Wed | Sep 26, 2018

Maths teachers urged to adopt new assessment standards

Published:Monday | August 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer

National Mathematics coordinator, Dr Tamika Benjamin, is warning that there is a great risk the gains made in student performance in mathematics over the past few years could be eroded if educators do not change their approach to teaching, by aligning it with the new assessment standards.

There has been some disquiet among some teachers who argue that the new Primary Exit Profile (PEP), which replaces the Grade Six Achievement Test, demands too much of students.

The structure of PEP is geared towards emphasising critical thinking and analysis, the Ministry of Education has insisted, further pointing out that multiple-choice questions will not be a major feature of the exams.

Benjamin argued that teachers must conform to teaching and learning practices recommended by the National College for Teaching and Leadership for the subject as the country enters into a new dispensation. She was speaking at the Mona Visitors' Lodge in St Andrew last week, where a grant from the government of Japan-funded Inter-American Development Bank Technical Cooperation Grant Programme to help improve the outcome of mathematics was officially handed over.

"It is expected that as our teachers develop their assessment skills - the new assessment skills that will be required - the approach they use within the classroom will mirror the practices and, clearly, those practices will drive the development of national exams," she said.

"So, for those of us who've taken the time to look at the sample questions from PEP, you can recognise that if our teachers are consistently building their approach to teaching around these principles, a firm foundation would have already been laid for our students to be able to respond to those items that, at present, look challenging and difficult," Benjamin continued.

At the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate level this year, there was a 7.6 percentage point increase in the number of Jamaicans passing the subject when compared to 2017. However, the overall pass rate is only 57.8 per cent for public schools.

"So our failure to ensure that all key stakeholders on the ground understand the practices and understand the methodologies that support the development of the practices, could mean that in the long-term we begin to see the gains we have been making wiped out. Because it means that change in assessment is pushing for methodology at the classroom level," Benjamin said.

The maths coordinator said the funds will help to bolster the technical skills and competencies of the education ministry's team.

She said that those to benefit will include education officers from the Curriculum Unit and those from the Student Assessment Unit, along with coordinators and specialists.

The programme will be accompanied by the provision of a US$40,000 technical cooperation grant to upgrade mathematics resource rooms in 10 institutions.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com