Charlottetown's Colonel Gray High School has declared its pilot project allowing students to earn exemptions from exams a success, but has not convinced a single other school to follow its lead.


Exam exemptions are a big motivator, says principal Kevin Whitrow. (CBC)

This is exam week for many P.E.I. high school students, but for a large group at Colonel Gray it's more like a winter break. Instead of writing three exams they are only writing one.

Colonel Gray allows students to earn exemptions from up to two exams by earning a 65 per cent average, passing in all their assignments, and having no more than six absences. If they have up to 12 absences, they can still earn exemptions with an 80 per cent average. All students must write at least one exam.

Principal Kevin Whitrow told CBC News Tuesday the policy is aimed at students who might otherwise skip classes and not do their work.

"Whatever means we use to have students understand that attendance in school is an important culture, and that it's one of the most important skills in success. Whatever works, I guess," said Whitrow.

The policy had been operating as a pilot for four years, and was made permanent this year.

Grade 10 student Devon MacGregor said the policy works for him.

"It's a lot less stressful and you don't have to worry about studying for all those other exams," said MacGregor.


Exam exemptions have improved the atmosphere at the school, says student council president Coltin Handrahan. (CBC)

"I didn't miss many days from school and worked much harder this year."

Staff and students at the school say the policy is a great motivator. Student council president Coltin Handrahan said it has changed the atmosphere at the school, because students are taking their work more seriously.

"It does make them want to come to class, work harder, and get all their assignments in," said Handrahan.

The policy has students at other high schools a little envious.

"It's kind of unfair, I'm jealous about it," said Charlottetown Rural Student Morgan MacDougall.

"I'd rather go to the Gray just for those reasons," added Tim McAleer.

But so far no other high schools have picked up on the idea, and it is not likely to happen in the Western School Board, where superintendent Jane McMillan is set against it. McMillan said exams are needed as a measure of academic success and as preparation for the future.

"We really do believe part of our responsibility in high school is to allow students to have the skills to transition well to post-secondary, which in many cases still includes writing exams," she said.

But Whitrow said 50 to 60 per cent of students from his school aren't going on to university and their high-pressure exams, and the exemptions are an important recognition for those students, and so the policy will continue.

Colonel Gray High School: Exam Exemption Policy