Fredericton – Why are high school students in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador failing provincial math exams but passing their math classes? AIMS latest study looks at one possible answer to this question and finds a disturbing link between high grade inflation and low provincial exam scores.

AIMS Director of education policy, Robert Laurie, examines the relationship between teacher assigned marks and provincial examination results for math in the education Commentary, Setting them up to fail? Excellent school marks don’t necessarily lead to excellent exam marks He shows that significant grade inflation is present in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador high schools and is all too often accompanied by lower than average results on provincial math examinations.

Grade inflation is generally defined in the context of provincial exams and teacher assigned grades as the difference between the teacher assigned marks and the results on a provincial exam for that particular course. But Laurie goes beyond that by recognizing that classroom assessments and provincial exams measure different things. He focuses his analysis not on the “normal gap” but on spikes outside that range. What he finds is not good news.

“The results show that all too often where there is high grade inflation there is lower than average provincial exam results and where there is low grade inflation there is higher than average results. High marks, that don’t reflect what is actually learned, do students a huge disservice.”

Setting them up to fail?  shows a clear link between grade inflation and student performance on provincial exams, that link raises many urgent questions. AIMS acting president Charles Cirtwill elaborated:

“It is time for the education establishment to set the record straight. The unfortunate relationship between high grade inflation and low exam marks is too strong to ignore. Are teachers overcompensating for poor preparation and poor performance on provincial exams? Or are expectations so low that kids are not being prepared to meet a fair, reasonable and objective assessment?”

Author Robert Laurie makes the case that it is this shift in expectations that is needed:

“Research has shown that students rise to the challenge as long as the challenge is fair. Teachers who don’t expect much from their students get exactly that. Instead of lowering the bar and asking how low can you go? Teachers should raise the bar and work with students to see how high they can jump.”

For more information, contact:
Charles Cirtwill, AIMS (acting) president
en français
Robert Laurie, AIMS Director of Education Policy

Barbara Pike, AIMS Director of Communications
902-429-1143 ext. 227 / 902-452-1172

Editor’s Note: This grade inflation analysis is not possible in Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia as PEI does not yet have provincial assessments and NS has yet to release complete comparable teacher assigned grades. The analysis for NB and NL is a cautionary tale that all provinces should be aware of when setting and enforcing classroom expectations, whether or not they elect to have provincial assessments.

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