Red Deer School Board calls for cancellation of Provincial Diploma Exams

School trustees from Red Deer Public Schools are calling on the provincial government to suspend Grade 12 Diploma Exams for the 2020/21 school year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board will present an emergent resolution to the Alberta School Boards Association Fall General Meeting calling for the change.
Diploma Exams are a standardized provincial test taken at the end of Grade 12 level core subjects and count as 30% of a student’s final grade in a course. These marks are used to determine admission to post-secondary education, so they have a significant impact on students.

Provincial Achievement Tests are standardized provincial assessments taken by students in Grades 6 and 9 for core courses. The Minister of Education has made these optional at the discretion of the school board. Red Deer Public is finalizing its decision on whether these exams will be offered or not in the next few weeks.

“Teaching and learning for thousands of students around the province have already been interrupted when they have needed to isolate as a result of the pandemic,” said Board Chair Nicole Buchanan. “While our teachers support continued learning while students are away from school, generally for 14 days, we are hearing there are many students who have gaps when they return to school, they fall further behind creating significant anxiety for students facing Diploma Exams. We know this is an issue and concern for school boards across the province. Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange has commented they are monitoring the situation, but with some Diploma Exams coming up within weeks, a decision needs to be made now.”

While the government states early feedback from parents wanted a return to regular assessment, including provincial exams, that was early in the re-entry process. We are hearing increasing concerns from parents, students and staff advocating for the suspension of provincial exams given the uncertainty of COVID-19.

Schools are also concerned with the logistics of administering hundreds of Diploma Exams in a setting with a mix of students learning in school and at home as well as meeting physical distancing requirements. Running exams will be challenging, further diminishing the reliability of the results.

“Given the multiple challenges schools have faced this year, we are confident that in-class assessment by teachers will provide a true picture on student knowledge and understanding of course outcomes,” said Superintendent Chad Erickson. “We are hearing reports from students, parents and teachers that the prospects of Diploma Exams are creating a great degree of stress specifically related to COVID-19. Given their high stakes, as well as the uncertainty of COVID-19, it’s important to know whether exams are on or off. We don’t want Diploma Exams to disadvantage students—we want what is best for all students across the province.”