Manitoba reinstating Grade 12 exams for 2024
Provincial letter says Grade 12 tests will 'gauge the impact' of new Grade 10 assessment, other interventions
Manitoba is scrapping plans to abandon Grade 12 provincial tests in mathematics and language arts.
Instead of replacing the tests with a new Grade 10 assessment, as originally planned, Manitoba will complement the new provincial evaluation at Grade 10 by reinstating Grade 12 provincial tests beginning in the 2023-24 school year.
The province told education stakeholders of the change earlier this week in a letter.
The Grade 12 exams will "gauge the impact" of the Grade 10 assessment and help teachers assess where students need help to improve before they graduate, the letter said.
"We're going to see what type of improvement has happened," education minister Wayne Ewasko said.
Exams first cut by pandemic
Manitoba hasn't offered the provincewide Grade 12 tests since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic raised concerns a mix of in-class and remote learning prevented students from having equal access to instruction, the province said at the time. Many other jurisdictions cancelled exams for the same reasons.
Last summer, the province announced it would discontinue the longstanding Grade 12 test in favour of a Grade 10 curriculum-based assessment. That move was in response to recommendations made by the commission reviewing Manitoba's kindergarten-to-Grade-12 school system, whose report was released in 2021.
The idea, Ewasko said, was to better prepare students for the rest of their high school careers and beyond.
"It adds that bit of time for the teachers to evaluate students to then be able to either adopt or see where the system needs to help that particular student," he said on Wednesday.
Reinstating the Grade 12 test serves as an evaluation of the measures taken to help students, he added.
"That's going to help us see some sort of data as far as how students are progressing through their secondary years."
The provincial evaluations in Grade 10 and Grade 12 will debut in the next school year. The present school year will have no such tests.
Ewasko envisions the new Grade 10 evaluation, which still needs to be developed, as a formative assessment that monitors in-progress learning rather than a traditional sit-down examination that assesses all learning at the end of a defined period of time.
The letter states all teachers will have opportunities to use the results of the evaluation to "adjust their practice to respond to the individual student learning needs."
The Grade 10-level assessments won't be a "canned document" from elsewhere, Ewasko explained.
"These are going to be tests and formative assessments that are developed right here for Manitoba students by Manitobans. Teachers are supposed to be teaching the curriculum so the students should be doing well on these various assessments."
Manitoba Teachers Society president James Bedford said he wasn't surprised to see the province resurrect the Grade 12 tests.
He said there's been a long-term interest in education circles to evaluate students on numeracy and literacy.
Evaluations of this type have value if they're used to assess the overall health of the education system and determine where improvements are needed, but Bedford cautions the information can pit schools against each other.
"It creates this impression of good schools and bad schools in the minds of the public without taking into account, say, the socioeconomic circumstances that are impacting a certain school, a certain school community or other factors that play a role."
The same recommendation by the K-12 commission that proposed the development of a Grade 10 provincewide test suggests that school-by-school results be made public. Ewasko said the idea merits further consideration.
Matt Henderson, assistant superintendent at the Seven Oaks School Division in Winnipeg, said he understands both sides of the growing debate on whether traditional exams — which can be anxiety-inducing — are the right way to evaluate a student's progress.
He cautions against the argument that exams are exclusively good or bad.
"I would say that it's a balance. It's always a balance in education," he said.
"It's really important that we ensure that the [assessment] tool matches the evidence and the outcomes that we're looking for as educators."
Ewasko said the province would be doing a disservice if it didn't prepare students for the exams they'd encounter if they pursue post-secondary schooling.
Manitoba currently offers large scale provincewide assessments in Grade 3, Grade 7 and Grade 8.