Ministry wants greater accountability for non-performing schools
Erica Virtue ,Senior Gleaner Writer
The Government is turning the spotlight on education officers as it steps up its demand for greater accountability in the system.
Initially, the focus will be on education officers responsible for the parishes where a high per cent of primary schools are consistently producing children who fail to master the Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy Tests.
The Ministry of Education has identified the parishes of Manchester, Portland and St Mary where it has grave concerns, while the 2011 results have shown worrying trends for St Catherine and St Andrew.
Education ministry officials say the education officers will be forced to give greater account for schools under their watch.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites and a team from the ministry expressed their displeasure with the current situation and declared that it cannot be allowed to continue, during a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.
"It is unacceptable. Let us make it quite clear. It can't go on like this. The role of the education officers has to change. They have to be held more accountable and this is why we are putting the emphasis on early-childhood education so that diagnosis can be done early," said Thwaites.
Acting Permanent Secretary Grace McLean said while psychosocial analyses are detecting a number of problems with some of the children, the education officers will be given mandates to ensure improved performance.
"The greatest challenge we have is in Portland, and that is followed by Manchester and St Mary. The fact that we published the grade four results and we ensure that our education officers work directly with the school so that we can improve standards, we are seeing slow signs of improvement," said McLean.
She argued that in many cases officials have tried, but the lack of a screening process to identify other kinds of learning disabilities afflicting the children has caused underperformance.
According to McLean, small schools, especially some in deep rural areas are under-resourced, and parents do not know how to seek assistance for their children.
The assessment has identified problems, including seeing and hearing difficulties.
In the 2011 results, more than 50 per cent of the schools in the parishes of Manchester, St Catherine and St Andrew failed to achieve 50 per cent mastery in the test.
Manchester, the mid-island parish, has recorded the highest level of non-mastery in the entire island. Of the 58 schools where the test was administered, 45 failed to achieve 50 per cent mastery.
These included Rose Hill Primary which was already on the ministry's watch list of dismal performers, once again performed below par, registering zero per cent mastery.
In St Catherine, 60 of the 93 schools failed to achieve 50 per cent mastery.
In St Andrew, 52 of the 77 failed to achieve 50 per cent mastery.
The examination - the Grade Four Literacy Test which consists of three sections: word recognition, reading comprehension and writing - require students to master all three sections to achieve mastery in the exam.
The test provides indicators of numeracy and literacy readiness for the Grade Six Achievement Test two years later.