Yukon schools to scrap letter grades up to Grade 9

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

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 www.education.gov.yk.ca/Assessment-survey.html.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker plead guilty to offences under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Couple who broke isolation rules to get vaccines in Beaver Creek fined $2,300

Crown and defence agreed on no jail time for Rod and Ekaterina Baker

X
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for June 16, 2021.… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)
COVID-19 outbreak surges to 50 active cases in the Yukon

Officials urge Yukoners to continue following guidelines, get vaccinated

Team Yukon during the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse. (Submitted/Sport Yukon)
Whitehorse will bid for 2027 Canada Winter Games

Bid would be submitted in July 2022

File Photo
The overdose crisis, largely driven by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil was the topic of an online discussion hosted by Blood Ties Four Directions Centre and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition on June 8 and 10.
Discussion of overdose crisis in Yukon leaves participants hopeful for future

The forum brought together people including some with personal drug use and addiction experience.

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

For the second year running, the Yukon Quest will not have 1,000 mile race. Crystal Schick/Yukon News
The Yukon Quest will be two shorter distance events instead of a 1,000 mile race

After receiving musher feeback, the Yukon Quest Joint Board of Directors to hold two shorter distances races instead of going forward with the 1,000 mile distance

Western and Northern premiers met this week to discuss joint issues. (Joe Savikataaq/Twitter)
Premiers meet at Northern Premiers’ Forum and Western Premiers’ Conference

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq virtually hosted both meetings this year

The sun sets over Iqaluit on Oct. 26, 2020. Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle school came from household transmission and the risk to other students is low. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Iqaluit school’s contacts and classmates cleared after two COVID-19 cases

With an outbreak ongoing in Iqaluit, the Aqsarniit middle school has split students into two groups

An extended range impact weapon is a “less lethal” option that fires sponge or silicon-tipped rounds, according to RCMP. (File photo)
Whitehorse RCMP under investigation for use of “less lethal” projectile weapon during arrest

Police used the weapon to subdue a hatchet-wielding woman on June 4

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents.
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

The move comes in response to a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015

Teslin Lake is one of two bodies of water the Yukon Government has place on flood watch. (Google Maps Image)
Flood watch issued for Teslin Lake, Yukon River at Carmacks

The bodies of water may soon burst their banks due to melting snow and rainfall

Most Read