Monday, September 27, 2010

Where were their heads???

After twelve years on the Public School Board I thought I had heard every inane proposal the education community could toss up, and some more than once. But the Public School Board has surprised even me with their new evaluation policy. Homework and assignments can be handed in whenever you want, or not. No penalties. And plagiarism might earn a student a request for a re-do. And if you happen to be a conscientious student, do your assignments in a timely manner and actually do your own work, there are no pats on the back.

Generally curricula are built on sequential units. As a teacher, how do you move the class forward to the next unit without knowing that your students understood the previous one? Or when June comes and no assignments have been submitted, and the system does not embrace student failure, is it just an unfortunate lost year for the student(s)?

Schools teach more than ABCs. Life skills are as vital as academics. Students learn socialization, work ethic, responsibility - or at least they used to. What can they possibly gain through this process? I think we can take a good guess at what can be lost. What about teaching consequences of actions? What about preparation for post-secondary education?

It is at times like this that the public-at-large rear their heads and ask for provincial exams to be revived.

What I don't understand is why parents allow this system to use their kids as guinea pigs.


  1. What is even more disturbing is that this practice was attempted and FAILED miserably in Ontario and yet the bleeding hearts here think that it will magically work on our provinces youth.

    SO is the system going to be the one to blame when a student says they're unable to complete an assignment or participate in class because they haven't done their work? then again what does it really matter because lateness and attendance no longer seem to matter as those too are not the systems responsibility.

    What about a student who plagiarizes a bunch of assignments that they didn't do throughout the year, hands them in the final day. Is there going to be deadlines for when the student has to redo the assignments? Or is it so long as at some point in your school career you complete the redone versions?

    What a joke of a new system

  2. In the real world, if you don't get your assignments done on time, if at all, or if you take credit for someone else's work, you will get fired.

    Of course, teachers don't live in the real world and these scenarios would never occur to them. Have you ever heard of a teacher getting fired over performace or lack thereof?

    So this policy has logic after all.

  3. The CBC states: "Saskatoon's public high school students will no longer be penalized for plagiarism or for turning in assignments late under a new evaluation method for report cards." This statement is untrue.

    Firstly, the Saskatoon Public School Board has not mandated teachers to permit plagiarism and not penalize late marks, even though the CBC is making it seem like it is some top-down decree. Some teachers, like Kehrig, are implementing these practices, based on the evidence and research they have examined along with their years of experience and their professional judgment. Teachers are not being forced to change their practices; they are being encouraged to look at evidence to make sure they are using the assessment practices that are best for students. This is not to say that these practices are not surprising or controversial; however, would the population prefer teachers to not think about their teaching practices and try to help students learn more effectively?

    Secondly, Saskatoon Public is piloting a report card that separates behaviour from academics. Ontario's provincial report card does the exact same thing. Ontario may have mandated that its teachers still dock marks for late assignments and plagiarism, but it still separates behaviour and academics on its report card. The CBC has not made this distinction. Students still receive marks, like they always have; they also receive feedback on their behaviour in class (i.e., independence, teamwork, organization, work habits, and initiative). How is this a bad thing? Since when is providing parents with more information about their child's education some sort of terrible sin? This new report card is not linked to plagiarism or late assignments.

  4. How are teachers even able to provide mid-term report cards if nothing has been turned in by the student? Personally, if I was in school this would be a two month vacation of nothing, then just cram the work that needs to be done into the last couple months of the term.

  5. "Students still receive marks, like they always have; they also receive feedback on their behaviour in class (i.e., independence, teamwork, organization, work habits, and initiative). How is this a bad thing?"

    It's not a bad thing. Are you saying they weren't giving proper feedback before this new "progressive" teaching model?

    Results and behavior are explicitly linked. Academic performance is driven by a student's behavior. That's why grades matter; grades quantify performance objectively.

    Take it the other way: what is the point of good behavioral skills if the kid can't read? Would the new weighting system lean heavier on the behavioral scale? What would that prove?

  6. Hello to the school board employee who wrote a comment as Anon 7:19.

    Just a reminder to all that outside of exam marks, report cards are very subjective. Teachers, like everyone else, suffer human frailties that can reflect their on comments regarding students' behaviour. I could, but won't, recant the many parental concerns voiced over my time with the board, when parents attended high school parent/teacher interviews where four out of five teachers sang the praises of the student and one teacher would be lobbying for expulsion. Not every teacher likes every student. Teachers are simply human.

    However, if there appeared to be a personality conflict between a teacher and student and parents thought that it reflected on a mark given for an exam or paper, there is always the opportunity to have another teacher re-grade the exam/assignment.

    I do not see this controversy directed at individual teachers so much as the leadership that directs the system.

    Sad to say, it is directions like this that erode public confidence in our essential education services.


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