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It ought to be no surprise that universities have discovered over time a mark from one high school is not equal to one from a different one. A recently available article in the Toronto Star flags Waterloo’s engineering programme, among the toughest to get into in Canada, as having developed an adjustment factor. The type of whose marks the programme discounts the most were two Oakville schools: King’s Christian Collegiate and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School. Shockingly, Toronto’s prestigious Upper Canada College also found itself designated as needing a substantial mark discount when evaluating applications.

Back the 1960s, when the boomers who shaped the existing Ontario were in high school, about 3% of students became Ontario scholars. Now it’s a lot more than 60%. Kids could be smarter, and teaching may be better, but it is not believable that students leaving senior high school are that a lot more able. Clearly, good marks are easier to get than they was previously, and in a few schools more than others.

Higher marks result in a large amount of problems. It becomes very difficult to distinguish between your best students when there are so most of them. Maybe even worse, students are resulted in believe they’re more prepared than they are actually and face sometimes substantial and life-changing disappointment if they get to post-secondary education.

This recent Maclean’s article gives an insight into what this may mean to students facing the truth of post-secondary standards, some of whom determine they should not have experienced the institution in the first place. Nevertheless, universities and colleges can simply raise their admission standards, and that is what they have done as mark inflation has run rampant across Ontario.

However, when that inflation is uneven from one school to another, it makes the post-secondary institutions’ job much more difficult. According to the Star’s article, Waterloo has developed its adjustment factor in line with the performance of students from the given school in the first year of their engineering programme over time. It really needs enough students to make the comparison meaningful and establish a pattern.

Until the 1960s, province-wide exams, known as “departmentals,” contributed to the high school leaving marks of Ontario students. Explore Oakville were graded anonymously, after being shipped to Toronto, by teachers apart from those who had taught the students.

While Scholastic Aptitude Tests (now simply called SATs) in the United States assessed capability to learn, the departmental exams assessed achievement, which senior high school graduation marks generally represent. These exams were much like Advanced-level (A-level) exams in England, or Baccalaur�at exams in France, which continue to exist (as in most European countries), and in those countries produce 100% of the marks given to universities and colleges for admission. (The International Baccalaureate (IB) works on these principles and comes in Ontario. Many top international universities have greater confidence such evaluations than in marks assigned by schools with that they have little if any experience.)

These exams are country-wide. All teachers in all schools, including parents homeschooling children, understand that they are going to face these tests. This eliminates grade inflation in earlier years and in mid-year evaluation: grades that not truly represent the student’s potential will be found out ultimately. Just about any country has them except Canada: even america has the SAT to greatly help post-secondary institutions compare students’ capabilities regardless of the school they attended.

The arguments against such exams are many. Students face a lot of pressure, and their future is determined by their performance in some three hour written exams. Such exams favour visual learners and will close the entranceway for able students whose abilities are different. You can find concerns about “teaching to the test”, limiting teachers’ abilities to explore topics and problem-solving techniques. Proponents explain that at some stage you will have such an evaluation to graduate from university or even to gain a professional qualification, and delaying it serves no purpose. Further, they indicate the evils of grade inflation which has obviously run rampant in Ontario since such exams were abandoned.

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