National stan­dard sought for ex­ams

Min­is­ter wants to even field for Al­berta kids

Calgary Herald - - CITY & REGION - MATT MC­CLURE

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.

Thomas Lukaszuk

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