Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Think tank exam ratings skewed

Published:Tuesday | May 9, 2017 | 5:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

EducateJamaica has been ranking secondary schools based on the percentage of their students passing at least five Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects, with mathematics and/or English.

Other than the aforementioned organisation, Bill Johnson and Dr Ralph Thompson have also ranked high schools based on their passes in mathematics and English.

However, unlike their report, Education2020, the former's methodology is quite skewed. In the publication, schools are ranked based on the quality and quantity of their passes. For example, if School A has a 100 per cent pass rate for mathematics and School B has 99 per cent, but the latter has mostly students passing with grade ones, this institution will receive a higher ranking.

To many, this is clearly sensible, because if two schools have similar cohorts and similar passes, the school with a higher quality of passes has to be superior.

 

NO ANALYSIS

 

The analysis of Educate-Jamaica, however, is simplistic. This think tank is providing the pass rates of secondary schools with no analysis. For example, if School One has a cohort of 140 students and School Two has a cohort of 300, but School One gets a pass rate of 99 per cent and School Two gets 97 per cent, based on the analysis of EducateJamaica, the former will get a higher ranking. But the school with a better-ranking performance may not be superior.

The fact that School Two has a larger number of people passing exams is not a sufficient requirement to make the argument that it is a better school. It matters, however, that the percentage of students attaining subjects is high in relation to the cohort. Therefore, if a school has a cohort of 400, and gets a pass rate of 60 per cent, of course the attainment of subjects by students will be a large number, but at the same time, 60 per cent is nothing to gloat about. Hence, it would be nonsensical to posit that schools with a larger number of students passing exams are better.

The fact is, whether or not the cohort is smaller is irrelevant, because its performance indicates that it is on the same level with the school that has a larger number of students. Such analyses are not taken into account by EducateJamaica.

For example, it is being reported in the media that the success rate of Belmont Academy is 93 per cent and that it has outpaced some high schools. This is without context. Belmont Academy is eight years old, and in 2012 it had a pass rate of 14.8 per cent. When your grades are that low, you should only go up. Further, the school cohort for the 2016 CSEC exams was 70. Hence, you should not compare a Belmont Academy with a Knox College that has a larger cohort and a higher quality of passes. May I suggest a change in methodology.

LIPTON MATTHEWS

lo_matthews@yahoo.com