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Simcoe County school board puts exam days back on calendar

'After all of this, I guess I feel heard. It did take a lot of effort by a lot of people,' says retired teacher who pushed to have formal exam days returned
School board trustees have their meetings in the Roy Edwards Room at the Simcoe County District School Board education centre in Midhurst.

Final assessments will be back on the Simcoe County District School Board’s calendar for 2024-25.

During this week's program standing committee of the Simcoe County District School Board, trustees got a look at the proposed 2024-2025 school calendar, with culminating task days and feedback days added back in for secondary students at the end of each term, following outcry from the community concerning their removal starting in 2022.

One of the most vocal proponents against their removal was retired Collingwood Collegiate Institute teacher and parent Brian Feldman who had started a petition to bring them back, and was in attendance for Wednesday’s meeting.

“It needs to be formal in the calendar. After all of this, I guess I feel heard. It did take a lot of effort by a lot of people,” he said. 

Under the 2024-2025 SCDSB school calendar, semester one’s culminating task days will run Jan. 22 to 27 2025, and June 17 to 20, 2025. Feedback and recovery days will run Jan. 28 to 30, 2025 and June 23 to 25, 2025.

Culminating task days, or final assessment days can include an exam, essay or another form of assessment based on the course material. Feedback days give time for teachers to go over the assessment outcomes with students before the semester’s end.

In superintendent of education Greg Jacobs’ report on the matter, he noted that the board received feedback on the calendar from Dec. 13, 2023 to Jan. 10.

New Tecumseth trustee Sarah Beitz questioned that, noting the board release is dated Dec. 22, which means that anyone who supplied feedback had to take time to do so over their holiday break.

“The dates don’t coincide with what I observed,” said Beitz. “I’m concerned we didn’t get fulsome feedback ... especially given how much people care about this issue.”

The board received 668 responses to the call out, of which 315 were from parents/guardians, 191 from students and 162 from SCDSB staff. He said 51 per cent of the responses were in favour of the calendar as proposed, and most of the feedback was related to culminating task days and recovery days.

Superintendent of student achievement Dean Maltby said the administration council would be looking at finalizing the structure for those culminating task days, but for now the model would be for students to have a longer first period to accommodate an assessment, and for the remaining periods that day to be shortened and include wellness time such as a lunch break.

“Certainly, there would be no new learning at that time,” he said, adding that he could bring the final model back to trustees at a later date.

Not having culminating task days that are solely for exams and assessments didn’t sit well with Beitz.

She put forward an amendment to designate them as such and call them examination days while understanding that ‘examinations’ could still refer to any culminating task. She also asked that they be coloured in on the calendar document in an effort to be more transparent with the public.

“Considering all the feedback we’ve had from our community... I really want to protect the culminating assessment days,” she said. “We need to designate them. I’m trying to protect the time because there were concerns about these being done during a regular school day.”

The director of education, John Dance, disagreed about the name, noting the term ‘culminating task days’ was more inclusive and accurate.

“Examination is an exclusive term,” he said.

Trustees voted to defeat Beitz’s motion, however board staff agreed to colour in the days on the calendar they submit to the province.

As of the 2022/23 school year, the public board no longer planned for formal exam days through their school calendar.

Starting in 2010, the Ministry of Education changed the curriculum, called Growing Success, which changed the way school boards were able to evaluate students with school boards empowered to make their own decisions on how best to evaluate student success. The only stipulation from the province was that 70 per cent of evaluations come from coursework throughout the school year, while 30 per cent comes from a final evaluation at or near the end of the semester.

During discussions later in the committee meeting on Wednesday, Adjala-Tosorontio/Clearview/CFB Borden/Essa trustee Brandy Rafeek asked why the change couldn’t take place starting this semester.

“There are lots of things we need to consider, like communication, collective agreements, and that OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation) educators have planned their courses this year already. Schools have field trips, athletic events, drama presentations, concerts... to change this would require a lot of change in a short period of time,” said Maltby, also noting schools needed to be consistent between first and second semester to ensure equity.

Following the meeting, OSSTF bargaining unit president for Simcoe County Jen Hare said what most secondary teachers really need from the board right now is clear communication.

“I think we’re early enough in the semester that there could be a change like that, but one of our biggest challenges right now is... people are tuning in to board meetings. I’ve had to do a lot of clarifying that there are many details still to be determined,” said Hare.

“The board has made sweeping changes...and often these things are done with no consultation with us or our members. I believe we can make this work, but I’m disappointed that we are not being engaged in a conversation about how best to roll this out,” she said.

At the end of discussion, trustees voted in favour of approving the 2024-25 school calendar. The decision will need to be ratified at the next regular board meeting on Feb. 28 before going into effect.

The 2024-2025 school calendar must be sent by the board to the Ministry of Education for approval by March 1.


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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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