Grade 12 fall diploma exams to be optional for Alberta students: Education minister

Grade 12 fall diploma exams to be optional for Alberta students: Education minister

CALGARY —
Alberta’s Ministry of Education confirms the diploma exams scheduled to take place in the coming weeks are no longer mandatory.

The office of Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the exams, which were to be held later this month or in early November, will be optional for Grade 12 students.  

“As we continue to listen to students, parents and education partners, it’s clear that some students may not feel comfortable or be in the best position to write exams at this time,” said Colin Aitchison, press secretary for the office of the minister of education, in a statement to CTV News. “We know these are challenging times, and that’s why we want to ensure students and their parents have the flexibility to make the best decision for their own situation this exam season.

“We will of course continue to monitor how the school year progresses, and make decisions on the remaining exams prior to them being written.”

In a Twitter thread, LaGrange says the decision on whether to write the exams will be at the discretion of students and their parents. If a student elects to write the diploma exam, it will account for 30 per cent of their final mark.

Six of the 13 schools in Calgary’s Catholic school district are impacted by the decision since they are following a quarterly schedule this year, with the first quarter diploma exams taking place in November.

“Our reaction to this message is really positive,” said Bryan Szumlas, Chief Superintendent of CSSD who one week earlier advocated for the province to make diploma exams optional.

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“I work closely with our board of trustees and they will continue to advocate for our government to take into consideration all the realities present for January, April and the June sittings to consider the direction for the future.”

Edmonton’s public school district and student advocacy group, Support Our Students, have urged the province to cancel all provincial achievement tests and diploma exams this school year.

“How relevant are these tests going to be if you have this patchwork approach to them and not everyone’s going to be writing them under the same circumstances,” said Medeana Moussa with Support Our Students.

The province has given school districts the option to cancel provincial achievement tests for grades six and nine in their schools. Calgary’s Catholic school district has decided to cancel them.

Some grade 12 students in that school district are happy to now also get a break during an unprecedented school year.

“I’m really grateful for the exam to be optional,” said John, a grade 12 student at Bishop McNally High School whose family worried that physical distancing may be difficult during a diploma exam.

“Less stress put on my shoulders,” said Dredyn, also in grade 12 at Bishop McNally, who thinks getting rid of mandatory diploma exams is a good idea for the full school year.

Calgary Board of Education schools follow a two semester schedule, with diploma exams in January and June, so students will not be affected by the decision regarding the November exams.

CBE is expected to announce its decision on provincial achievement tests for its grade six and nine students later this week.

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