BC ending letter grades, despite opposition

British Columbia’s Ministry of Education went ahead with plans to do away with letter grades from kindergarten to Grade 9 despite its own public consultation showing the majority of teachers, students and parents didn’t like the idea.

A 97-page report completed in 2021 for the Education Ministry includes a survey of more than 4,000 people on the government’s new policy, which includes assessing younger students as emerging, developing, proficient or extending, instead of grading them A to F.

Other changes in the policy include a minimum of five updates provided throughout the year, including three in writing, and new requirements for students to assess themselves.

Overall, the document says 69 per cent of people reported being dissatisfied with the policy and only 13 per cent were satisfied, with the highest dissatisfaction rate among teachers at 77 per cent, followed by students at 68 per cent.

More than half the teachers reported low satisfaction when surveyed specifically about the so-called proficiency scale that would replace letter grades, while 60 per cent of parents or caregivers and 83 per cent of students did not like the change.

Sixty per cent of school administrators surveyed said they were highly satisfied with the new scale.

Education Minister Rachna Singh said last week that about half of all public school districts have already tested and adopted the new reporting style during a curriculum modernization that started in 2016, while the rest would implement the change this September.

The minister was not made available for an interview to discuss the decision to go ahead despite the level of dissatisfaction.

In a statement, Singh said report cards will continue to help parents understand their child’s learning and progress.

“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,” the statement says.

“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.”

In a separate statement, the ministry said it met with various organizations as well as parents, teachers and students beginning in 2016 and used the feedback “to strengthen the policy development and gradual implementation of the proficiency scale, including additional planning and co-development of supporting resources.”

“It’s important to note that while report cards might look different, students will still be assessed, tested and evaluated in the classroom like they always have,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2023