By Denise Clarke, Staff Reporter
THEY MAY have been given a failing grade in Dr. Dennis Minott's recent survey of the 2003 CXC results, but this hardly matters to the teachers and students at the Maggotty High School in St. Elizabeth.
In fact, they are proud in the knowledge that the 'D' grade they received has placed them third among the upgraded high schools and way ahead of several traditional high schools across the island. The focus, however, is not on Dr. Minott's grade, but rather on the 100 percent pass rate the school attained in the 2003 CXC Information Technology (IT) exams.
Principal Rawle Bent admits that passes in the core subject areas of mathematics and English can be improved, but he was quick to point out that it was hard work and dedicated teachers that took the school to its present academic position.
"It's not that we have brilliant students, I think it's the type of students we do have and what we are able to do with them why we are able to perform at certain levels," Mr. Bent noted. "The teachers have worked very hard they do a lot of extra time with them and I think that is paying off."
He went on to explain that a number of students entering grade seven were badly in need of remedial teaching, and teachers in grades seven and eight have had to spend time teaching the basics before getting into the regular curriculum.
Vice-principal Megan Foster feels that the grade seven students who need remedial teaching will have to be targeted, so that they will be more equipped for CXC exams five years later.
"The key is to touch the problem right in grade seven, so that they will be more comfortable with the work when they reach up to CXC," Mrs. Foster said. "We need a reading lab and a remedial teacher to work with them; these are key if we are going to see improvements in the academics."
However, for the IT programme, students are exposed to the subject from as early as grade seven and those who display an aptitude for the subject are encouraged to continue up to the CXC level. In fact, the school's IT department has a structured programme led by dedicated teachers that allows students to spend far more than the regular class time on the computer, and to use IT to assist in other subject areas.
This approach appears to have paid off tremendously, as in 2003, nine years after IT was first introduced at Maggotty High, 20 per cent of the students who took the CXC IT exams passed with grade one, while 74 per cent received a 'grade two' pass mark. In 2001, 25 of 27 students who sat the IT CXC exams received a grade one pass.
"We have seen great progress in the area," said Robert Wallace, head of the IT Department. "The number of passes is just phenomenal and by that I mean generally speaking we get 100 per cent pass for the number of students that sit the exams nearly all of them pass. A few years we have had high 90s but mostly all of them pass."
To maintain the trend Maggotty High has set in the IT subject area, Mr. Wallace admits that a lot more resources will be needed. Presently the student-to-computer ratio is one to three, and only 90 of the 2,002 students enrolled at the school have access to the IT programme. An expanded computer lab and additional computers and educational software would enable more students to participate in the IT programme, he said. As for Dr. Minott's D grade, Mr. Wallace is confident that the school will continue to improve not only in IT but also in the core subject areas.
"If it is a D it is a very good, D because we have many traditional high schools that got E and F and we are happy about that. However, we are not satisfied with where we are. We are looking to improve that and move up the steps," he added.
Whatever the grade, IT student Kerdeen Wallock knows that her school has done well and the grade 10 student is determined to prove it, when she sits the CXC exams in 2005. "I feel very proud Maggotty and I am happy that we are 'up there' and I think we can go further and we will," she told The Sunday Gleaner.