By Jo-Ann Connolly
Plea to parents and educators,
As a grade 6 teacher who has just finished correcting provincial math exams, I am convinced that our government has taken the wrong path in evaluating knowledge that our children in Quebec society have grasped through our educational system. The exam is divided into 8 parts, with one large situational problem and 6 shorter applications.There is also a traditional multiple choice and quick answer booklet.
There is no sound pedagogy in what the government is requesting from 11 and 12 year olds. The applications took anywhere from 1 to 1 and a half hours, rather than the 20 to 30 minute time limit the government wanted. The situational took 2 days rather than the 1 to 2 and a half hours.The children could not do this on their own, despite discussion beforehand to clarify exactly what was being requested of them. The government is asking them to work in isolation on a budget proposal scenario which frankly is irrelevant for most children, and the steps involved are too complex. Most twelve year olds do not hold the purse strings in their families. They are lucky if they have an allowance. Parents buy the necessities and children in poor neighbourhoods have never handled money. They may be able to find percents and calculate tax on an item when we scaffold the activities, but they have no idea what budgets and proposals are about.The applications are too long and the language is such that the child does not even know what is being asked.
The government is not providing our children with appropriate evaluation tools. The cost of these exams is very high. We have trouble justifying photocopying in our schools, yet the government sees fit to spend an enormous amount of money on useless evaluation tools. The data which school boards think they are collecting is also useless because most teachers help their students, especially at the elementary level. We do not set the children up for failure. The amount of help will depend on each school and its clientele, and there is pressure in some schools for the results to be high, as these results are being used in school success plans. Teachers hands are tied. We cannot not help the children, and our past complaints about the exams have fallen on deaf ears.
Children are obliged to deal with anxiety and fatigue, and their stamina is worn down by the tedious nature of these exams. Many children breakdown, cry, give up or become ill during this examination period. Teachers waste valuable classroom time preparing students for this exercise in futility. We cannot finish the curriculum because of this wasted time. Do we really wish our population to end its elementary career in this emotionally distraught state? What are we giving as a message to our future population by setting them up for failure? Do we really think that this will encourage students to take science and math in high school and beyond? We need exams that will be an overview of the elementary curriculum. Cover the content, let us identify weaknesses so that the high schools will have an idea of where to scaffold. Limit the exam to a maximum of 2 hours. We do not ask high school students to write such exams. Stop the writing of these exams for the sake of our children.
I urge parents and educators to sign the petition and help us change this absurd policy.
Jo-Ann Connolly Boutin
Grade 6 teacher