The elimination of three of the five high school provincial exams is being met with a generally positive reaction from students from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District.
As part of the new changes to the provincial curriculum, B.C. students will write two final exams in their Grade 12 year, testing for literacy and numeracy. Three Grade 10 exams are being eliminated.
That’s good news, says Grade 10 student Sydney Stephen of Pitt Meadows secondary. She said facing examination by the provincial government made for a stressful year for the teen and her friends. What’s more, she questions how valuable the results really are.
“I don’t think it’s fair to judge people by a number,” she said. “And everyone learns at different paces. I don’t think that provincial exams are a true way of showing how people learn.”
Stephen would eliminate the remaining Grade 12 government tests, too, and have students graded by the teachers, based on their work in the classroom.
“Personally, I don’t like the whole provincial exam. There’s so many more ways – like leadership skills and different things that show who you are as a person, rather than your numbers.”
Brandon Smith, a Grade 11 at Thomas Haney secondary, had mixed feelings about eliminating the exams.
“It means less work for us, which is kind of nice. But at the same time, they are still a good way to see how you’ve done,” he said.
“The Grade 10 ones are very stressful. Having three in a very short amount of time – it’s a lot of studying.”
Smith agreed teachers do tend to “teach to the exam,” to some extent, based on their knowledge of past exams.
He hopes to be university bound, and said post-secondary institutions can still gauge admissions from the marks teachers give their students.
“Which is almost nicer, because it’s not a test for the entire of the year – you can demonstrate your learning in a lot of different ways,” said Smith.
There’s relief at the earlier grades.
“I like the changes, because I think it’s less stress in the younger grades,” said Maple Ridge secondary Grade 8 student Kaelen Coles-Lyster. “I think it’s good having them in Grade 12, so then you have that work in the older grades, to prepare for university.”
School district superintendent Sylvia Russell appreciates the philosophical shift away from Grade 10 provincials.
“I’m not sorry to see some of the Grade 10 exams go because we know that for some of our students, those are real barrier exams,” she said. “Grade 10 is one of those ages where, as educators, we see kids sometimes lacking the maturity to succeed with that hurdle at the end of the school year.
“A change is good for us on this front.”
The BCTF supports the changes, and Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra said it eliminates a barrier that had prevented some kids from graduating.
He said the tests had “tied teachers’ hands” in how they approached Grade 10.
“You don’t want to teach to a test, but if you known that so much hinges on provincial exams for your students, how could you not?” he said.
“The majority of folks see this as a good thing.”
Serra said there is always public “anxiety about accountability” that is satisfied by government exams. So retaining the graduating year tests is “a good middle ground.”
School board chair Mike Murray noted that former School District No. 42 superintendent Jan Unwin is working for the education ministry on a new way to do university admissions, working with post-secondary institutions on how best to assess students for entrance.
Murray, too, supports the elimination of the Grade 10 exams, because they were too much of a focus for teachers.
“Now the system can be teaching kids how to investigate, solve problems and all the things they will need to be able to do to be successful in this world,” he said.
The change is part of B.C.’s new curriculum, which intends to “teach students the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic in a way that connects them to collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills they will need to succeed after high school,” said the ministry.
The curriculum will be fully implemented in the K-to-9 years this fall, and will be available in draft for teachers to use for grades 10-12 at the same time.