More than marks

I remember the year that I taught Grade 9 Mathematics.  Other than the fact that there were 35 people in the class, a challenge was three students who were noticeably doing poorly in the class.  So poorly, in fact, that I went to the Guidance Department to seek some guidance.  I didn’t get any answers except that the three of them came to us from Grade 8 at one of the local elementary schools.  The Guidance person told me to talk to the head of Mathematics.

So, off I went, to see if I could get some insights.  When I shared the problem and the associated elementary school, I was told that it’s an annual problem from that school.  I was shown where there were resources to support the Grade 8 curriculum and set about having a plan to help them catch up.

Now, a teenager learning Mathematics is a story in itself but having to learn what others already did know upped their game.  To their credit, the three of them stuck it out and were ultimately successful.  The experience was an eye opener for me.  While you would think that the curriculum offers a level playing field, the application of it can’t help but vary from teacher to teacher.

So, when this story crossed my screen,

One university’s secret list to judge applicants by their high schools – not just their marks

I wasn’t terribly surprised.

There was considerable conversation about this in my Twitter community.  It seemed to be a surprise in some corners.  Inevitably, the question “How do we fix this?” came up.  Unfortunately, the solutions that came to my mind aren’t easy to take.

  • having a standard test across the province for all Grade 12 students
  • universities having an entrance exam
  • make promotion meetings illegal
  • have a standard textbook and standard expectations from those teaching Grade 12 courses

None of these options sit well with me, nevermind the logistics of making it transparent.

If you think back, going to university is a big deal.  First there’s the anxiety for many who have to move away from home.  There’s the cost of going to a post-secondary school.  Thirdly, there’s just the knowledge that’s needed to understand university course and program descriptions – things are so much easier at secondary school.

I think we all remember that there is a huge dropout rate of first year university students who elect to make a different choice for varieties of reasons.

Given all the factors, it should come as no surprise that this happens by universities.  They have a reputation and standards to maintain.  Remedial programs?  Even more, it could be helpful for students in helping them avoid a program that they might not be successful at.  Ever the optimist though, a student might be inspired by the university setting and standards and meet the challenge.

I do remember being in Grade 8 myself and our English teacher warning us that we needed to get better lest we get eaten up at “Collegiate”.  Of course, we ignored the advice because that’s what kids do.  How could you give that advice for post-secondary bound students meaningful?

The best that I could think of is to have a course, offered by the post-secondary institution, to give a sense of what will be expected should the student proceed.  This could be done online or at the university in the summer preceding the start of school.

It also begs a couple more questions…

  • there was some identification of the university caught with this list.  How many other post-secondary institutions do the same thing?
  • this list identifies Ontario secondary schools.  Is there a similar list for out-of-province students?
  • should marks be the only factor for acceptance?

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re an educator.  You had your own secondary school to post-secondary transition.  Was it fair?  How would you handle it?

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

One thought on “More than marks”

  1. This sort of list makes a lot of sense to me. But then I teach at a school where students would likely be placed high. I actually had a university recruiter once tell me that her school would pretty much take any student we sent there. And the high school I attended myself had a similar high reputation.

    What I wonder about is the population of the various schools. I am not convinced that quality of teachers is the big factor. if Social and economic status has a huge impact which some research suggests is more influential than the school one attends. Are the top ranked high schools more loaded with higher economic families for example?

    How do we help the poorer families make up for what richer families are able to provide?

    Like

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