News Views: Letter grade

The province has put on hold getting rid of letter grades at the secondary level, for now.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark and her education minister are saying, for now, they will not ditch letter grades from senior secondary report cards.

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district first moved away from letter grades in the upper levels of elementary school in 2013.

Called a student-inclusive conferencing model, it saw teachers meet with students and parents to discuss progress in communication, critical thinking and other areas of competency, with an increased emphasis on student self-assessment.

The conferences celebrate strengths, talk about learning needs, and set future goals. The report is filled out in a more consultative process.

Trustees supported the option unanimously.

It was developed over two years by a local committee, headed by the district’s director of instruction, David Vandergugten.

Committee members said it has an obvious effect on young learners.

Feedback from parents was “through-the-roof positive.”

Committee member Mike Saul wrote a PhD thesis on the topic of grading. He determined that the letter grade system can be useful for grading some accomplishments, but his research showed it is critical to move away from letter grades in areas requiring creativity or higher-level thinking skills, because students tend to limit themselves to the accomplishment that gets them their desired letter grade.

Vandergugten and then superintendent Jan Unwin were asked to serve on a Ministry of Education committee, looking at elementary school reporting throughout B.C.

Plans were to move away from letter grades in high school, but not yet.

Education Minister Mike Bernier told the Globe and Mail on Monday that letter grades will continue for Grades 10 through 12, as students look toward postsecondary applications.

That may relieve some, as no alternative to grades has been proposed for postsecondary access in B.C. Students are told by such institutions that it is a competitive process, with standards.

It is best then to put changes to the letter grade system on hold, until the experiment is complete. Even Unwin said systems and structures are “in the way” at the high school level.


– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News