Waterloo Grade Adjustment List Revealed

Steven Du - 1A Software Engineering
Posted on: September 26, 2018

It’s no secret that Ontario high school marks have been rising at a remarkable pace. Since Ontario abolished province-wide standardized exams in 1967, the percentage of students applying to university with an A average (80%+) has increased from under 40% to well over 60%. While this trend could suggest that students are getting smarter, a cursory glance at student performance on the province-wide EQAO and literacy exams would indicate otherwise. Instead this phenomenon is attributed to grade-inflation, whereby schools artificially raise marks to give students a better chance in an increasingly competitive university admissions environment. Although this may give students an easier time when applying to university, admissions officers are now tasked with determining the eligibility of applicants using sets of incomparable grades. Waterloo’s solution? A high school grade adjustment list.

For years, Waterloo Engineering has adjusted grades based on the performance of previous matriculates from the same school; but until now, the data used for those adjustments has never been publicized. The list, which contains data from three years for 74 high schools who have sent numerous students to Waterloo’s engineering program, offers some interesting insight into the consistency of marks from different schools and school boards. It is important to note that while the list shows the average drop in mark from high school to university, it does not show how this drop impacts the chances of student admission. Here are some of the highlights from the data:

  • The average drop in marks from high school to university for an Ontario school not part of the 74 schools on the list is 16.3%
  • The average mark drop for schools on the list ranges from 10.1% to 27.5%
  • Schools that are part of the Toronto, York Region, and Ottawa public school boards had an average adjustment factor of below 16%
  • Four of the five private schools on the list had an average drop of over 16%
  • Of the top 10 schools with the lowest adjustment factors, six were within the top 100 schools (out of 747) as ranked by the Fraser Institute*,  compared to none of the bottom 10 schools
  • Of the top 10 schools with the lowest adjustment factors, seven offered an AP or IB program as compared to four of the bottom 10 schools

From this data, it is difficult to comment on the relationships between internal school factors and grades; specifically, there is contention as to whether or not schools ranking near the bottom are culpable of grade inflation. The manager of communications for the Peterborough Catholic School Board (which includes St. Peter Catholic Secondary School, which received an adjustment factor of 23.5%), Galen Eagle, asserts that “any indication that [the list is] a sign of inflated marks at the high school level, is beyond stretch of imagination.” Eagle reasons that there are a variety of factors that could affect a student’s transition into university, namely the familiarity of the university environment compared to the high school environment. Nevertheless, the data offers valuable feedback for schools trying to help students ease the transition from high school to university.

*The Fraser Institute ranks schools based on quantitative data from the standardized, province-wide EQAO grade nine mathematics assessment and Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test

 

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