It's been a while since I was responsible for teaching Biology 30 and preparing students for the diploma exam they faced at the end of the course. Those were the days when teaching was easier.
Students who didn't complete work got a zero. They didn't get a do-over, an omit so the mark isn't part of the grade calculation, or have forever to come up with the assignment. There were no pre-tests. The test was it and it counted. Parents didn't storm into the classroom to accuse the teacher of unfair evaluation of their child and there wasn't pressure (at least not a lot) from administration to change a student's mark.
There was pressure to have your classroom evaluation match the student's diploma exam result and to have your class average at or above the provincial average. As one provincial education minister famously said, "We want every student in Alberta achieving above the provincial average."
Today the pressure is much higher. Students must be engaged. That is true but engagement does not mean one merry amusement after another. Some concepts are hard work. There is one way to accomplish them with proficiency and that is to practise. Not always enjoyable. Students are to evaluate their own learning. Pishshsh... they always did. But formalizing this takes more time from the teacher and from the course content that students need to master. Remember- no zeros. Deadlines? so stressful. Exams? Unfair- only a snapshot of what that student knows. Perhaps, but if the snapshot is unfocused and poorly composed, it means that the student hasn't learned the material.
The education issue the media is exploring now looks at "teacher inflated marks." There are "massive gaps between grade 12 students' grades assigned by teachers and their results on provincial exams." http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/are-teachers-inflating-grades-critics-say-yes-school-boards-say-no
In 2016, 96% of Math 30-1 students were given passing marks by their teachers. Only 71% actually passed the diploma exam, a 25% gap. In Chemistry 30, the gap was 15%. The discrepancy isn't all on the teacher. Students are passed along to the grade 12 level, sometimes not earning the right to advance to the next course. Projects rather than exams can count for a good portion of a grade. If the project is well-designed, if the student actually did the work (in a group situation, how does the teacher know?), it can be a great way to learn. Still the issue is the gap between school-awarded and diploma exam marks. Perhaps oranges and apples are being compared.
In the "real" world, employees face exams all the time. Often advancement in the workplace depends on taking courses and yes, passing tests. There aren't extenuating circumstances, a do-over, or a make-up assignment. You try the exam again and often pay for the privilege. Students aren't served by marks that exaggerate their ability.
A bump, a cut, a spontaneous bleed? Life-threatening? Surely not but if you carry the mutated gene for blood clotting, those events could be. The blood clots through a series of chemical reactions that require proteins at each step. If one of these clotting factors is in low supply or missing, the bleed continues. It could be through an open wound or it could be internal into a joint or organ. When the pressure builds up tissues are damaged and if the bleed continues may prove fatal. Until recently, the treatment has been to periodically replace the clotting factors through transfusions of the missing clotting factor.
Manufacture of the clotting factors is under genetic control and hemophilia is most likely to affect males because the mutation is carried on the X-chromosome. It is recessive and since females would need two copies of the defective gene, few of them are affected. They can be carriers, however, and pass the disease to sons through the X chromosome.
There are two main types of hemophilia, A and B. A is more common and B, known as Christmas disease, affects fewer people. It is hemophilia B that has been treated with gene therapy. In this form, clotting factor IX is in low concentration and the gene for its manufacture doesn't work properly. Researchers in Philadelphia cooperating with Canadian doctors have infused a harmless virus with a "good" copy of the defective gene into the livers of 9 patients. The results have been more than encouraging. At this point, some of the subjects have been free of symptoms (any bleeds) for up to a year. The introduced gene is busy making factor IX and their blood is clotting.
This could be a cure, freeing victims of hemophila from treatments that increase their exposure to blood-borne infections like HIV and hepatitis. Patients can take part in everyday activities without the fear that an inadvertent bump will set of an internal bleed. Spontaneous bleeds won't occur.
The woman in the picture is Queen Victoria. It is believed that a spontaneous mutation in her DNA introduced hemophilia to the European Royal Families. She had nine children, of whom two females were carriers and one male was hemophiliac. In 2009, genetic research was able to identify the disease as Hemophilia B.
Hemophilia B hasn't been cured. The gene therapy needs to last for the patient's lifetime. There are other unknowns and the study included only 9 subjects. It does provide hope for the thousands of hemophiliacs who have had to lead sheltered lives. Even bumping a knee could lead to a serious bleed into the joint. Researchers are hopeful and patients wish that the treatment is a success and works for all with hemophilia B.
This shows a knee joint of a hemophiliac who is experiencing a bleed.
The recent shooting of Muslim men at prayer is horrifying and evil on more than one level. I am the granddaughter of a Ukrainian immigrant to eastern Alberta in the early 1900's. These resilient people (as all immigrants are) came to Canada seeking a better life and more importantly, chances for their children. My grandfather chose Canada because he wanted to be in a country under the British monarch. He came not speaking English and lost track of family who were sent to different parts of the country. My grandfather worked hard, farming with teams of horses and he died long before I was born. My grandmother never learned English and the strangeness of the new country wore her down.
My father, the son of this immigrant, fought in WW11. He was through North Africa, Italy and into Belgium. His hard work when he came home made it possible for me to attend university. He valued education and although he had to quit school in grade 9, he made sure I (and my brother) had every opportunity.
My mother was an English warbride so I she was an immigrant, too. The son of an immigrant married a woman from England and brought her to the hard life as a farm wife near the farm where he was born. She made the adjustment to the difficulties and although she missed 'jolly old England', she made Canada her home. Together my mother and father raised two children and made a life that gave us every chance.
I would like to think that I took advantage of those chances and the appreciation for education has been carried on to my children who both have 2 degrees and now work as teachers. They are thoughtful, contributing members of society who don't harbour prejudices against new comers.
My father couldn't speak English when he went to school and was backed into a corner and ridiculed. By the time he was older, his English was unaccented. Quite an accomplishment. Ukrainian immigrants and their kids were called bohunks at the time- pretty derogatory. Not far from where I sit writing this, a family of Ukrainian immigrants were burned out of their farm three times. Then they left the district.
My mother was, of course, the Limey from Blighty, and she didn't have the skills a farm wife needed. At least not at first. When she came to Canada, the house featured no power, no running water and no furnace of any kind. Those were the days of cold and long winters. There was deep snow and they were trapped in the house for periods of time. Travel might be by horse and rack over the fields. Somehow she managed.
My father was so determined that we should fit into this land, that he didn't teach us the Ukrainian language. We didn't have Ukrainian food, or practice any of the customs. I am poorer for this omission. My mother taught us the British customs that we know and many of her expressions have crept into our daily language. An enrichment of what is mainstream Canadiana.
This is why I am determined that if I can help in some small way to change attitudes, to make what our members of parliament proclaimed on our behalf, to welcome newcomers to our country, I will. Scientists know there is ONE human race. Genetics prove it and the differences in religion, custom and culture should not make a difference to us.
I've been writing on and off for years and this is where my more serious pieces will be.