Students could be paid compensation after thousands of B.C. high school exam marks were messed up | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Students could be paid compensation after thousands of B.C. high school exam marks were messed up

Image Credit: Submitted/Office of the B.C. Ombudsperson
August 20, 2020 - 12:01 PM

The Ministry of Education has agreed to apologize to students after 18,741 Grade 12 final exam marks were posted incorrectly in 2019.

Where necessary, the ministry will also pay compensation to students who were financially harmed by the mistakes, according to a report on the 2019 final exam errors issued by B.C.’s Ombudsperson, Jay Chalke, today, Aug. 20.

“Our findings reveal a number of shortcomings in a system that young people were relying on at one of the key points of their lives,” Chalke said in a news release. “A rushed and inadequate quality assurance process led to the errors. What followed was poor communication with students, families and post-secondary institutions at a time when clarity was needed.”

READ MORE: Grade 12 transcript issue 'resolved,' won't affect school admissions: Minister

At that time, Grade 12 students were required to take at least one of five Language Arts courses and write final exams in those courses. If they applied to post-secondary institutions, they would send earlier exam marks and submit the final marks in July after they were published on a website.

The language arts requirement is now gone because of changes made in the school curriculum.

There were two different systems used for tabulating the marks that used different notations. For example, five per cent would be .05 in one system and 5 in the other system. Errors were made in transcribing those numbers.

That led to errors in the English 12, Communications 12 and Francais langue seconde-immersion 12 exams. Those were the only three courses that had enough students in them to require input into the two systems.

A second error occurred with the English 12 exams that used a different format, such as Braille or large print. Those marks were input into the system, rather than being listed separately as they had been in the past. That created a blank space in the system so the software read the marks for all students listed after the blank space incorrectly.

When the exam results were posted online, students ordered transcripts to be sent to post-secondary institutions and other places, like employers, thinking the results were correct. Most of the 112,187 potentially incorrect transcripts were sent out electronically.

The errors could have had a number of serious impacts.

For example, if a student had a conditional acceptance at a university, that may have been withdrawn. Or they may have failed to qualify for a scholarship.

One example was cited where the University of Victoria requires students to take an academic writing course unless they scored more than 86 per cent on their English 12 exam. Students may not have registered for that course if their final mark was incorrectly posted as more than 86 per cent only to find out later that they needed to take the course, by which time it may have been full.

On the other hand, if they registered for that course and didn’t need to take it, other courses they may have wanted to take instead may have been filled.

The report also criticizes the Ministry of Education’s response to the problem.

“The investigation also details a series of unclear, inaccurate and misleading statements in the wake of the errors,” the news release states. “For example, the report highlights a ministry press release that suggested that post-secondary institutions throughout North America had provided assurances that students would not be impacted, when in fact at the time of the press release, only one institution – the University of British Columbia – had given that assurance.”

The report cites the case of one student who, once he discovered the errors in his transcript, spent days trying to get it corrected only to be “bounced around” between different government workers and trying for days to get his corrected transcript online because the web site was down.

“The student told us he had to take all these actions while working long hours and described the experience as stressful,” the report states.

The Ombudsperson made six recommendations in his report, all of which have been accepted by the Ministry of Education.

Those included agreeing to apologize to all the students who were affected and to compensate any who were financially harmed.

The report doesn’t say how many students were impacted by the errors. There were 1,100 who were able to access their transcripts online from July 26, when they were first posted, to July 30 when the system was taken down in order to correct the errors. It does not say how many of those 1,100 students’ marks were incorrect.

The full report can be seen here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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