Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss grade inflation, student stress and the problems with Quebec’s curriculum with James Mennie of the Montreal Gazette, sitting in for CJAD’s Tommy Schnurmacher:
By Jim Wilson,
QPAT’s Provincial Council provides you with the opportunity to address issues, some of which I raised in an earlier open letter. I was pleased to see the Liaison provided an updated history of QPAT/PAPT. Why are the English Catholic teachers [PACT] completely omitted from the QPAT story?
Maybe it is an opportunity for you to explain Lombard’s pension deals. What job was he supposedly offered, that in order to retain him, QPAT were, paradoxically, “obliged” to allow him to ‘retire’, so he could collect both his salary and pension, and give him an additional RRSP ‘sweetener’. However, the mystery deepens when Lombard, whilst on leave of absence as a teacher, and working for PAPT/QPAT, managed to change his teacher pension plan to the administrators’ plan. I do not recall this ever been on any union agenda, it must have been an oversight by a president!!! CARRA regulations have changed, preventing administrators from double–dipping, doesn’t QPAT and Lombard need to follow the CARRA rules too?
By Robert Green
A slightly edited version of this Op-ed appeared in the April 25 edition of the Montreal Gazette
Should the grades students receive on their report cards be the product of the professional judgment of those trained in pedagogy and the evaluation of learning or the product of the public relations needs of schools, school boards and the education ministry (MELS)? While most Quebecers would surely prefer to leave the evaluation of learning to the trained professionals, the reality is that since the 2008 passing of Bill 88 report cards are increasingly subject to the corrupting influences of political interests.
This is because Bill 88 makes success rates for schools and school boards all important. The bill obliges both schools and school boards to sign contracts committing them to make measured improvements in specific areas, such as math or literacy scores. The problem for principals and school board administrators is that they are being asked to achieve these goals in a context of ongoing budget cuts. Those with ambition must find creative ways to meet their goals.
The inevitable result is pressure being put on teachers to inflate their marks, or even worse, marks being changed by administrators without the teacher’s consent. The Federation Autonome de L’Enseignment, one of Quebec’s large teacher federations has recently reported this to be a growing problem amongst its members.
Changing the marks given by teachers also happens at the ministry level with secondary four and five courses through two processes ‘moderation’ and ‘conversion’. Ostensibly ‘moderation’ is to address discrepancies between class marks and marks on standardized provincial exams while ‘conversion’ is to address problems with exams deemed to be unfair or invalid in some way. However, the end result is that these two processes grant MELS the ability to fix success rates wherever it wishes, irrespective of the professional judgment of teachers.
In both cases, the perception of the vast majority of teachers is that all this is about lowering standards to meet goals rather than addressing the fundamental problems having to do with under-funding and a provincial curriculum that has never had the support of teachers.
By Enrico Uva,
Grade inflation is common. It knows no borders, occurring in public and private schools, at the elementary level and in Ivy League universities. It is a serious problem, and yet I have rarely heard a frank and open discussion about the matter. Here’s an insider’s look at both the consequences and causes.
A- The Consequences Of Grade Inflation
1. Within elementary and high schools, grade inflation leads to improper placement of students. Kids who have so far displayed only mediocre ability end up in difficult science and mathematics classes. Eventually they get turned off and some develop long lasting hangups towards science, whereas if they had been placed in a more appropriate level, they would have stumbled less and learned more, and they still would have been able to eventually enroll in more rigorous courses.
Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss the pressures to inflate grades that have resulted from Quebec’s Bill 88 with CJAD’s Tommy Shnurmacher:
By Robert Green
The last week has seen some alarming developments with respect to the myopic focus on success rates and standardized test results that has been at the heart of US education reform since the introduction of George Bush’s No Child Left Behind law.
The first development is the indictment of 35 Atlanta educators for their participation in a massive fraud scandal involving teachers and administrators colluding to change answers on standardized tests. The district superintendant Beverly Hill has been charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. She could face up to 45 years in prison. The New York Times quoted teacher and whistle-blower Jackie Parks as stating that “the cheating had been going on so long, we considered it part of our jobs.”
The second development was the release of a survey by The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) indicating that the situation in Atlanta was far from unique. The survey found evidence of score manipulation in at least 37 states. “Across the U.S., strategies that boost scores without improving learning — including outright cheating, narrow teaching to the test and pushing out low-scoring students — are widespread,” said FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “These corrupt practices are inevitable consequences of the politically mandated overuse and misuse of high-stakes exams.”
In its analysis FairTest identifies over 50 ways that schools ‘cheat’ in order to manipulate results on high stakes standardized tests. These include: