National standard sought for exams
Minister wants to even field for Alberta kids
Alberta’s education minister says he will pressure other provinces at a meeting next year to introduce standardized Grade 12 exams nationwide to level the playing field in the competition for university seats and scholarships.
But thomas lukaszuk said in the interim students and parents from this province should also be pressuring post-secondary institutions to change their admissions policies to reflect tougher grading at Alberta high schools.
“We have been playing a fair game with other jurisdictions and not inflating our marks,” Lukaszuk said.
“I want to make sure our students are not punished for that fact, and I want to make sure our universities and colleges attract students that truly meet the requirements of being there and reap the financial benefits in terms of scholarships.”
Despite scoring at or near the top in national and international achievement tests, figures show Alberta students are only half as likely as those in Ontario to earn an average of 80 per cent or better in Grade 12.
A recent University of Saskatchewan study of 12,000 first year students found the averages of those from Alberta dropped just 6.4 percentage points from Grade 12 levels, while the marks of their counterparts from four other provinces — Saskatchewan, B.C, Manitoba and Ontario — dropped by as much as 19.6 percentage points. Still, most universities in the country — including all five Alberta schools — say they do not adjust grades of incoming students based on their province of origin when making admission decisions.
“We do have a study now that clearly shows there’s a discrepancy that universities should look at,” Lukaszuk said.
“Government cannot impose a solution, but with the public voicing its opinion and with myself and the Minister of Advance Education sensitizing universities change can be affected on these independent institutions.”
When the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada meets in 2012, Lukaszuk said he will push other provincial ministers to raise their grading standards and consider standardized tests like Alberta’s diploma exams.
Kevin Mcquillan, dean of arts at the University of Calgary and author of a 2004 study on the problem of grade inflation in Ontario high schools, said standardized testing would provide a transparent barometer of student achievement.
“As admissions become more difficult and competitive, each school in Ontario tends to say let’s give our students a leg up by giving them higher grades.” Mcquillan said. “There’s an arms race of A’s going on.”
While Ontario universities were loathe to admit it publicly for fear of creating controversy, he said registrars told him they were quietly adjusting the marks of Alberta students to compensate.
“They have lower grades and yet they have high levels of success at university and “we take that into account” is the phrase I would often hear,” Mcquillan said.