After a storm of controversy hit Saskatoon over reports that the city’s school board was planning to remove penalties for plagiarism, the government is stepping in to develop a province wide policy on assessing behaviour.
Early last week, the CBC, National Post, and other media outlets, suggested that a new report card system for Saskatoon that aims to separate student behaviour from learning outcomes would include eliminating penalties for late marks and plagiarism. By Thursday, the school board had denied that that was the case. “What’s being represented in the media is certainly not what we’re trying to do in the school division,” school board chair, Ray Morrison, told the CBC. Students found to have plagiarized will indeed be given a zero and whether or not to give late marks will be left to the discretion of teachers, Morrison added.
In its earlier story, the CBC had interviewed superintendent John Dewar and English teacher Katie Kehrig, whom the school division had referred for an interview. Similarly, the National Post reported that “Mr. Dewar said that if a student handed in a paper that was clearly plagiarized, the teacher could give the student the opportunity to rewrite the assignment, instead of doling out a failing grade.”
The school board says that “miscommunication” or “misinterpretation” is to blame for the apparent misunderstanding.
Evidently, separating learning from behaviour entails reporting separately whether students are capable of working independently, or well with others, or whether or not they waste class time.
In light of all the attention, Saskatchewan’s Education Minister Donna Harpauer announced yesterday that the province will be working with school boards to develop an anti-plagiarism and late marks policy. “The Ministry of Education has not directed school divisions to separate marks for behaviour from marks for learning outcomes,” the minister said.
–Photo by K. Sawyer