Yukon News

Yukon schools to scrap letter grades up to Grade 9

Maura Forrest Friday March 17, 2017

Joel Krahn/Yukon News

nicolemorgan.jpg

Nicole Morgan, assistant deputy minister of the public schools division, says the education department’s shift from formal reports cards to informal reports will help parents gain a better idea of how their child is progressing.

The education department will move away from letter grades and formal report cards as it changes the way Yukon students are assessed.

The government is looking for feedback on the planned changes from parents, students, teachers and community members through an online survey released this week.

A group of 40 Yukon educators, the Yukon education assessment committee, came up with the proposed changes.

One of the major proposed changes would eliminate letter grades for students in grades 4 to 9. Younger students already do not receive letter grades.

Instead of receiving grades, students will be assessed using performance scales, which have categories ranging from “not yet meeting expectations” to “exceeding expectations.”

“When we go to a letter grade, we’re making a value statement,” said Nicole Morgan, assistant deputy minister of the public schools division. “When we do that, we interrupt the learning that students are participating in if we do that too soon.”

However, parents will still receive a chart showing which letter grade is linked to each performance category. Morgan said parents are used to letter grades and it would be confusing to scrap them outright.

“But for the students, we want that conversation to be not about chasing letter grades,” she said.

Students in grades 10 to 12 will still receive letter grades and per cent scores. But there, too, the department is proposing changes. Instead of averaging marks over a full term, grades would focus on the “most recent and consistent marks.”

The rationale is that students should be given a chance to learn from their mistakes.

“When we ask students to go deeper with their learning, when we push them to take risks … if we’re taking an assessment and marking their early attempts, we’re actually penalizing them for trying,” Morgan said.

Grades would also not reflect students’ behaviour, including attendance, incomplete work and even plagiarism. Those issues would be communicated to parents informally — during parent-teacher meetings, for instance.

Morgan acknowledged that in post-secondary schools, plagiarism is grounds for expulsion. But she said there are ways to teach students not to plagiarize that don’t involve grades.

The committee is also recommending fewer formal report cards.

Currently, teachers issue three formal report cards each year. Under the new guidelines, that would be cut down to one, with an increase from two to five informal reports.

Those informal reports could include meetings between the student, teacher and parents, a written report from the teacher, or a portfolio of the student’s work.

Morgan said more informal reporting will give parents a better sense of how their child is doing throughout the year.

According to the recommendations, at least one parent-teacher meeting each school year will be mandatory. But Jill Mason, president of the Yukon Teachers’ Association, said that could be a problem.

Mason said the teachers’ association hasn’t been consulted on the new guidelines, despite asking repeatedly. The association only received the report when it was made public March 16.

She said that currently, teachers meet with parents if they request it. But asking a teacher with four classes of 25 students each to meet with 100 sets of parents every year is a huge extra burden.

“Obviously, had we been consulted on that, we would have brought that point forward,” she said.

The committee also recommended teachers focus on “curricular competencies” as well as content — skills in communication, thinking and social interaction, for instance.

Morgan said universities have noticed that many students struggle with study and organization skills, and this change is an attempt to address that. Students will also be completing self-assessments.

As to whether the changes will make it easier for students to get good grades, Morgan said the goal is simply to make students “really engaged in their learning.”

“For me, I think the journey through school is very individualized to each student,” she said. “Some love school and it works for them, and others, the system doesn’t really work for them.”

The new assessment guidelines are also supposed to incorporate First Nations’ cultural practices, but Morgan said those details still have to be worked out.

She said the proposed changes are “very similar” to changes made in British Columbia.

The new guidelines are meant to complement the Department of Education’s new curriculum, to be rolled out over the next two school years.

Yukon schools will be phasing in the new guidelines over the next two years. The department will collect feedback before finalizing the new assessment process after the 2018-19 school year.

For now, Yukoners are asked to complete an online survey about the changes by April 12. The survey is available at http://www.education.gov.yk.ca/Assessment-survey.html.

Contact Maura Forrest at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

26 Comments

graduatedoutsideyukon wrote:
7:37pm Sunday April 2, 2017

How in the heck does removing letter grades and less feedback make sense? If we are to grow as a society, we need a system that pushes those that need pushing and gives way to those who aspire with natural motivation.  Pushing/aspiring just beyond our comfort zone is how we learn and improve our skills.  It’s a real disservice to our students and the country to have an education system that effectively eliminates teacher accountability and caters to the least motivated in the classroom!  The ultimate stakeholders here are the students, they are our future, let’s not forget that!  Our youth need to be prepared for the real world -at some point the transfer payments will be capped or eliminated, the future is scary if Yukon doesn’t get its head out of the sand and start growing up!

Central Scrutinizer wrote:
10:49am Friday March 31, 2017

Yes, we went from 2 ADMs to 4.  Now we have twice as much “innovation” happening so these “senior education officials” can justify their lofty salaries.  Education is ridiculously top-heavy in Yukon compared to everywhere else in Canada. We need to stop this madness and redirect funds spent on fixing what isn’t broken to the schools so they can offer higher quality programming - particularly in the skilled trades.

To “Frustrated”:  The Union is just being realistic. To make it mandatory for one meeting to occur with each parent will not be a problem for teachers. It will, however be a problem for parents. I can guarantee you that.  Teachers rarely see the whites of the eyes of parents who really need to meet with them about their children.

This is just part of the endless cycle of change for the sake of change in education - which inevitably means throwing money away. Remember the failed “open school” experiment of the 60’s - early 70’s?  Yeah.  Let’s build a school without walls and then pay to put the walls in after the fact. This is more of the same.

Education needs to be revamped, but from the top down. Before we go changing the evaluation standards for primary/secondary students we need to look hard at post-secondary education and what is required by those institutions. We also need to understand that only a fraction of our students are headed for those institutions. We need to address the shortage of skilled tradespeople and stop stigmatizing those high-paying honorable professions. We need to seriously consider adopting the way education is done in countries like Germany, where students are “streamed” into academic or technical paths by the age of 15 or 16.

Twenty two wrote:
7:11am Thursday March 30, 2017

Just ridiculous!  Who comes up with these idea’s and who sits around telling them what a great idea.  What’s wrong with knowing the grade you get?

SpeedySnail1 wrote:
8:37pm Wednesday March 29, 2017

I think Morgan gave me a C in literature- something about having lack of insight. Well Morgan you get an F for your lack of foresight.

Groucho d'North wrote:
10:49am Tuesday March 28, 2017

Perhaps then the teachers should be evaluated and given a ranking each year in how well they do their jobs? The department could take an average of how well their students progress and through some comparative analysis arrive at a ranking that compares these teachers against their peers. Because as we all know some teachers are better than others-  yet it is the students that will pay the price down the road for a school system that does not seek continual improvement.  For some it was a calling that got them into teaching, for others its just a job with good pay and plenty of perks. How do you tell the difference between them?

Fredia wrote:
4:46pm Monday March 27, 2017

This is so wrong!  I’m glad our kids graduated and have gone on to lucrative careers.  It would have been much more difficult if they had studied under this regime.

RowdyR wrote:
10:48am Friday March 24, 2017

Wow. Don’t even know where to begin. To quote Mr. “T”: “I pity da fool.” In this case, I pity da fools (Yukon kids), who are clearly getting second-rate elementary and secondary level education. It is they, not the Department of Ed’s policy-ocrats and the teachers brainwashed by our ludicrous Canadian education faculties, who are suffering - and who will apparently continue to suffer - the results of this incremental insanity.

Yukoner wrote:
8:06am Friday March 24, 2017

Morgan is now ADM in Education? Looked into this and found that Education went from 2 ADMs to 4 in a couple of years. 4 ADMs for what? This? The spending of this department for inflated salaries and catered meetings is incredible. Yukon News, maybe you want to look into that.

iceberg wrote:
6:15pm Thursday March 23, 2017

The best reason to get rid of letter grades is to make it all but impossible to hold Yukon Education accountable for the outcomes as there will be nothing to compare.  A letter grade system is not perfect but one where there are no benchmarks is hardly a move in the right direction and should make us all question what kind of leadership exists in that Dept. The letter grade would be “F” from my perspective.

Mark wrote:
5:44pm Thursday March 23, 2017

Here’s a better idea…..Pay the teachers by the quality of students they produce. If the kid ends up useless in the real world,the teachers involved get a gold star for effort.Or maybe a particpation trophy. Whoever came upwith this idea should be fired and no gold star for him/her.

Riptide wrote:
11:27am Wednesday March 22, 2017

What a stupid idea. However considering the other ones made recently, sadly, it’s not really a surprise. All I can say is thank God my siblings and immediate family have already gotten out of the school system here, and that there’ll be plenty of time to fix this before my friends kids start to enter it.

This will make more entitled children wrote:
9:56am Wednesday March 22, 2017

add this to the list of reasons I’m happy i’ll never have children.  I used to LOVE getting report cards.  Getting good grades made me self satisfied.  Getting less than great grades made me aware that I need to focus my attention to those to do better.

It’s no different these days then letting every kid on to every team because you don’t want to offend this little guy. 

Remember, these kids are the future and will be running the world.  I’m very afraid for the future.

Not drinking the kool-aid wrote:
10:17pm Tuesday March 21, 2017

What’s next?  Replacing writing with interpretative dance?

Worried for the future wrote:
10:00pm Tuesday March 21, 2017

First they scrap exams, and now they want to scrap letter grades?  This has become such wishy washy hocus pocus.  Morgan says giving letter grades in grade 8 is “making a value statement.. too soon… that can interrupt the learning” - um, no it isn’t.  It’s called preparing you for the real world.  Employers and colleges don’t hand out gold stars for effort.  We need to let students practice working in the system that is awaiting them after high school, and that means exams and grades.  Protecting kids for too long is doing them a disservice… and are letter grades really something from which teenagers need to be protected?

I am sorry for the students we are letting down.

Please stop this foolishness, Department of Education.  We need to help Yukon students compete in a world outside of this bubble of incompetence that you are clearly in.

Lost in the Yukon wrote:
5:21pm Monday March 20, 2017

Great idea ... now people like Ms. Morgan don’t have to be accountable by any objective standard for how well students are prepared for the world. Let’s just create a happiness scale and have teachers do all they can not to upset students. Everyone gets a trophy! This educator has risen beyond her capabilities and should have stayed teaching gym. Parents should be outraged.

ProScience Greenie wrote:
5:03pm Monday March 20, 2017

Millions spent employing senior education bureaucrats and all they do is copy what BC does. It looks like a serious housecleaning is needed.

With this grading thing they might as well just scrap it all K-12 as it is going to happen anyways. Get ready for more and more students requiring upgrading to get a real education so they can make it into university, real colleges and the real world.

Learning about First Nations’ history and culture pre and post European contact is vital but care must be taken when incorporating FN or any other peoples cultural practices into our education system that the very important separation between religion and state is not eroded.

another parent wrote:
1:21pm Monday March 20, 2017

One report card a year is not enough… no accountability with “informal” reports. This is a terrible idea. Good job to the News for reporting about this important issue… to bad the other paper could care less.

Brian wrote:
9:33am Monday March 20, 2017

So basicly if we want our children to succeed we need Home School them and send them off to a private school to achieve university exceptance grades.
  I could understand dumbing down our children if we had factory’s surrounding us that needed employees. Or if we were a third world and only had 1 teacher for 60 kids.
  This is Canada and a first world nation, we have people coming here for a better life. Why are we doing this to our future generations?
  I think it has a lot to do with the Anti-Bully programs. Then has just escalated to this where if we slow the smart ones, every kid will be the same.
  I hoped that by dropping mentally disabled pupils into a functioning classroom does not effect the students who can achieve. But it is not appearing so.
  Looks like some of us achievers better get into politics and start putting money where it counts.
  Where’s the tax revenue from the legalized Marijuna Prime Minister Trudeau?
 

Not impressed wrote:
8:38pm Sunday March 19, 2017

It’s wonderful that the department actually provided the draft report for public comment however 82 pages is a little bit much for the average reader, no matter how interested we are.  A 10 page summary would be appreciated by many patents. 

I think this lowers the expectations and standards of students and staff.  Your department is bragging about how well Canada is doing in comparison to the rest of the world.  I think you have considerable work ahead of you to convince parents that this is the transition that Yukon needs.

Jonathan Colby wrote:
10:35am Sunday March 19, 2017

So, instead of a 10 point scale which can more precisely reflect any quantitative assessment taking place, we get a 3 point scale and a vague promise of meetings mayve if the YTA agrees it’s not a burden?

This is stupid beyond stupid. Why would you intentionally reduce the accuracy on paper without ensuring that it can be maintained elsewhere?

Roan wrote:
5:58pm Saturday March 18, 2017

No that is a foolish idea. If you aren’t judged compared to your peers you will not succeed in life at large. I’m against the motion.

Dropout wrote:
4:26pm Saturday March 18, 2017

takes away the departments accountability to ensure education in Yukon is meeting the levels required in the rest of the world ”  all students in Yukon are somewhat meeting our ambiguous expectations” .....

Alan wrote:
2:33pm Saturday March 18, 2017

Galileo proposed that the earth revolved around the sun. Astronauts have definitely proved that. But here we have senior Yukon educators telling us that the sun orbits around these extraordinary students!
These poor snowflakes will not be prepared for future studies or employment when they inevitably encounter disappointment and failure.

Josey Wales wrote:
3:01pm Friday March 17, 2017

Yeah great, dig a hole and set the bar in that?
At least it will be easier to bury their indoctrination failures.

Russ Hobbis wrote:
2:50pm Friday March 17, 2017

We are striving for mediocrity, teach to the lowest common denominator lets create an even more pathetic generation than the hipsters we are suffering with. Some people are smarter more driven to achieve, goals are are good thing striving for excellence is the human condition, competition is needed. As a society to are way to concerned about hurting feelings or bruised egos enough is enough.

Frustrated wrote:
2:35pm Friday March 17, 2017

ONE meeting a year with parents is too much for the teachers union? ONE?

Report cards are at best 3-4 detached sentences on each subject. They are also largely ‘copy and paste’ from student to student. Nothing will help a child succeed in education more than parent(s) who are fully engaged with their learning experience. But the union thinks once-a-year meetings is too much?

Maybe drop a PD day or whatever but take the time to meet the parent(s). Schools need to be accountable to their users just like every other public service.

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