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ATA president applauds relaxation of provincial exam time limits

September 12, 2017 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor
Starting this year, Alberta students will have up to six hours to write some Grade 12 diploma exams. (istock photo)

Allowing Alberta students more time to write diploma exams and provincial achievement tests is a positive move, says Greg Jeffery, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

New rules kick in this year that will enable students to spend up to six hours writing some Grade 12 diploma exams and up to four hours writing grades 6 and 9 provincial achievement tests.

Greg Jeffery, ATA President

“We didn’t lobby for this move but we fully support it,” Jeffery said. “The purpose of assessment is for students to demonstrate what they know, and there’s nothing in the curriculum about how quickly they need to do that.”

Diploma exams will continue to be scheduled for 2.5 or three hours, but any student will be able to remain longer without giving advance notice. Previously, students had to request accommodation for medical reasons or other challenges to receive extra exam time.

The change is in response to school authorities who indicated that the processes involved in providing accommodation were time-consuming, expensive and potentially directing resources away from students, said Lindsay Harvey, spokesperson for
Alberta Education.

“The exams are not getting more difficult nor are there more questions – this is one way of giving students the supports they need to show their knowledge of Alberta’s curriculum on provincial assessments.”

After the news was shared on the ATA’s Facebook page, it generated a rigorous exchange of opinions both for and against the change.

“Part of handling the content is learning to handle time restrictions around it. The current three hours is a reasonable amount of time for the exam to be completed,” posted teacher Matt Blahun.

“There's a difference between completing a task properly in a reasonable amount of time, and in an excessive amount of time.”

Teacher Matt Neufeld had a similar opinion.

“Doesn’t this take away from developing the ability to handle stress/manage time to make required deadlines? I'm not against less stressed out students but after high school nobody cares how you’re feeling if you can’t finish your work on time.”

Barb Henker Larochelle was more supportive.

”I would say that most of the stress kids have over the writing tests, especially, is the time limit. Obviously they can't have unlimited time, but producing two complex pieces of writing in three hours is something I always found unreasonable.”

Jeffery acknowledged that there will be logistical challenges for schools but was hopeful that they could be easily resolved.

“Our focus is on what’s best for kids and for learning. Improving the validity of these assessments should make meeting the challenges worthwhile,” he said. ❚

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