Recently, we had a lively discussion at our school regarding who has the final say regarding student benchmarks at the end of the term – is it the teacher or the program administrator?
When we look at the PBLA 2019 guidelines, it makes a number of statements like the following:“In all PBLA assessment practices, teachers’ professional judgments are central. From selecting or developing appropriate tasks, choosing or developing assessment tools, giving feedback on writing and speaking performance, to deciding when a learner is ready to progress to the next level, teachers make decisions based on professional interpretation and judgment” (PBLA Reporting, 2019, p. 31, emphasis added).
It sounds like the teacher makes the final decision for marks, but it also says the following regarding the administrator’s role: “Set or change program policies and practices to facilitate PBLA implementation” (PBLA Accountability, 2019, p. 42). What does “change … practices to facilitate PBLA implementation” mean? If the practice in the past has been to not overrule the teacher decision can that be changed if it is perceived to facilitate the implementation? It’s not clear. Unfortunately, many schools interpret this statement to mean they can overrule the teacher’s decision. There are a number of concerns with this interpretation.
PBLA test results can be unreliable. There are all kinds of mitigating factors. For example, some students cheat on the tests. This may not be visible at the time to the teacher, but it will become evident when the student is unable to answer subsequent questions related to the material. Cheating doesn’t appear in the PBLA test results and may give a false pass. If the program administrator is only considering whether the student passed or failed the required number of tests, he or she could easily overrule the teacher by mistake.
Teachers must be TESL certified as per IRCC; however, this is not a requirement for program administrators. If the program administrator is not TESL certified and does not have an education background, should he or she be able to overrule a teacher who has all of the necessary qualifications?
The ambiguously written guidelines are a hallmark of PBLA. On the one hand, they indicate that the teacher has the final say regarding student benchmarks, but in another section, the program administrator can over-ride the teacher’s decision, causing teachers and management to clash over the interpretation. Because PBLA has few clear boundaries (with the exception of 8-10 artifacts per skill, per benchmark), it has fostered internal conflicts for many agencies and schools. Perhaps this is the reason many workplaces are turning to unions for assistance.
Who do you think should have the final say over PBLA benchmarks?
PBLA Accountability: Sharing Responsibility for Success. (2019). Retrieved from PBLA Practice Guidelines 2019: https://pblapg.language.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/PBLA-Practice-Guidelines-2019_978-1-897100-78-3-RA.pdf
PBLA Reporting: Learner Progress Reports and Conferences. (2019). Retrieved from PBLA Practice Guidelines 2019: https://pblapg.language.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/PBLA-Practice-Guidelines-2019_978-1-897100-78-3-RA.pdf