Does quantity now trump quality for high school graduates? Does our educational assessment system now pander to the lowest common denominator?
I’ve never been a proponent of quantity over quality and perhaps I’m being negative here, but I’m worried. Should we be happy with September’s report from the Ministry of Education that 67 per cent of Grades 3 and 6 students are meeting or exceeding provincial standards in reading, writing and math, or concerned that 33 per cent aren’t?
The credit recovery/rescue portion of the high school assessment system has been ruffling feathers since it began to be interpreted across the province a couple of years ago. Boards and schools are applying the measures differently, but few are happy with them. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has even commissioned a variety of reports and member surveys due to a concern over “real” versus “artificial” student success.
New credit recovery measures give students multiple chances to complete missed or poorly done assignments or tests. For example, if I don’t have my biology plant lab done by Friday, I’ll get a reminder from the teacher and my parents may be informed. If I then don’t get it done by the end of the plant unit at the end of the month, I again get reminded to complete the task, my parents are again contacted and I can still turn it in until the end of the term.
I’m all for giving students the opportunity to succeed, but
there comes a point where the hammer has to drop. We aren’t just teaching biology — we are teaching acceptable behaviour. Entitlement is not acceptable behaviour.
If there are no extenuating circumstances, why are we allowing high school students to hand in work late, up until the last day in the term, without penalty? This won’t prepare them for any reality of which I have knowledge. When speaking to friends about this, we questioned what colour the sky would be in a world where a worker could tell their boss, “Sure, I’ll get you that important report. . . . You’ll have it at my retirement party.”
I remember missing tests due to illness or authorized travel with sports or my family and being allowed to rewrite. On a case-by-case basis, some type of make-up evaluation is appropriate and fair and has been there throughout my education.
Clearly however, there is now much more flexibility in the system than when we went to school: so is the system bending or breaking? The fairness pendulum seems to have swung to the squeaky wheels and now we have to ask ourselves if it is fair to other students, and teachers.
If I’m the student who does the work the first time, on time, I’m not going to feel equity as my classmate works the system and potentially gets the same grade. Perhaps this is the reality workforce training that we want for our children, so that they learn early that there are different rules for different people and that life isn’t fair.
If I’m the teacher, I may be forced into situations where I have to make up multiple tests and assignments for students, a task that can take hours and hours of additional work, not to mention a possible crush of last-minute work turned in at the end of term to assess. More importantly at some boards, teachers lose the last-resort ability of giving students a zero on their work for plagiarism, tardiness, or non-compliance. This does not seem fair.
Planned academic dishonesty shouldn’t be met with a second chance to do the assignment. It seems to me that when the pressure is on, students may take the path of least resistance and may plagiarize, knowing that if they are caught they will get an opportunity to redo the project, and if they aren’t caught — either way it seems a win-win situation for the student, but not for the teacher, post-secondary schools, or eventual employers.
We learn so much more than subject matter from teachers, and students should not be schooled in shortcuts and excuses. Not solving this assessment piece now will only push the problem downstream to colleges, universities and employers to explain integrity, deadlines time management, and consequences.
When did Wikipedia replace the library? When did math skills become synonymous with calculators and spelling rely on software? Perhaps more importantly, when did actions and consequences come unhitched in our education system?
I have a quote on the side of my refrigerator from the movie Hitch, “What if fine isn’t good enough? What if I want extraordinary?”
Not holding back elementary or high school students who aren’t ready is not fine. This assessment system is not fine. We can do better.
Nadine is a marketing and public relations consultant and can be reached at the. email@example.com. Her column appears every second Wednesday.
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