Whistler high school students to write shortened exams June 24 

Province mandates changes to provincial exams as dispute with teachers continues

BY DAVE BUZZARD
  • By Dave Buzzard

Grade 10 and 11 students at Sea to Sky high schools will be writing shortened versions of their English and Social Studies exams today, June 24.

And it's likely hundreds of students will receive no report cards this year, as providing them was not ruled an essential service in the on-going dispute between the government and teachers.

The change, initiated by the provincial ministry of education, is affecting students across B.C. and is a result of concern about having enough qualified markers for the exams.

Sea to Sky district superintendent Lisa McCullough said there are enough qualified markers in this region for the shortened versions.

Students will be "walked carefully" through the changes...before the exams begin, she said June 23.

"My main message to students... is that it will be a very relaxed atmosphere. We do not want the students to be stressed about it.

"Students should not be rattled by this."

The district was only able to share the changes after hearing from the ministry late on Monday afternoon.

The bussing schedule will stay the same and students will stay in the exam rooms for the first hour. It is expected that many students will finish the exam more quickly than usual, but they will be allowed to use the whole three-hour time slot if they would like.

McCullough explained that the longer written potions of the exams are being modified — for example the longer written response on the English 10 exam will not be part of the test.

Students will be able to write the missed portions of the exams in November should they wish to.

Condensed report cards will be completed for Grades 10 and 11 and 12.

"For students in these grades, we will be distributing condensed Report Cards including your child's attendance, final course percentages and final letter grades," said McCullough in an email.

"If your student's teacher was an administrator, you will also receive a work habit and teacher comment. Your school principal will contact you to outline your school's Report Card distribution process. We are hoping to have Report Cards ready for distribution between Monday, June 30, 2014 and Friday, July 4, 2014."

It isn't clear how distance learning courses currently in progress, or planned for the summer, will be affected by the ongoing dispute.

"Should picketing continue throughout the summer, we will need to suspend any instruction via our on-line courses and will recommence as soon as possible following resolution of the labour dispute," said McCullough in an email.

All Grade 8 and 9 students will only receive a letter from the school principal indicating a child's promotion statement and reiterating that his/her year-end progress information will be provided in some format following resolution of the labour dispute.

At the elementary level many students will receive their report cards as many teachers had already completed them prior to the walkout.

For those who have not received a report card the school principal will send out letters indicating the students promotion to the next grade.

"We are hoping to have any reports ready for distribution between Monday, June 30, 2014 and Friday, July 4, 2014," said McCullough. "We realize how important reporting is to parents. If you do not receive a Report Card, your principal will inform you as soon as we are able to have teachers confirm each child's year end information."

B.C.'s teachers launched their province-wide strike last week, after 16 months of failed negotiations. Currently the two sides are within one per cent on their wage offers, with the government offering seven per cent over six years, while the BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF) wants eight per cent over five years. The BCTF wants a $5,000 per teacher signing bonus and the government is offering $1,200.

The BCTF also wants a $225 million annual fund to hire new teachers and deal with class size and composition issues, after winning a B.C. Supreme Court case earlier this year that said the government had illegally stripped the right to bargain class size and composition issues from the teachers' contract in 2002.

The union wants another $225 million fund to deal with retroactive grievances by members, as well as to pay for improved medical benefits, professional development and preparation time.

The government is offering to continue a $75 million Learning Improvement Fund.

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