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.
I've been writing on and off for years and this is where my more serious pieces will be.