Exam’s ‘weight’ an interesting issue

There is an interesting new movement in Alberta to decrease the weighting Grade 12 diploma exams are given to a student’s final mark.

There is an interesting new movement in Alberta to decrease the weighting Grade 12 diploma exams are given to a student’s final mark.

The proposal originates from STAR Catholic schools, of which Father Lacombe School in Lacombe is a part. While Father Lacombe is a K-9 school and its students don’t have to worry about diplomas, the proposal from STAR will be debated by all other school boards in Alberta this month as well.

STAR is proposing to have the weight of Grade 12 diploma exams changed from 50% to 30% of a student’s final grade. The school division argues that a 50% weight puts too much stress and pressure on students, thereby hindering their ability to perform well on the exams.

Students don’t write diploma exams just to prove that they know their stuff. Provincial diploma exams also serve as a way to measure whether teachers are teaching the right stuff and if they are teaching it well enough that students are learning.

It’s interesting that student anxiety is what seems to be the driver for this proposal. It is the job of teachers to make sure students are prepared to write the diploma finals and what do students have to be anxious about if they are prepared?

Perhaps it may be more than an issue of diplomas carrying too much weight in terms of a student’s final grade. Perhaps a look at how teachers are preparing their students for the exams might be worth a look as well.

Of course, this doesn’t mean teachers are to blame either. There are plenty of students who suffer from exam anxiety no matter how prepared they are.

Let’s face it, exams are stressful and there are students who have difficulty writing exams.

It’s not because they don’t know the material, they just have difficulty demonstrating that in an exam situation.

Actually, that’s one of the great advantages to having the weighting of diploma exams. If the diploma exams carry less weight on a students’ final grades, then the work they do in class obviously has to carry more.

Many students and teachers would rather see more weight given to the work students do in class. When you think about it, a 50/50 split isn’t fair considering how much time students spend working in class and how much time they spend writing a final exam.

Having a half and half split also opens the system up to abuse from students who do write final exams well and don’t want to work hard in class. It allows them to show up, write a good final and pass the class even after slacking on schoolwork and perhaps even skipping class during the rest of the year.

Certainly, there is a strong argument to have the diploma weight changed from 50% to 30% of a student’s final grade regardless of what your reasoning is. It will be interesting to see what other school divisions have to say about this issue.