Students have the option to not sit diploma exams this October and November. The Provincial Government moved to make the test optional for students on Oct. 13.
The decision came after many voiced their concerns over writing the exams, including teachers, students and parents.
“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 Minister Adriana LaGrange, minister of Education, in an email.
The Alberta’s Teacher Association (ATA) says the move will help to protect both staff and students.
It was the concern of many education professionals that the stress and expectations associated with the diploma exams would encourage students who were sick and symptomatic to come to school regardless of the rules put in to place.
Jason Schilling, president of ATA, says diploma testing would not be fair to the students and would “not produce reliable results.”
“COVID has created so much uncertainty and anxiety in schools, and many students and staff are missing large chunks of school time as a result of requirements to quarantine or self-isolate,” Schilling said in a statement.
While Schilling applauds the move to make diploma exams optional, he says he would like to see the same consideration made for all provincial exams.
Alberta teachers have been asking for all provincial examinations, including provincial achievement tests in Grades 6 and 9, to be suspended for the school year.
“The priority for this year must be on student wellness and well-being. We would have preferred a clear and definitive decision that took all provincial testing off the table this year, but this is an important first step,” said Schilling.
Aitchison says the Minister of Education is working to ensure families have options for their upcoming exams.
“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,” said Aitchison.
ATA surveyed teachers and found only 10 per cent of educators were in favour of maintaining provincial achievement tests this school year.
Nearly half of those surveyed strongly disagreed with continuing diploma exams in 2020, while only 18 per cent were in support of continuing the exams as normal.
“We will of course continue to monitor how the school year progresses, and make decisions on the remaining exams prior to them being written,” said Aitchison.