Quebec education minister promises to look into grade inflation

Quebec's education minister wants to know whether some schools are artificially boosting the grades of failing students to meet ministerial targets.

A survey released earlier this week by a teacher's union — the Fédération autonome de l'enseignement — suggested both elementary and high school teachers have had the grades they gave changed without their permission.

The union's president, Sylvain Mallette, said having grades changed by either school or ministerial officials has been a long-running complaint of Quebec teachers. 

"For example, in French, the success rate has to be increased by five per cent," Mallette told Radio-Canada. "So school administrators will summon teachers whose results are lower than those fixed targets."

Mallette said the education system is now all about results and statistics.

"We no longer talk about students and teachers, we only talk about statistics. To please who? School administrations, who have to please school boards, which have to please the Education Ministry," he added.

Correcting for margin of error

The Parti Québécois raised the issue Thursday and Friday during an appearance by Education Minister Sébastien Proulx before a legislative committee hearing.

During the hearings, Proulx acknowledged there was a policy in place to round up grades on ministerial exams that were just below the 60-per cent cut-off.

Proulx said in the case of students who failed by a few percentage points, their grades are raised "because of an inherent margin of error in corrections, because there's a human factor that comes into play."

But the PQ's education critic, Alexandre Cloutier, said Friday that since the survey results were released, he's been contacted by dozens of teachers who've told him rounding up marks by one or two per cent is just the tip of the iceberg.

That prompted Proulx to say he wants to know more about the problem and is asking ministry officials to check into it.

Proulx also said he's open to Cloutier's idea of convening a parliamentary committee to discuss the issue.

"There can't be any short-cuts to have our students succeed," Proulx said Friday in a tweet.