New junior-high curriculum hurts students

By Jason Herring, February 12 2015 —

This year, junior high schools across Calgary began to follow a teaching curriculum labelled “outcome based reporting.” This new style of grading marks students on a scale from one to four, ranking their performance from “not yet meeting requirements” to “excellent.”

This is a standard incremental grading system, but instead of using percentages, letter grades or GPAs, Calgary schools will use these vague labels.

This system hurts students by leaving them unprepared for the future. While it may not seem like changes at the junior-high level will hurt them when they get to university, it’s during those years that students develop the skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives.

Skills like proper time management and effective studying habits are crucial to long-term success. This new grading system fails to equip students with these abilities.

It’s difficult for students to know how they are doing and how they can improve when they’re evaluated on such a small scale. Unlike a precise percentage grade, when you’re given a grade of a three, it’s uncertain where you stand. Are you closer to a two or a four? Is your work almost “excellent” or are you one mistake away from slipping down to only having a “basic” level of understanding?

Alongside this shift in grading, many schools have eliminated their honour roll. This was done partially to spare the feelings of students who don’t win awards, and partially because the new grading system has no good way of quantifying academic achievement.

My younger brother is in junior high. When I read his report card, I was confused by how often meaningless words like “emerging” and “evident” were used. Instead of giving students practical information on their performance, students and parents are treated to insubstantial and ambiguous descriptions.

Like it or not, the world is a competitive place. The entrance average for the Schulich School of Engineering last year was 89 per cent, and this year it will be higher. In a job interview, the person with the most impressive resume and best interview gets the job.

Sheltering kids from reality only places them at a disadvantage when they’re put into the competitive situations they will inevitably face, both in university and for the rest of their lives.

Everyone deserves an education that prepares them for the world they’re going to live in. Calgary students aren’t getting that.

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