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Baccalaureate: how continuous assessment is changing the lives of high school students



To play his diploma in the ultimate straight line of high school? Or be evaluated over time, with a transfer spread over two years? The reform of the baccalaureate, in force since last year, clearly leans towards this second approach, by providing 40% continuous control in the final grade.

“It prevents accidentsapproves Grégory Laboureur, at the head of several Catholic establishments in the North. You no longer risk missing your baccalaureate by failing in one or two tests with a high coefficient. That also spares candidates the stress of a week of non-stop exams. »

An opinion shared by most of the students met in front of the Lycée Rodin, in Paris. “In the event of a bad mark, we have time to raise our average”believes Marius, in first. “It forces us to work regularly”, adds one of his comrades, Timothée. Others are less approving. “I feel like I pass the baccalaureate every four mornings”breathes Tosca.

More spread over time, more diffuse, the pressure of the tank remains no less real. It sometimes weighs on the mental health of young people, already weakened by the Covid epidemic, as evidenced by the explosion in the number of consultations in child psychiatry.

“Notes have become an obsession”

Students are well aware that their orientation in higher education, with a logic of classification extended to many university courses, is largely based on continuous assessment. Even entirely, like last year after the cancellation of the final specialty tests scheduled for mid-March, or like this year again, with their postponement to May, i.e. after examining the files on Parcoursup.

→ INVESTIGATION. “There is reason to be discouraged”: between health crisis and school pressure, the malaise of teenagers

On a day-to-day basis, grades are therefore even more important than in the past. Disproportionate importance, in the eyes of Jérôme Martin, history-geo teacher in a high school in Seine-Saint-Denis: “Grades have become an obsession. They eclipse the meaning of learning. Only Parcoursup account. »

His discipline, within the common core, accounts for 6% of the final mark of the baccalaureate. As long as the teacher gives three marks per term, each assignment corresponds to barely more than 0.2% of the total assessment… But that does not prevent some students from developing avoidance strategies, such as not present at the last control if they already have a good average. “I happened to identify up to ten absent students, and not just because of Covid”says Jérôme Martin.

“The temptation not to show up for an assignment on the table to be sure to maintain a good average is great”, recognizes one of the students of the Rodin high school. But the establishment, he continues, has found a “parade”by organizing sessions on certain Saturdays where pupils who are absent during a test are required to work on replacement subjects.

Negotiate additional control

Another more often successful strategy is to “negotiate with the teacher for an additional check, just to make up for a bad grade”explains Tosca. “In the end, the logic of competition is exacerbateddeplores Claire Guéville, national secretary of Snes. And it becomes difficult to free the pedagogical relationship from utilitarian, even patronage considerations. »

Unlike some of her colleagues, this history-geography teacher in the Rouen academy is not subject to pressure from families. But she found with surprise that she granted “Averages two or three points higher than those of two or three years ago”.

In his view, this is one of the multiple biases of continuous monitoring: “The teacher who gives the mark is also the one who trained the student. By evaluating the baccalaureate candidate on a daily basis, one self-evaluates one’s own work in a certain way. We can therefore tend, unconsciously, to be more generous, as shown by the general rise in averages. »

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“For an evolution of evaluation practices”

Laurent Zameczkowski,spokesperson for the parents’ federation Peep

“In many high schools, our local associations are advocating for changes in assessment practices. They sometimes fear that old habits of severe grading – encouraging students to work a lot – will weigh on the continuous assessment and cause injustice on Parcoursup.

This demand is all the stronger since this year, the final specialty tests (both coefficient 16), postponed to May, will not be taken into account on the platform. This change in rules along the way makes the work of grade harmonization commissions at the level of establishments and academies all the more necessary. »

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