Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Moving up - Non-traditional schools in Centres of Excellenceprogramme return improved CSEC results

Published:Sunday | September 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Students of Green Pond High School in St James engaged in a book ahead of classes after the school
experienced a 14-percentage point increase in CSEC math this year. - Contributed photo Students at Mile Gully High School in Manchester enjoy the moment after a nine-percentage point improvement in CSEC math this year. - Contributed photo
Students at Porus High School in Manchester basking after a 30-percentage point improvement in CSEC maths this year. - Contributed photo

Six rural non-traditional high schools, which participated in the Centres of Excellence programme by the Mutual Building Societies Foundation (MBSF), have recorded a dramatic increase in student performance in mathematics the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams following the five-year intervention.

Based on data from the Ministry of Education, two of the six schools exceeded the 13 per cent national rate of improvement in math.

Porus High School in Manchester experienced a 30 percentage point improvement in the number of passes and Green Pond High in St James experienced an increase of 14 percentage points when compared to its score last year.

Per cent increase

McGrath High also gained a double-digit increase with an 11 per cent improvement in math, while Mile Gully High in Manchester improved by nine per cent and Seaforth High in St Thomas by two per cent.

The increases were based on the cohort of students sitting mathematics, which has more than doubled and tripled, in some instances, in all Centres of Excellence schools in the past five years.

"The journey to excellence is a process and the results indicate that the schools are progressing towards that mark," said Dr Renée Rattray, programme manager at the MBSF, an institution formed by the Jamaica National Building Society and the Victoria Mutual Building Society.

She noted that the $100 million Centres of Excellence initiative by the MBSF, through a six-point approach, assisted the schools to establish a framework, which positioned them to independently work towards improving standards. The five-year initiative ended last year.

"What the schools now employ is a different approach to the teaching of math," said Rattray. "Teachers are helping students to see how the fractions and formulas they are learning fit into a bigger picture. Therefore, math is becoming real and more relevant to them," she continued, pointing to the still general pervasive fear of the subject.

Consultant math specialist to the programme, Dr Tamika Benjamin, added that using practical examples that connect the subject to everyday situations helps children to achieve a better understanding of the intricacies of mathematics without the need to memorise rules.

"What was happening in the schools generally, and still happens in many schools, was a rigid approach to the teaching of math, where students were fed rules and taught to stick to those rules," she argued.

Practical examples

"However, what we have demonstrated is that when children come to an understanding by themselves - whether right or wrong - they develop their own modes of reasoning and approach so that they can overcome problems on their own, and this helps to reduce fear. It is, therefore, very important that we use practical examples in the classroom so that the correct foundation is laid at the outset." she said.

"We are now seeing the results of the Centres of Excellence programme and the passes are good," principal of Porus High School, Michael Stewart, said.

He revealed that the number of students who passed mathematics nearly quadrupled at Porus this year, moving from 11 to 42 passes, while the number of students passing English increased by 14 students.

"We've also continue to do well in the sciences, with 100 per cent of the sitting cohort passing integrated science," he highlighted.

Principal of Green Pond High, Michael Ellis, said question-led discussions initiated by students, for instance, have become commonplace in the classroom; and have led to improvements not only in math but other core subject areas.

"I challenged my teachers to move the performance by a minimum of five percentage points per year and five percentage points, based on where we are coming from is pushing the envelope. The very year I said that it moved from nine to 15 per cent. This year, we have the same plans in place and we are stepping up and ramping up the mathematics programme, and we have jumped from 15 per cent to 24 per cent," said principal of Mile Gully High, Lawrence Rowe.

Passes in English at Mile Gully also improved by 10 percentage points from 42 per cent to 52 per cent, with the quality of passes also improving as more students attained credits and distinctions in the core subjects.

All Centres of Excellence schools showed improvement, when compared to last year, in the number of students attaining five or more subjects, including English and mathematics, with recent school-ranking data by the independent organisation, Educate Jamaica, showing one Centres of Excellence school, Seaforth High in St Thomas, doubling its performance.