Toronto school board says high school students won’t suffer from lower grades in January

The Toronto District School Board says the policy was introduced because of the struggles students have faced transitioning in and out of virtual learning.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Students and experts say they are pleased Canada’s largest school board will not let lower grades in the latter part of the first semester of this academic year affect high school student grades after the period was disrupted by the latest wave of COVID – 19.

In a note sent to parents on Thursday, the Toronto District School Board said the final grades for high school students would only reflect the work they did through December 17 — the last day of school before winter break. Final assignments students complete in January only count if the results have a positive effect on a student’s grade.

“This means a student’s grade will not drop as a result of end-of-semester evaluations,” the letter reads.

The board said the policy was introduced because of the struggles students have faced transitioning in and out of virtual learning, and to address the possibility of increased absences due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“Students have already completed nearly 90 percent of the semester,” said TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird. “By ensuring grades don’t fall below pre-winter break levels, we’re ensuring that this uncertain period of distance learning with increased numbers of COVID-19-related absences and isolation periods doesn’t negatively impact a student’s final grades . ”

Ontario school boards warn of possible last-minute class cancellations during the COVID-19 wave

Ontario schools brace for staff shortages ahead of Monday’s reopening as Omicron proliferates

In-person learning will resume Monday in Ontario, after the provincial government transitioned to online learning following the peak of COVID-19 cases over the winter break.

Meanwhile, the Niagara District School Board said teachers can use their discretion when it comes to how final assignments affect an overall grade this semester.

“At the Niagara District School Board, work submitted by students in January is included in their final grade; However, educators are encouraged to consider an individual student’s needs, unique circumstances, and how a student has generally demonstrated their learning throughout the semester,” said DSBN spokesperson Carolyn LoConte.

Stephanie Chitpin, a professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education, said the TDSB’s policies are imperative to ensure that students are not negatively affected by their mental health and circumstances beyond their control.

“We put a lot of emphasis on assessment in terms of the final grade, but I think we need to focus on the well-being of our students,” said Prof. Chitpin, who has served as a school principal in the past.

“We should not judge students at the expense of their mental health.”

Supporting students through this period will be more beneficial in the long run than pressuring final assignments or exams, she said.

Maya Raff, a 16-year-old high school student who attends Northern Secondary School in Toronto, said she was relieved to hear of the TDSB decision.

She juggled two graduation projects for each of her courses, saying the rule will allow her to take a breather and prioritize which assignments are most important to her.

She said it was stressful to switch between virtual and face-to-face learning at the last minute, especially at the end of a semester.

“I’m fine with virtual and personal,” Ms Raff said.

“But switching back and forth very quickly disrupts your entire schedule, and once you get used to one and switch back to the other, the command requirements change, so it’s really annoying.”

However, the 11th grade student is also concerned about how her first exam experience will go once the pandemic is over.

“I haven’t taken an exam in my life,” Mrs. Raff said. “So I have no idea what it’s like to have to memorize everything you do for a whole year on one stressful test.”

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