Stop creaming students! JAPVP president calls for mandatory signing for all students sitting external exams
President of the Jamaica Association of Principals and Vice Principals (JAPVP) Linton Weir has registered strong opposition to the practice of schools recommending only some of its students to sit external examinations based on behaviour and previous academic performance.
"I would love to see my principal colleagues move away from the creaming off and move to signing every Jamaican student for exams, and even if we are not able to sign them for all Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams, we must reach the level where students must sit some kind of exam," he said in an interview with The Gleaner.
Weir also called for a policy of mandatory signing of all students to sit CSEC exams. He argued that there was inherent discrimination associated with the practice of hand-picking students for the exams, given that teachers can refuse to sign students as a form of punishment.
He explained that he was against the practice of creaming students as he was "trying to eliminate the human factor where a student is rude to a teacher and the child is punished, but the teacher carries that grudge and does not sign off on the student to sit exams because of that".
For Weir, selecting only those students that teachers expect to perform well to sit external exams, referred to as the cream of the crop, does a disservice to the duty that educators have to adequately prepare all students for the job market and only serves as a way for schools to prop up their percentage passes.
"There are schools that will brag about a one hundred per cent pass in different subject areas, but if one student does the exam, that's one hundred per cent, and a lot of times, we boast about a one hundred per cent pass, but we need to ask how many students actually sat the exam because if you cannot send up all of the cohort, then it says something about your teaching, so that is why I have mandatory signing at my school," he said.
Weir, who is principal at Old Harbour High School, argued that any teacher worth his mettle should be able to adequately prepare students to sit external exams, regardless of their prior performance.
"If I am only going to sign 50 of 500 students to sit an exam, then I have failed as a principal and the teachers have failed, too," he added.
School improvement coach with Jamaica National's iLead Project Ester Tyson, in responding to a Gleaner request for analysis of students' performance in this year's CSEC exams, also raised concerns about the practice of creaming.
"There are still concerns with the pass rate, seeing that many schools are not sending up the total grade cohort to sit the examinations. What needs to be determined, therefore, is the percentage of the cohort that is sitting the examination," she stated in her email response.
Extending the analysis to the 14.3 percentage decline in mathematics, Tyson argued that "not many students are allowed to sit mathematics at the CSEC level in many of our schools. What percentage of the total cohort was allowed to sit the examinations? It means that if it is as low as it usually is, the picture is very troubling."