GETTING OFF THE MARK
Global news recently published a story on how one Ontario University is using its own advanced metrics to regulate admittance into their engineering faculty.
The article brings to light an issue long known to exist - not all high school students are being graded equitably. That will come as a surprise to almost nobody. What is enlightening is that universities have begun to alter their admission processes to compensate. As noted in the article, some universities are adjusting the submitted grades by a percentage point or two to correct the perceived inequities, and will also consider extracurricular activities, awards, work experience and volunteer experience in the final evaluation process.
It is not mentioned in the article, but many universities have also begun to incorporate an interview into their admissions process for the more competitive faculties and/or programs. These interviews give consideration to the student's personal experiences looking for indicators of leadership, overcoming hardship and community involvement.
That having been said, marks remain the most important factor in determining post-secondary eligibility. For some time now, we have seen the average high school grades increasing, with schools producing graduating classes with almost 50% of the students attaining Ontario Scholar status, an achievement once reserved for the top quartile of students. An A has become the new B. This curious trend may indeed be the result of smarter children but it may also be attributable to schools offering better programs, parents inspiring more diligent study habits or perhaps as suggested here, friendlier academic evaluations. The result is still the same - students today face far more pressure to deliver higher grades than their parents ever did. As the emphasis on obtaining a post-secondary education continues to grow (almost 70% of high school students will go on to complete a post-secondary education, as opposed to less than 50% only twenty-five years ago) so too will the pressure to perform.
With standardized testing nowhere on the horizon, these additional means of evaluating program candidates may be a welcome trend for many deserving students not meeting the posted academic standard. There is little a student can do about the adjustment factor, but certainly the other factors are within their control.
Almost as interesting as the article itself, is the commentary appearing below the article where advocates from both sides debate the merit of such a list, the integrity of the numbers, the application thereof etc. The fact of the matter is, like it or not, the universities feel that marks alone do not provide applicants with an even playing field and they are doing their best to even things out and that is not likely to change.
It should be noted that the data published in this article reflects the statistics of a single faculty within one university. While the data is very relevant to that faculty, it is not necessarily applicable universally across the province. In fact it is quite likely that there are dozens of other lists out there with different participants appearing on each of them, so this list should not be considered gospel or all-inclusive by any stretch.
Although not necessarily correlated, it is interesting to compare the results of the Waterloo evaluation to the Fraser Institute’s ranking of Ontario public high school’s academic performance, which is based on comparative results of standardized testing at earlier grades (private schools are not included).
Avg. ranking Schools in the
(out of 757) top 100
23 public schools
with –ve adjustment 335 0
38 public schools
with a +ve adjustment 124 24
It may also be presumptuous to assume that the grade differential is entirely due to inflated high school grades. A number of other factors may impact the student’s post-secondary performance – such as adapting to being away from home, adjusting to independent learning, program choice and the selection of an appropriate school. Academic performance is a reflection of more than just prior results, it also reflects planning and preparation – which may not be equally accessible to all students. Those students that are adequately prepared, engaged and enthusiastic are more likely to perform at higher levels in their new environments.