciated the support shown by advocacy from school boards like Edmonton Public in recent weeks.
The University of Alberta reported on Twitter that it has decided to accept final, first-quarter grades from the 2020–21 school year as presented on the Alberta Education transcript, regardless of whether or not students have written their diploma exams.
PAT administration left up to school divisions
The Calgary Board of Education and Edmonton Catholic School Division have added their names to a growing list of school boards that have decided to opt out of grade 6 and 9 provincial achievement tests.
The Government of Alberta’s School Re-Entry Plan allowed participation in PATs to be optional at the school authority level for Scenario 1, although PATs will only be administered in English language arts, French language arts and mathematics.
“We believe this is the right decision in a year where direction from Alberta Education and Alberta Health continues to evolve rapidly,” reads a statement on the CBE website announcing the decision. “Teachers will remain focused on delivering the programs of study for all courses, and will continue to assess student achievement based on the grade level outcomes as determined by the Province of Alberta.”
At least 16 school divisions have opted out of PATs this year. ❚