Monday, June 2, 2008

English Provincial Exams - They are a changin!

Ladies and Gentleman,

Welcome to the age of technology as it applies to the Grades 10-12 English Provincial Exams!

At one time, students could rely on the fact that their hands would get terribly sore while writing the final tests of their year. Undoubtedly our happy pupils would fret, mostly because they would run out of the time prescribed - before they were able to complete their tasks. The inability to complete the tests usually had less to do with content or confusion, and more to do with 'Mano Dexterity Deficit Syndrome'. This highly infectious condition has grown in popularity since the advent of computers. Today, the largest proportion of high school students notice symptoms of the condition increasing towards the end of January or during the middle of June. This malady often coincides with final exams, but it also manifests itself in students who have an abundance of unfinished assignments or projects yet to be handed in to their beloved instructors.

Parents need not worry, as the condition applies only to students who are currently enrolled in programs in which essays or paragraph writing is required in order to pass a course. Fortunately for the students it does disappear intermittently; particularly while students are seated in front of their favorite computer games. These medicinal games may include the likes of: Age of Empire, World of WarCraft, Heavenly Sword or Call of Duty. This is not an exhausted list by any means, and there are plenty of these miracle cures available.

For many years, I have heard students tell me that they thought the Provincial Exams should be done exclusively by computer. Well my friends, their dreams are quickly becoming a reality. In fact, as early as the April 2008 sitting of the English 12 Provincial Exam, some students in Chilliwack took their first exams via the computer.

And the results are mixed.

Since most educators have not experienced many computer based exams as of yet, it will be interesting to see how tests delivered in this manner will affect the overall performance of our kids.

As an educator, I have found that some students loved it - while others unfortunately found it very confusing.

One student remarked that it was "difficult to toggle between screens". He felt that if he moved around amongst the pages, he would lose the work he had already done. Since time is of the essence on the exam, whether paper based or via technology, his fear was entirely reasonable. The most difficult thing to regulate as a student is time. Students remarked that because the format felt unfamiliar to them, and because they had no practice in their perspective classes at high school, that it was even more arduous than the tests were in their former state. People often say "be careful of what you ask for..........". It seems that this is true with this situation as well. The learning curve applies to all students at all grade levels. It takes time to perfect any skill, and although writing perfection is not mandatory to pass grade 12, it is relevant enough that when a student needs to show an outside entity that they can perform the tasks necessary for graduation that they can do so, without the outside complications of "toggling" difficulties. It is difficult enough to concentrate on the multitude of test required to pass with marks sufficient enough to secure a standing in a university, without the learning curve of our untested, barely tried and possibly detrimental test modual tested on our kids.

My concern is this:

Currently the statistics regarding overall performance of the students who take the English 12 Provincial Exam are low. Overall, the figures range from the lower 50's to the middle 70's across the board. I have attached a link to the Fraser Institutes portfolio of school achievement as a reference. Regardless of the mixed messages associated with the report, one thing is still clear. Our kids are struggling with an English grade that represents 40% of their final marks. As every parent knows, this figure translates and/or represents the future for some of these kids. It is true that students are offered the oportunity to retake the test. However, most of kids will never retake it. They are happy to have completed it once! Nevertheless, it is not convenient for a secondary sitting for most. If our kids today take the computerized version, deal with the awkwardness of it, and lose marks as a direct result of the test flaws, can we assume that students can get another proverbial kick at the can? Will these results be altered if the majority of these kids succumb to the learning curve and lose precious marks because they were not expecting to do it in the format presented to them?

For a complete list of the district and individual school report cards visit:

I want your kids to succeed. I want your kids to understand what it is that is in front of them. In many ways, the advantages of the computer are indisputable. But in many others, they offer question. Many of these kids have been practicing the exam with a piece of paper and a black felt pen. Some students have had plenty of practice in class, while others have had little to none. Many of these kids will not pass this test - simply because of the unfamiliarity of its delivery.

I urge you to talk to your kids, and let them see what they are up against. This June, many schools will offer the English Provincials by computer. Before your kids are subject to this new way of grading their skills, have a peek at the Ministry of Educations home page, and have them surf it. Take a look, and prepare them. Their best defence is knowing what they are up against.

Graduation hasn't changed. For as long as I can remember, tests have had to be taken. But fortunately, these days there are better ways to combat change.

Have a look at the test samples currently available. There are no costs asssociated with this webpage and anyone can access most of the information. A majority of our kids already know about this page but as a parent, you may find it really useful.

I am the Right Choice Educational Programs and Tutoring Services. I am independant of all affiliations. I invite you to visit my web page. See if there is something of interest there for you or your kids.

I am a teacher, yes. But first, I am a parent. My son turned 16 in October of last year, and he will be taking many Provincial Exams in a variety of disciplines as he closes in on his final days of high school. My concern for him is primary. I am sure that we share the same concerns for our kids education. We may not be able to keep up with the changes we experience with our kids, but you can make the right choice today.

Be well and take care,


No comments: