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Image courtesy WikiMediaFoundation.org, via GNU documentation license.According to a recent Vancouver Sun article – We’re told to go easy on students, B.C. teachers say – school principals are ordering teachers to ensure good grades to students, even if it means never giving a zero on an assignment or allowing a student to take a test as many times as necessary to achieve a passing grade.

According to author Janet Steffenhagen, school principals across British Columbia have embraced “Assessment for Learning”, the outcome of which, teachers say, is an undermining of teachers’ autonomy over their classrooms.

Editor’s note: I pride myself on my Google Fu (prowess with successfully using Google to answer questions and gain knowledge), but googling “ “assessment for learning”, I was unable to find a link that defines it in the context of this article, so I linked to the google search itself, and you, dear reader, can draw your own conclusions.

What do I think? Well, I’m not well-versed on the politics of education, but I’ll weigh in with a couple of points. First, I think it’s ridiculous to never give a zero (as ridiculous as never giving perfect marks, a policy I came up against often in high school ;-).) Second, I am not so sure about re-taking tests.

Yes, there are some professions where getting it perfect or near-perfect the first time is critical. But it’s not the defining characteristic of successful work in general. There are lots of professions, even responsible, highly-paid ones, where the end result is the critical element, not how you got there. For instance: If I’m being taught by someone (yeah, I’m laughing at the irony of this example), I don’t care whether it took them 50 minutes or 50 hours to learn what they’re teaching me – I only care how well they are able to pass on what they know.

So, should the student who takes three tries to get 90 on a test enjoy the same advantages as the student who got it right the first time? No, I don’t think so. But it’s actually fairly easy to tweak the system to ensure the best students are still rewarded. I’m sure I’m not the first person to suggest this, but if I were to implement a system of re-taking tests, I would assess a 5% compounding penalty for each re-take. So if a student got 45% on the first test, took it again and got 55%, s/he would be given a 50 on the test (55%-5%). If they took it again and got 65%, they’d get 55% because they’d be dinged 10%, 5 for each of two tries.

That’s the end of my input, although I’m sure the issue itself is nowhere near over. What do you think?



Report Card – Ms Steffenhagen’s education blog on Canada.com

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