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What Ontario’s rising high school grades mean for university admissions

What Ontario’s rising high school grades mean for university admissions

Tyson Hamilton has a 96 per cent common and was president of his highschool scholar council, however the Grade 12 scholar didn’t get admitted into enterprise diploma packages on the College of Toronto, Queen’s or McMaster. 

Whereas Hamilton acquired provides from seven different college packages and is worked up about his option to enrol in a twin diploma program at Western College this fall, he wonders why packages would reject an A-plus scholar. 

“If a 96 isn’t adequate, what’s?” stated Hamilton in an interview. “The place does it cease? Is everybody going to be needing 100 averages to get into these packages?”

His rejections are the results of a pattern that reveals an more and more bigger variety of college students with excessive grades competing for Ontario’s most coveted post-secondary spots. 

The typical Grade 12 marks of scholars enrolling in first-year packages at Ontario universities have been rising steadily upward, in response to information compiled by the Council of Ontario Universities. 

College students at Toronto Metropolitan College participate in an orientation week occasion on Aug. 29, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The info additionally reveals rising proportions of scholars getting into college after acquiring Grade 12 averages within the 95-plus and 90 to 94 ranges. 

The pattern is especially obvious within the extremely aggressive college packages of enterprise, engineering and organic sciences, however can also be evident amongst college students selecting social sciences and liberal arts. 

Are you a high-achieving Grade 12 scholar who was rejected by some Ontario universities? Ship an electronic mail to CBC Information to inform us your story.

“I believe the problem is correct now, there’s no [marking] consistency throughout colleges.” he stated. “A 96 at one college may be value a low 90 at one other college.” 

The info raises questions on why the marks are rising and what it means for college students attempting to realize admission into Ontario’s best college packages. The solutions are complicated and nuanced. 

Earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, the grades of Ontario highschool college students had elevated steadily however steadily for years. It’s a pattern that has accelerated since 2020. 

“Within the pre-COVID years, there’s motive to assume it’d truly mirror greater achievement,” stated Kelly Gallagher-Mackay, an affiliate professor at Wilfrid Laurier College who research instructional inequality. 

Gallagher-Mackay attributes the rising grades to a mix of effort inside Ontario’s college system to enhance fairness of outcomes, strikes to finish streaming of scholars into utilized programs, and shifts in immigration that introduced extra households who prioritized tutorial achievement. 

The leap in marks because the pandemic started, nevertheless, is so dramatic that it may probably solely be defined by further elements. 

Toronto District Faculty Board information reveals the typical Grade 12 scholar’s mark rose from 71 to 77 in a two-year interval after the pandemic started.

“That’s big and fairly unprecedented,” stated Gallagher-Mackay. The earlier six-point rise took 13 years. 

The info seems in a report by Gallagher-Mackay and York College adjunct professor Robert Brown, printed by the Increased Training High quality Council of Ontario.

Why grades spiked since COVID

Additional analysis by the pair — utilizing information from six massive college boards that signify one-third of Ontario’s scholar inhabitants — discovered that the proportion of Grade 9 college students with 90-plus averages rose from 12 per cent within the 2018-19 college yr to 23 per cent in 2020-21. 

A lot of that rise occurred within the spring of 2020, when Ontario’s Ministry of Training issued a directive that every scholar’s mark in every course should not fall beneath the place it stood when the pandemic pressured the cancellation of in-person lessons. 

A woman wearing a cardigan stands outside on a sunny day, amid trees.
Kelly Gallagher-Mackay is an affiliate professor at Wilfrid Laurier College who research instructional inequality. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

The rise continued within the tumultuous 2020-21 college yr, when many Ontario college boards shifted forwards and backwards between in-person and distant studying. 

Gallagher-Mackay attributes that improve partly to academics shifting their strategies of assessing achievement, giving college students higher alternatives to display what they’d discovered, with decreased emphasis on exams. She says academics can also have used marks as a strategy to inspire and encourage college students by means of the challenges of distant studying. 

“I believe the academics’ technique was to try to give college students some hope and optimism, and arguably, I believe it labored for many college students,” she stated. “If it actually wired the mother and father of youngsters who earlier than would have had a 94 and now are combating for a 97, that may have been an OK value.” 

For universities, the ballooning numbers of high-achieving excessive schoolers could make it difficult to resolve which college students to confess to aggressive packages. 

Dwayne Benjamin, the College of Toronto’s vice provost of strategic enrolment administration, says grade inflation additionally creates challenges for incoming college students. 

“They might have an exaggerated sense of their very own preparedness,” stated Benjamin. 

“Grades are info. Grade inflation distorts the knowledge and degrades the standard of the knowledge,” he stated.  “To the extent that the grades don’t imply the identical factor one yr to the following, it makes it troublesome for everyone.”

Student sitting outdoors at a picnic table looks through his high school yearbook.
Jeffrey Osaro, a Grade 12 scholar at Northview Heights Secondary Faculty in Toronto, appears by means of his highschool yearbook. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

Universities rely largely on the relative rating of scholars supplied by grades (somewhat than the numbers themselves) to foretell which college students are most definitely to succeed, stated Benjamin. 

“Sometimes it’s going to be the case, in case you have a 5 per cent greater grade than your classmate in your highschool, you’re extra prone to get into this system,” stated Benjamin. “However in case you have a 5 per cent greater common than a child at one other highschool, that isn’t essentially going to make the distinction.” 

‘A stab within the coronary heart’

Jeffrey Osaro, a Grade 12 scholar at Northview Heights Secondary Faculty in Toronto, had a 92 common when making use of for college packages this spring. He was rejected by the bachelor of commerce packages on the College of Toronto’s Rotman Faculty of Administration, Queen’s College’s Smith Faculty of Enterprise and Western’s Ivey Enterprise Faculty. 

Not entering into Ivey “was only a stab within the coronary heart,” stated Osaro in an interview. “I had my coronary heart set on going to Ivey.” 

Osaro stated lots of people round him had given him excessive hopes of entering into this system. 

“Clearly there are [other] college students who’ve accelerated, high-achieving grades,” he stated. “I can’t examine to that, however I do consider I used to be a well-rounded scholar.” 

He’s a scholar trustee of the Toronto District Faculty Board, volunteered with a program instructing hockey to children from low-income communities, served as a homework tutor on the Salvation Military and was president of Northview’s scholar council. He accepted a suggestion from Western’s bachelor of administration and organizational research program. 

Whereas a scholar’s six greatest marks in Grade 12 university-level programs are the usual benchmark, not all Ontario college packages make admissions choices based mostly solely on that determine. 

Some packages give higher weight to a scholar’s mark in sure programs, and extremely aggressive packages ask for supplementary info, together with resumes and written statements. 

The dynamics of provide and demand for spots in sure packages have had extra affect on pushing averages upward than grade inflation, says Andre Jardin, the College of Waterloo’s affiliate registrar of undergraduate admissions. 

“Now we have a variety of functions from a variety of improbable college students, in order that tends to be what will increase our admission averages,” stated Jardin. “Basically you need to be the highest scholar to even be making use of to those packages to have a sensible likelihood at getting in.” 

The College of Toronto has not seen any vital drop within the retention price of scholars efficiently shifting on from first to second yr amid the rising grades, says Benjamin. Nonetheless, he says school are reporting that incoming college students appear to be struggling greater than prior to now, an element probably attributable to the pandemic’s disruption of their highschool lives.

“Highschool grades get you within the door, however you’re going to have to actually show your self in first yr, which is more difficult for some than others,” he stated. 

Many highschool college students need to know what marks they should get accepted into selective college packages. However the information supplied by Ontario’s universities associated to admissions aren’t expressed as cut-off grades for entrance. 

As a substitute, every college supplies an total common of the Grade 12 marks for college students who enrolled in every program, and the proportion of enrolled college students whose marks fell inside five-point ranges (95 and up, 90 to 94, 85 to 89 and so on.).

Just a few examples from the information: 

  • At McMaster College, 50.4 per cent of scholars who enrolled in all first-year packages in 2017 had a Grade 12 common mark of 90 or greater. By 2020, that proportion rose to 63.9 per cent

  • On the College of Toronto, 52.5 per cent of scholars who enrolled within the first-year engineering program in 2017 had a Grade 12 common of 95 or greater. By 2020, that had risen to 68.4 per cent. 

  • At Queen’s College, 31.5 per cent of scholars who enrolled within the first-year bachelor of commerce program in 2017 had a Grade 12 common of 95 or greater. By 2020, that had risen to 43.5 per cent. 

Exterior photo of a Queen's University sign with a campus building in the background
Amongst first-year college students at Queen’s College’s bachelor of commerce program, the proportion who had a Grade 12 common of 95 or greater rose from 31.5 per cent in 2017 to 43.5 per cent in 2020.  (Frédéric Pepin/CBC)

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