When the word came to school divisions to cancel the grade twelve English provincial exams the Friday before they were to be administered the following Monday, Western School Division, like every other division in Manitoba, had to act quickly to get the word out and prepare to make changes. 

Morden Collegiate Principal Tania Siguardson said she received the email 3 minutes after Superintendent Stephen Ross received it. She then pulled her three ELA teachers into her office, crafted an email to parents and families to let them know the message they received from Manitoba Education, to cancel and to send back the provincial assessments and to wait for further instructions. She then instructed the teachers not to stress over the weekend about it until they received further instructions. 

Word came later that Monday; it was up to divisions to create and administer the provincial assessments before the end of the year. 

“For us at Morden Collegiate,” Siguardson explained, “We talked about that when we imagined how this could possibly be resolved. We imagined that it would be a local solution. While grade 12 English provincials have been around for a long time, during the pandemic, they didn't do provincials. And so, there was a year where we did provide a grade 12 exam. We had actually developed a few exams, anticipating that to be an ongoing thing. So, we had a grade 12 exam that had been modeled after the provincial exam that I feel very confident about being a solid match to a provincial assessment.” 

Siguardson said there isn’t a lot of value in wondering how we got here but chooses to focus on supporting the kids and finding a way forward. 

“It was a very quick pivot, high praise to our English teachers and to our community to be able to take that information and make sure that we are providing high quality assessment, equal assessment, equitable assessment to what we would have seen our students in first semester receive. We have students who are supported, they might have adaptations, they might have EA support for scribing, and so, that allowed us to continue to be able to flex and provide those supports exactly the same as if we'd been doing the provincial last week.” 

She couldn’t say enough to praise those who handled the news patiently. 

“Our families are amazing. It’s very stressful information to hear when your kids are planning to be prepping for that exam for Monday morning, to find out that not only is it not going to be Monday morning, but we don't actually know what the plan is. But we have a fantastic community and they waited patiently with us, to find out on Monday, what the next steps were going to be.” 

She praised her staff for rallying together with their own unique differences to quickly respond to the challenge, with the kids as the number one priority, understanding there's scholarships at stake, there's awards at stake for those kids, and making sure the kids were receiving the same level of assessment the province would have delivered. 

“Everybody knows assessment is such a huge part of what we do in schools. We want to teach, we want to assess whether students have understood what we've taught, we also want our assessments to be equitable from one semester to the next. And so, all of those things were in our mind as we were considering how we would provide a school-based assessment.” 

Students began writing the exam on Thursday with a tweak to how it will be administered compared to the first semester. 

“A provincial exam for English, it's provided in one 3-hour block and then followed up by three 1-hour in-class sessions. Due to the short timeline before the end of the semester, along with the other provincial assessments still coming, the other prepping and classes for exams. An additional disruption to school and pulling kids out of classes did not feel like it was a good decision overall for the other classes they were still trying to be successful in. So, the English teachers came up with a six hour in-class delivery.” 

Siguardson is grateful for the support she has received from Superintendent Ross, the ELA teachers, students and the community.