Local Catholic, Public boards nixing high school exams this year

Students will still be assessed, just in less traditional methods than before

Some good news for high school students this year, after the region’s public and Catholic school boards have opted to do away with traditional exams this year.

The decision was made at both the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB) and the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) this week, after the offer was extended by the Ministry of Education. “Students in this province, they can feel overwhelmed, there’s a high level of anxiety and stress,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce Thursday.

While there will not be a defined exam period, Catherine McCullough, Interim Director of Education for the SMCDSB says students will still have to prove they’ve retained some knowledge. “Assessment doesn’t just happen at exam time, assessment is cumulative. So it happens all the way throughout the semester,” she told Barrie 360 over the phone Friday. “So there will be robust assessment that’s occurred all throughout, we’re quite confident it will certainly capture the learning and capture the summary of the learning for all of our students.”

McCullough says this shake-up to the school year is typical of 2020. “We’ve had to be nimble, we’ve had to change, we’ve had to revise the way we do some things. And allowing the opportunity for there to be a different kind of assessment approach this year is all part of that same package.”

Dawn Stephens, Superintendent of Education for the SCDSB, says foregoing traditional exams also makes sense in general, not just during a pandemic. “The purpose of assessment being to improve student learning. So how are we providing feedback to our students? How are we allowing them multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning? The old, you know, sort of sense of what a traditional formal exam was, didn’t really allow for that.”

“There’s still a need for students to understand proper test-taking skills to understand how to prepare for tests,” added Stephens. “Life has tests, when we write a driver’s exam, for instance. So we still will have that as part of our assessment, but it will just be one of the many tools that we will use.”