Archive: June, 2012

EPSB Assessment Policy Review Motion to be debated June 26th, 1PM

On Tuesday June 26th at 1PM we will be having an extra EPSB public board meeting to discuss a few emergent issues related to our staff groups. Additionally, we will have a chance to discuss my motion related to assessment practices in the district. I know I told many of you the debate wouldn’t happen until the fall, but the extra meeting allows us time to have a few more discussions before the summer recess.

The agenda is posted here:

To register to speak to this or any item on the board agenda please call 780-429-8021.

My motion reads:

That the Board direct the Policy Review Committee to review policies related to student assessment to ensure clarity, consistency and to ensure that students are held to high standards.

This discussion has been fascinating and is significantly more complex than sometimes has been reported.

A democratic public education system thrives when we can have these conversations and ensure that we are responsive to the community while being informed by the best advice from our wise administrators.

As with all matters, trustees are not supposed to make up our mind until we vote, so I remain open to feedback and new information.

At the last meeting, I was asked what my thoughts are and whether I want kids to get zeros. I have a few questions for my colleagues and administration that I detailed here.

The short answer? Absolutely not– I want every child to get straight A’s! The longer answer? Students should earn the mark they receive, and they should be able to look to their marks as a true reflection of where their strengths and weaknesses lie. This is why honest assessment is so important in genuine, inspiring, lasting education. This philosophy applies as much to a mark of zero as it does to an A. At the end of the day I want all students to complete the work and be held to high standards.

Grades are a big motivator for some students, while avoiding detention for missed work and missing recess is the main motivator for another. I think it is important to allow our teachers flexibility in their toolbelts to ensure that they can adapt to each student and their unique situation. An elementary student requires different treatment than a high school honors student.

I think it is also important to recognize that Principals should ensure that teachers are using all of the options available to them to get the best results from their students. These practices should be consistent throughout the district and be clear to all parents and students.

I think a chance to clarify and ensure consistency for our students should be a priority for our board. The Policy Review Committee has the potential to work with the administration to set up a process to engage staff, students, parents, community members, industry leaders, academics, post secondary, and other important stakeholders thus recommending the most thorough and robust policy possible for our district.

Ensuring that our students are held to high standards is a goal everyone shares. Everyone wants our students to achieve success.

As always, if you would like to reach myself or my colleagues, please email or find your trustee here:

Grading Edmonton Public Schools Grading and Assessment…

*Update June 1st: I wanted to clarify a couple of misconceptions I have heard and seen in social media. First of all, EPSB does not have a district-wide “no zeros” policy. Each school is free to establish their own policy guided by Alberta Education Guidelines. Students must do work to receive credit and students must have the required number of credits to complete high school. Each school provides parents and students information on how assessment works at their school so if you have specific questions, please contact your local Principal.*

On Tuesday, June 12th at our next EPSB Board meeting I intend to move the following notice of motion:

“That the board direct the Policy Committee to review district assessment practices.”

I have received inquiries seeking clarity or expressing concern about how EPSB grading and assessment, especially with regard to whether or not a student should receive a zero (or no grade at all) for incomplete work.

As trustees we have the opportunity to suggest the review of any district policy or practice, assuming the majority of our colleagues agree.

Valid questions have been raised about how we teach accountability, resiliency and good citizenship to our students. The district priorities we’ve established speak to the development of the whole learner. They stress literacy and numeracy, but also speak of empathy and equity as key citizenship traits. Public education is about much more than grades and so much more happens in school than merely testing. Today’s graduates are your future doctors, drivers, and neighbours. What skills do you want them to have?

For me, broadly, this issue is about how we teach responsibility and self-discipline, while fostering and nurturing a love of learning:

  • How do we ensure that our assessment practices aren’t inadvertently driving the students who need the most help to drop out?
  • If we truly believe that success for every student is possible, how do we ensure teachers remain focused on bringing out the best from the difficult and struggling students?
  • How do we ensure that our students are proud of their work and that the diplomas we hand out are respected and that our students have a genuine sense of accomplishment?
  • How, can, or should we separate assessment of learning from behavioral issues?
  • How do we ensure that students are ready to face the demands of the work world or post-secondary professors?

The District has posted some information online with regard to how students are graded:

I’m excited that an education policy issue has attracted such considerable attention. After all, this is why we have a democratically elected and led public education system!

What do you think? Leave a comment or fire me a note at or