The following a responses to frequently asked questions parents have regarding the Policy statement and new procedure.
1. Why is the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) implementing a new procedure (Admin Procedure 1660) about AER Grades 7 – 12?
Research tells us that students learn best when instruction, resources and the learning environment are well-suited to their particular strengths, interests, needs and stage of readiness.
The new AER Grade 9-12 Handbook supports teachers in meeting the WRDSB’s overall goal of optimizing learning and achievement for ALL students. Administrative Procedure 1660 – Assessment, Evaluation & Reporting Gr.7-12, in particular, will help align classroom practices with the following key belief statements articulated by the Ministry of Education:
- All students can succeed.
- Each student has his or her own unique pattern of learning.
- Fairness is not sameness.
Learning for All, K–12, p. 6, Ministry of Education.
The new procedure helps support student learning by ensuring that evaluation and reporting practices:
- result in marks that reflect achievement of learning goals – not behaviour
- separate academic achievement from learning skills and work habits
- encourage high expectations for student learning
- promote responsibility on the part of students to provide evidence of their achievement of the essential learning for a course
2. Is it fair to those students who hand in assignments on time if those who hand things in later have no mark deductions? Is it fair to those students who are successful the first time if others get to do assignments and tests over again?
The new mission of education is excellence for ALL students. We believe that one size does not fit all and that fair isn’t always equal. Some students require more time than others; some students need more than one attempt to be successful. Fairness is being redefined as equality of opportunity.
Fairness cannot be misunderstood as “sameness”. Teachers act fairly with all students by having high expectations, setting clear targets and learning goals, developing clear criteria and providing feedback to help students along the way. Teachers must also act fairly by considering each student’s individual needs, learning styles and preferences, and individual circumstances. They consider how to address the needs of students who require additional support. The same support cannot be applied to all students in the same way.
Fairness in assessment also means that report card grades are based only on the achievement of overall curriculum expectations. It means not using behaviours or attitudes in determining the overall grade a student earns. Behaviours of students, such as late and missed assignments, are reflected in the Learning Skills and Work Habits section of the report card. A mark should reflect what a student knows and is able to do in relation to the Ontario Curriculum expectations. Deducting marks for lateness misrepresents and changes the meaning of that mark. Assigning marks of zero, and then mathematically applying the zeros to calculate a grade, distorts the meaning of the report card grade as well.
3. Are we being too easy on kids if marks are not deducted for late assignments? Does placing limits on lowest assigned marks or rarely assigning zeros indicate that educational standards are slipping?
While some may view the new AER procedure as being “soft” on students, in fact it reflects a rigorous stance. The new procedure aims to hold students accountable in ways that they never have been before. When we allow students to take a zero on an assignment, we are telling them that they can choose not to do the work.
The procedure reflects high expectations for ALL students. In other words, all students will be held accountable to demonstrate the identified essential learnings in any course and all students must provide evidence of their learning. Students can no longer choose not to participate.
A mark below 50% indicates that a student has not earned the credit because their achievement of the identified essential learnings is below Level 1. In other words, a grade of 35% or 45% doesn’t communicate any more information than a lower failing grade.
4. Isn’t it important for students to learn effective learning skills and work habits? How will they do this if there are no consequences for late assignments or for cheating/plagiarizing?
The WRDSB values the development of effective learning skills and positive work habits. These are essential to success in work and life, and are strongly tied to “employability skills”. (see Growing Success, pg. 12-14)
Students will be taught effective learning skills and work habits throughout each school year and their development and demonstration will be assessed. Teachers will report on these areas in the Learning Skills and Work Habits section of the provincial report card.
Finally, there are consequences for failure to complete work or for cheating and plagiarizing. Consequences are designed to reflect the age, experience and maturity of the student. Some consequences are in response to the behaviour of students (e.g., students may be suspended for cheating). Some are academic consequences, such as the student needing to redo the work or complete an alternative assignment. They are not given the choice to avoid the work. The consequence for not doing the work is to do the work. The most severe academic consequence would be that the student does not earn a credit for the course in which they are enrolled because they have not provided sufficient evidence of the identified essential learnings.
5. Can students hand in anything at any time?
Students are responsible for completion of all assignments that demonstrate essential learnings for a given course. They should not assume that the new procedure means that they are free to hand assignments in at any point. Students who do not produce sufficient evidence of essential learnings throughout the course may not earn the credit.
Teachers will continue to determine a date when they are no longer able to accept a major assignment for evaluation. Students who do not complete work within the designated timelines may be expected to complete work during lunch, to attend after school homework clubs, attend meetings with the teacher and parents, etc. As well, poor learning skills and work habits would be reflected in the appropriate section on their report cards.
6. What does it mean if a student gets an “I” on his/her report card?
The code “I” means “insufficient evidence”. An “I” may be used in place of a final grade on the midterm or final report card for a student in Grade 9 and 10 only. A code of “I” means that the student did not provide sufficient evidence of his/her learning for the teacher to determine an interim/final grade for the course. If a student receives a code of “I”, a credit is not granted.
7. What happens if a student refuses to hand in assignments, or, despite being given alternatives, doesn’t complete her/his work?
Teachers and schools are expected to use a wide range of strategies and interventions to engage students in meaningful work that allows them to demonstrate evidence of learning. These include but are not limited to:
- Planning for major assignments to be completed in stages, so that students are less likely to be faced with an all-or-nothing situation at the last minute;
- Having frequent “process” checks with students on how their work is progressing;
- Providing alternative opportunities to demonstrate learning where, in the teacher’s professional judgement, it is reasonable and appropriate to do so;
- Providing support outside classroom time to complete work in a timely manner;
- Have students complete their work in the class in front of the teacher
- Other strategies as appropriate
If a student does not provide a sufficient body of evidence to demonstrate their learning despite these supports and interventions, the student may:
- Receive an “I” on his/her report in Grade 9 and 10; no credit is granted
- Receive a mark ranging from 35% to 45% on the final report card for Grade 11 and 12; no credit is granted
- Need to repeat the course
- Be considered a possible candidate for credit recovery
8. Doesn’t placing a limit on the lowest mark create a false picture of student achievement and make students less prepared to deal with the reality they’ll face in post-secondary studies and life?
The report card grade is a summary of learning, and corresponds on a one-to-one basis to a level of achievement as opposed to an indicator of the amount of work that students completed. Any mark under 50% shows that the student has not demonstrated the required knowledge and skills for this course (i.e. the student demonstrated achievement below Level 1).
In the “real world”, people are held accountable for their commitments. The new procedure helps prepare students for real life since it holds them accountable for demonstration of learning. In the world of work and in post-secondary studies, opting out or non-participation is not an option in order to be successful.
Effective learning skills and work habits, which are tied to employability skills, prepare students for both post-secondary destinations and life experiences. The AER Handbook 9-12 emphasizes the fact that learning skills and work habits need to be actively taught, assessed and reported on separately from academic achievement.
9. How will the information on the new procedure (Administrative Procedure 1660) be communicated to students?
Schools and teachers will communicate the new procedures directly to students and parents. Communication may be through course outlines, school websites, letters home, parent councils, teacher/parent night, etc. Information on Administrative Procedure 1660 and the Assessment, Evaluation & Reporting Handbook are posted on the WRDSB website.
10. Where do I go if I have more questions on this new procedure?
Parents are encouraged to speak with their child’s teacher or principal/vice-principal if they have additional questions regarding the new procedure. As additional information becomes available or as clarification is required, information will be posted on the Board’s website.