By Chris Kennedy, Superintendent of Schools
If the only constant is change, schools, parents and students will be in good company this fall, as the province moves to the next phase in a planned transition to the revised curriculum.
When I wrote to parents to inform them about the Ministry’s announced changes around exams recently, I mentioned that we have been expecting these shifts: they are a necessary step for students who will be moving through these grades as the curriculum changes, since content will naturally be evolving during the next two transition academic years.
As with any change, there is both opposition and support for the move among educators, students and parents, but I am pleased to report that opinion is not as polarized on this issue as many expected. On the pro-exam/sorting side, I’ve heard and written about some of these issues including:
- Exams ensure that students across the province have a consistent measure of their performance;
- Exams are used at the university level, so final exams in high school are good practice;
- They ensure that teachers fully cover the curriculum;
On the negative side:
- Exams can focus teachers and students on memorizing content, rather than on learning skills and processes;
- Exams can increase the dropout rate for vulnerable students;
- There are other forms of assessment, like projects, writing samples and classroom tests that are more effective measurements of a student’s understanding.
As I wrote in my blog post last year, the opportunity that changing assessment and curriculum offers for educators to work together is but one of the many benefits that has not been adequately captured by the conversations and coverage I’ve seen on this issue. It is an important conversation and this process allows us the time to work together for common solutions that benefit all stakeholders.
These are important conversations, not only for educators, who are key to both curriculum design and assessment, but also for our parents, students and administrators. In West Vancouver, we have been working hard to develop a range of assessments that will offer more, not less information about student learning. This began with a pilot project in Kindergarten last year and continued this year with new ways of communicating student learning in Grade 4.
But the conversation will necessarily be broadened as we move to include intermediate and senior grades in 2016/2017 and 2017/2018. The province will be asking parents for their input, and we will do the same, to develop a system-wide view to the topic of report cards and communicating student learning. Your input will be a critical part of developing a West Vancouver solution to provincial changes on reporting, and we want as many voices as possible at this important time.
Next fall, we will be rolling out a lot more opportunities to connect with us, to tell us what you’d like to know about student progress, and how you’d like to receive it. This feedback, along with information we will collect from students and teachers, will help inform the shifts we make in 2017 and beyond.
It has been a wonderful year, full of celebration and innovation in our classrooms and community. We wish every family and all of our staff a very pleasant summer, and look forward to welcoming back new and returning families in September.
Chris Kennedy, Superintendent of Schools