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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 5, April 2004

BCTF advice: Don’t make provincial marking part of your assignment

The ministry has announced that teachers will mark the long-answer portions of the new Grade 10 and 11 provincial exams for language arts and social studies as part of their regular duties.

This year
This June, the ministry is field-testing the new Grade 10 exams. Although all students currently enrolled in an English 10, a Science 10, or a Mathematics 10 course are required to write the exams, the ministry will mark only 10–15% of the English exams.

This year, it is up to schools whether the field-test marks are used as part of the students’ marks. Teachers who decide to use the field-test exam marks as part of students’ marks, must mark the exams before they send them to the ministry. However, teachers would be ill-advised to use the field-test marks given the draft status of the exams.

The Federation is advising members not to mark any FSA tests or provincial exams locally this spring and not to use the results of the Grade 10 and 11 field-test provincial exams as part of student marks.

Subsequent years
The new language arts and social studies exams have some questions that will be scored electronically, but the long answers (40%) will be marked locally by teachers.

Starting in January 2005, teachers will be required to mark their students’ long answers immediately after the tests are written and to submit the marks to the ministry as part of their regular teaching duties.

The ministry will provide materials, scoring guides, and training and will monitor marking by sampling 10–15% of schools and re-marking the papers in the summer.

Having teachers mark the long-answer parts of the exams will solve two significant problems for the ministry: cost and results turnaround time.

Currently, FSA tests and provincial exams are marked provincially by teachers who are paid for that work above and beyond their teaching salaries. If the ministry is able to get teachers to mark Grade 10 and 11 provincial exams as part of their regular teaching duties, there is nothing stopping the ministry from requiring teachers to mark FSA and Grade 12 exams as part of their regular teaching duties as well. The matter is therefore of urgent concern to many teachers in addition to the language arts and social studies teachers immediately affected.

The Federation is encouraging teachers to express their concerns about this addition to teachers’ duties to the minister and ministry staff, with copies to their locals and to the appropriate PSA.

Tom Christensen, Ministry of Education, PO Box 9045, Stn Prov Govt Victoria, BC V8W 9E2, 250-387-1977, f: 250-387-3200, minister.educ@gems7.gov.bc.ca

Britta Gundersen-Bryden Ministry of Education, PO Box 9045, Stn Prov Govt Victoria, BC V8W 9E2, 250-356-7690, f: 250-387-3682, Britta.GundersenBryden@gems2.gov.bc.ca

Ellen Ellis, president, B.C. Social Studies Teachers’ Association, f: 604-871-2286, psac59@bctf.ca or mail c/o Anita Chapman at the BCTF, 100–550 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4P2.

June James, president, B.C. Teachers of English Language Arts, f: 604-871-2286, psac46@bctf.ca or mail c/o Anita Chapman at the BCTF, 100–550 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4P2.

Exam questions used to sort students The BCTF received a couple of inquiries last fall about why cancer as a topic is no longer included in the table of specifications for the Biology 12 exam. Had the curriculum been revised? No, the curriculum has not been revised. There will still be prescribed learning outcomes on cancer that teachers have to teach and assess. But the topic will no longer appear on the provincial exam. The reason, according to a ministry staffperson, is that "statistics on this item were beginning to demonstrate that all students knew what to expect and did well on the item(s)." In other words, students know what they are supposed to learn, they learn it, and they successfully demonstrate their learning. Surely that is good news. But apparently not from the ministry’s point of view. The ministry staffperson went on to say, "We believe that items...are better selected from areas that still allow for items with acceptable discriminatory value."

We take two messages from this: The provincial exams are more about sorting students than assessing their learning in relation to the whole curriculum, and if you teach an area to mastery and succeed, it will come off the exam.

– Anita Chapman

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