On October 12, 2010 our government released an article called “More students achieve excellence in provincial testing” In the article it says
“Excellence refers to students who demonstrate a mastery of the core subject material. Acceptable refers to students who demonstrate an understanding of the subject material.”
While another part explains,
“Results of the provincial achievement tests and diploma exams are a key element of Alberta Education’s Accountability Pillar, which places emphasis on achieving outcomes, reporting results and using results as the basis for improving programs and student results in subsequent years.”
I wanted to further investigate this level of mastery. Some of my colleagues informed me that they must teach at “light speed” to ensure all of their students have a chance of achieving a level of mastery in the course when they write the mandated diploma exam. After some simple counting I realized that in Biology 20 there are 91 outcomes while in Biology 30 there are 117 outcomes. In our province, there are approximately 94 school days.
Now some simple math using the biology 30 outcomes:
The Bio 30 teachers I have spoken to spend the equivalent of 8 classes for exams and quizzes, 4 classes for reviewing for preparation for in class exams, and finally 5 days to prepare for the government diploma exam. Therefore, out of 94 school days, there is actually only 77 days for learning.
117 outcomes in 77 days and the government actually use the word “mastery”? Or are the amount of mandated outcomes the equivalent of the the amount of boxes on the cart in the picture above?
If we put the same level of importance on each outcome then each biology 30 teacher can only spend 0.65 of one class on each outcome. If a class is 84 minutes long this equates to 55 min for each outcome in the course. Simple question now, are we really supposed to believe that in 55 minutes a student can truly “master” a concept and demonstrate this level of mastery on an exam that places emphasis on achieving outcomes and reporting results?
Something has to give! Our government needs to stop giving teachers such large scripts to follow in our class to ensure learning has occurred. Should we be digging deeper or skimming the surface?