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Struggling students - Some 60 per cent fail Supplemental Grade Four Literacy Test

Published:Sunday | March 11, 2012 | 12:00 AM
A Jessie Ripoll Primary student comforts her classmate as they reacted to GSAT results in June last year. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer

Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter

Nearly 60 per cent of the more than 20,000 primary school students who were given a second and fourth crack at the Grade Four Literacy Test in December 2011 failed to achieve mastery.

Unpublished results requested from the Ministry of Education showed that only 9,049 or 44.7 per cent of the 20,235 primary school students who wrote the supplemental exam late last year achieved mastery.

The literacy test comprises three sub-tests: Word recognition, reading comprehension and writing. Only students who have attained mastery on all three sub-tests are adjudged to have attained mastery.

Grace McLean, acting permanent secretary in the education ministry, said her team was "certainly not pleased with the results".

"Clearly the data is showing that at least 28 per cent of our students are suffering from some form of severe to mild learning disabilities through the child-find programme implemented in Region Two (Portland, St Mary and St Thomas). Again the necessary steps are being taken to allow us to effectively treat with these students," stated McLean in response to The Sunday Gleaner's queries.

However, she noted that the results were important because they give the baseline information that can be used to plan and implement the required intervention.

Close to 8,000 of the young students almost achieved mastery, which meant that they mastered one or two sub-tests.

More than 3,200 of the primary school students who did the re-sit were given the non-mastery grade. This means that the students did not master any of the three subtests.

Of the more than 20,000-strong cohort, 7,471 of them were sitting the benchmark exam for the fourth time while the remainder was getting a second crack at achieving mastery.

The stats on the fourth sitters almost mirrored that of the total cohort. Almost 42 per cent attained mastery with an almost equal number attaining almost mastery and 16 per cent were given the grade of non-mastery.

Of the batch of second sitters - 12,764 students - some 5,915 (46.3 per cent) students achieved mastery, 4,831 (37.9 per cent) of them almost mastered the test and 2,018 (15.8 per cent) of them did not master any of the subtests.

McLean also told The Sunday Gleaner that the struggling "students are part of the competence-based transition policy and so will be a part of ASTEP".

More than 71 per cent of the 56,126 students who sat the examination in 2011 attained mastery, up from 67 per cent in 2010 and 70 per cent in 2009. Of that number, 19.6 per cent gained almost mastery while nine per cent were in the non-mastery category.

For public schools, 69 per cent attained mastery, an increase compared to the 64.5 per cent recorded in 2010 and the 67.3 per cent noted in 2009.

Private schools gained 93 per cent mastery, six per cent almost mastery and one per cent in the non-mastery category.

At that time, former prime minister and then education minister, Andrew Holness, said that despite the increase, he was not satisfied with the results and would not get complacent, as the aim was to reach universal literacy by 2015.