Grading kids during COVID-19: How Alberta compares to other Canadian schools

Only Quebec and B.C. plan to host select students in classrooms this Spring. The majority of Canadian students — including two million Ontario children and teens — will continue learning online. However, assessment for that learning differs dramatically across the country.

For example, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario have given their respective school divisions a directive that high school students’ grades cannot fall below the mark they had when in-person schooling was suspended.

In an email to Global News, Ontario Education spokesperson Ingrid Anderson said no students in that province will have their grades go below what they were on March 13.

“No student’s mark should be negatively affected by performance during the school closure period,” Anderson said. “This applies to both elementary and secondary students. Continuity of learning is critical to prepare students with the knowledge and skills for success in the next grade, course or post-secondary destination.”

Alberta has the expectation that “students who were on track to progress to the next grade level will,” however it is leaving final assessments to teachers, according to ministry of education press secretary Colin Atchinson.

That means each division is determining how to assess students’ performance at a local level. The Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District said they would hold mid-term grades, meaning students can earn a higher mark but their grade will not decrease during online learning.

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“Right now we know families in Alberta and Calgary in particular are under a lot of stress, not only through COVID-19, but the economic and stress and the different challenges that every single family is facing,” Bryan Szumlas, chief superintendent of the Calgary Catholic School Division, said.

Brock University Education studies professor Louis Volante says the best solution to assessing students during this period of upheaval is to go to a pass-fail system for students in Grade 11 and younger and allow Grade 12 students to close the year with their mid-term grade.

“We don’t have any best practices that I could identify for this particular situation,” Volante says. “I think we are going to learn a lot based on what’s going on, and hopefully this never happens to us again, but if it does we’ll be in a better position to respond to it.”

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