Ignoring fierce opposition from teachers, parents – and even pupils – British Columbia’s NDP government is abolishing letter grades for all public school students except those in grades 10 to 12.
The government chose to forge ahead despite hosting consultations during which opposition to the letter-grade abolition was fierce.
In lieu of grading with letters A through F, a proficiency scale will assess students as “emerging,” “developing,” “proficient,” or “extending.” The policy will also introduce a new standard by which students can assess themselves.
As reported by The Canadian Press, a 2021 report for the Education Ministry which surveyed over 4000 people found the vast majority disagreed with the policy.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the new policy, including 77% of teachers and 68% of students, while only 13% were satisfied.
When asked specifically about the proficiency scale, more than half of teachers objected to it, as did 60% of parents and caregivers, and 83% of students.
However, 60% of school administrators reported high satisfaction with the scale.
“I feel like I have had a hard time transferring between the two due to how vague the proficiency scale is,” Seventh-grader Keon Shahbaz told Global News. “It seems subjective, the criteria are unclear (and) I feel like it’s been messing me up.
“I found it much easier to distinguish myself from my weaknesses in a classroom where letter grades are reported to you.”
The boy’s mother, Mahta Boozari, said that she was “very upset, concerned and also frustrated,” with the move to replace grading with a proficiency scale.
“The system does not allow for a child’s talent to be recognized. The way it’s designed puts all kids in the middle,” she said.
In addition to criticism from the community, the B.C. NDP’s new policy was criticized by John Rustad, leader of the provincial Conservative Party.
“BC parents and teachers agree, this is absurd,” said Rustad. “The Conservative Party of British Columbia will fight to bring back letter grades in schools. Enough with the woke nonsense in schools, it’s time to bring back common sense and get back to basics.”
B.C. United MLA Elenore Sturko cautioned that the provincial government shouldn’t ignore parental concerns.
“As B.C. schools end letter grades for K-Grade 9, the NDP must listen to growing concerns from parents,” Sturko wrote on Twitter. “With literacy and numeracy outcomes declining, the NDP should focus on ensuring (the B.C. education) system works in the best interest of student outcomes.”
Rachna Singh, Minister of Education and Child Care, defended the proficiency scale in a statement to The Canadian Press.
“The new scale will give deeper insight into children’s learning and development in a range of skills required in post-secondary and their careers of choice,” she said.
“Students in Grades 10 through 12 will continue to receive letter grades and percentages, with support and feedback to help them transition toward post-secondary or the workforce.”
Singh also said last week that the new system had been tested and adopted by half of B.C.’s school districts. Her office noted that it had consulted parents, teachers and students “to strengthen the policy development and gradual implementation of the proficiency scale.”
In an op-ed for The Epoch Times, Fraser Institute Senior Fellow Michael Zwaagstra criticized the move away from standard letter grades, writing, “marks and grades still matter in school because they provide important feedback to students.
“There’s a world of a difference between an essay that merits an ‘A’ and one that deserves an ‘F.’ Teachers are not doing students any favours when they shield them from feedback that they merit and deserve.”
He added that disusing letter grades might appear innovative, but it’s nothing more than an old education fad.
“Marks and grades have been around for a long time because they work. Teachers should keep on giving students their grades. The ungrading movement deserves an ‘F.’”