North Vancouver schools ditching honour roll

It’s report card week in North Vancouver.

But this year, there are fewer students than ever on the school district’s honour roll.

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That’s not because of a lack of high academic achievers, however.

Rather, it’s because the North Vancouver school district is in the process of phasing out its honour roll.

In past years, students in Grades 8 through 12 who achieved 80 per cent or higher in their academic studies would have their names publicly acknowledged on the honour roll – as either honourable mention, honour roll or honour roll distinction, depending on their grade point average.

Beginning last year, however, the school district began a process to phase out the formal honour roll, with most schools dropping it for grades 8 and 9.

This year, Grade 10 has also been dropped, leaving only Grade 11 and 12 students on the honour roll.

Next year, some schools will have an honour roll only for Grade 12 students while some schools will do away with it entirely.

Ditching the traditional honour roll is part of a change to realign better with the new curriculum, and move recognition away from a “grading culture” to a “learning culture,” said Deneka Michaud, spokeswoman for the North Vancouver School District.

The honour roll isn’t used for university admission or other opportunities after high school, said Michaud. “The schools didn’t think it was a true reflection of student success,” she said.

Instead of the honour roll, there are plans to recognize academic success through other school-based programs, she added.

But the move to scrap the honour roll isn’t sitting well with all parents, who argue it’s taking away one of relatively few avenues to publicly recognize kids who excel at academics – rather than in areas like sports or the arts.

“Generally parents aren’t in favour of it at all,” said Danae Gale, the mother of a North Vancouver high school student.

“What’s wrong with recognizing a good job in academics?” she said. “We do it for sports teams. But if you’re a top student, suddenly that seems to have become taboo.”

Gale said most parents don’t even know about the change because it hasn’t been well communicated to them.

Before the phase-out began, her own daughter was on the honour roll in Grade 8, which involved being recognized at the school board office and receiving a plaque, said Gale. That was a “confidence booster,” she said.

Anna Kraus is another parent whose older daughter was on the honour roll before she graduated from high school in North Vancouver.

“Being on the honour roll was important to her,” she said. “That’s something she really strived for. I think having an honour roll for the kids to strive for is a good thing.”

Moves to recognize students in other ways have so far not proved much of a substitute, she said.

“I feel that the whole system is really getting dumbed down,” she added.

Phasing out of the honour roll is just a small part of much larger changes that have been sweeping the school system in both the curriculum that gets taught and the way students are assessed.

Most provincial exams tied to specific courses have been phased out.

Instead, in order to graduate, starting this year, students will be required to take a three-hour numeracy test. A similar literacy test will also be phased in.

Students can take the tests more than once to improve their score and don’t have to pass to graduate. So far, neither of those tests is tied to university admission.

Within the classrooms there’s a new emphasis on students acquiring a depth of knowledge and a move away from learning a wide swath of content, said Kathleen Barter, district principal with the school district.

Barter said that doesn’t mean students aren’t learning important material.

“There is still content,” she said. “There is still rigour. There are still expectations of what students should be able to do and understand. We’re asking kids to think more deeply.”

The West Vancouver school district has no plans to change its honour roll, said spokeswoman Tricia Buckley.

 

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