Provincial exams changed for Grades 10 and 11

On the eve of three B.C. exams, students learned that the Ministry of Education was dropping essay questions because of teachers’ strike

Students in Grades 10 and 11 sat for provincial exams yesterday, Tuesday, June 24, but the exams were changed to accommodate the teachers’ strike.

The Ministry of Education told school administrators late on Monday that the exams for English 10, Social Studies 11 and Sciences Humaines 11 would have essay questions removed from them. Tuesday was the final day of provincial exams.

“In English 10, there is still a small written response to a reading passage,” said Lynn Hauptman, superintendent of School District 5. “But the big, long creative writing essay was no longer required.”

Exams for Grades 10 and 11 will now be marked by school administrators, rather than teachers who are in the second week of a full strike.

“Some of us haven’t taught those subject areas for many, many years,” said Hauptman. “So (the ministry) wanted to ensure quality of the marking. That’s why they took out that part of it, in terms of ensuring that students were given a fair shake in the marking of their exams.”

Grade 12 exams have not been changed and they will be marked by teachers in the Lower Mainland, as they always are. A ruling by the Labour Relations Board deemed Grade 12 marks as an essential service, meaning teachers are required to do the marking despite the strike.

Students will be able to re-write any provincial exam within one year of sitting the exam, and in November they will be able to re-do the exams with the missing essay questions online.

“If they receive their marks for the exam and wish to see if they can improve it, they can still do that in November,” said Hauptman. “But their mark could either go up if they improve or go down.”

Meanwhile, students from kindergarten to Grade 9 will not receive report cards this summer.

“Because we are in full strike, we can’t produce report cards for Grades K through 9. We may have some marks in there from some teachers but they haven’t had a chance to check or verify them because they are on strike,” said Hauptman.

“Normally it’s our CUPE support staff who develop and print the report cards, and they are honouring the picket line and they’re not at work.”

Instead, Hauptman said she will write a letter to each students’ parents in Grades K through 9 in School District 5, which will contain the students’ attendance record, confirm that the child will progress to the next grade, and explain why report cards cannot be issued.

Marks will be released for students in Grades 10 through 12, under the essential services order. But the report card will contain only an attendance record and school-based final marks; there won’t be any comments.

“Those final grades will also be released to the Ministry of Education for students’ graduation transcripts so that they are accessible by post-secondary institutions,” said Hauptman.

Summer school in School District 5 has been cancelled because administrators don’t know whether the full strike will continue into the summer.

“We need teachers to teach summer school and we are not in a position to hire the teachers for summer school. At this point, we also don’t know whether pickets will continue over the summer; we have not received any official word from BCTF as to whether they will be continuing to picket,” said Hauptman.

Mount Baker Secondary School’s commencement ceremonies are scheduled to take place this Thursday, June 26, and they will continue as planned. The graduation commencement ceremonies will be held at Western Financial Place starting at 5 p.m.

However, instead of grads meeting at Mount Baker to receive their grad gowns and then walking to Western Financial Place, all of the proceedings will take place at Western Financial Place, including mustering and handing out of the gowns.

Although teachers won’t be a part of the ceremonies, they will be able to attend the ceremonies if they wish because it won’t be held on school grounds.

“That way if teachers wish to go there, they still can because it’s not within the school,” said Hauptman.

“The commencement ceremonies are a very important part of every child’s school career. So we have worked with the union to ensure that things could still go forward.”

In Kimberley, Selkirk Secondary School’s commencement ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday, June 29 at the Kimberley Civic Centre at 3 p.m.

Negotiations between the B.C. government and teachers have broken down as the B.C. Teachers Federation heads into the second week of a full-scale strike. Both sides have agreed to hire a mediator to help the bargaining along, but have not yet been able to find a mediator to take on the role.

The union and the province are at loggerheads over wages, class size and composition.

The last day of school for the 2013-2014 year was scheduled to be Thursday, June 26.

Hauptman said that in School District 5, teachers and administration continue to work together to solve problems related to the unprecedented job action.

“We have worked very hard to maintain constant communication with the union, and they with us. I have heard that’s not the case in every district. I am very proud of that fact: that we have been able to continue to work through issues as they have arisen and tried to find ways to arrive at solutions that will benefit our students.

“This is the first time for all of us: we’ve never had this sort of prolonged situation, and never at the end of the year. This is why there have been so many last-minute decisions.”