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RVS petitions government for optional diploma exams

Rocky View Schools trustees are writing to the Province asking for Grade 12 diploma exams to again be optional.

Grade 12 provincial diploma examinations may be optional for public school students in Rocky View County again this year.

During the regular board meeting Sept. 23, Rocky View Schools (RVS) Board of Trustees motioned to write a letter requesting Grade 12 provincial diploma examinations be made optional for the 2021-22 school year.

Ward 6 trustee for Cochrane and board chair Fiona Gilbert said that with the air of uncertainty in RVS schools, it would not be fair to require mandatory diploma examinations this school year.

“There’s [still] so much our high school kids and teachers are dealing with that I think this is a good motion moving forward,” she said. “Hopefully our government will listen and hear the voice of school boards.”

Ward 4 Trustee Norma Lang said the Provincial government's decision to reinstate mandatory exams following the “Open for Summer” enthusiasm felt early.

“A return to normal hasn’t entirely transpired the way I think at the beginning of the summer we expected it might,” Lang said. “What we’re actually seeing is a continuation of disruption, so I think that it’s unfair to students [and] staff to put that kind of pressure on in a year that is shaping up with disruption.”

Ward 3 Trustee Todd Brand, who put forward the motion, said he hopes a letter will prompt the provincial government to take action in the coming weeks, in fairness to students who may still be struggling mentally with the pandemic.

He added that Grade 12s have not written final exams of any kind since the pandemic began, and may not be prepared to write such a “high-stakes” examination this year.

“Learning how to write examinations is something that takes practice [and] preparation,” he said. “This, to me, is a completely unfair demand on Grade 12s and teachers as well that need to somehow make up for all of that lost time in preparation.”

Brand, who was previously a teacher, added teachers work with students in Grade 12 to prepare them for diploma examinations, beginning at the end of Grade 10 and continuing on through Grade 11. That preparation culminates in students who are well-prepared for the end-of-term exams.

“These exams, when they count for 30 per cent of a student’s grade, are highly significant,” he said. “I clearly do not think [this] is a fair expectation and [I’m] hoping that our government will listen to us and many other school boards who I believe have a similar viewpoint on this as well.”