Out of reach - Special needs making literacy test goals almost impossible for many students

Published: Monday | November 26, 2012 Comments 0
Ronald Thwaites, Education Minister
Ronald Thwaites, Education Minister

Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter

There has been a slight increase in the number of students attaining mastery in the 2012 sitting of the Grade Four Literacy Test, but Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is raising concern about the reported cohort of the students who sat the examination and are said to have special needs.

Thwaites told The Gleaner yesterday that, according to ministry officials whom he refused to name, 15 per cent of the almost 60,000 students who sat the examination are challenged and the required standards would be out of their reach.

The results, which will be made public sometime next week, show a three percentage point increase in students who have mastered the tests.

There is 74 per cent mastery level this year compared to 71 per cent last year and 67 per cent in 2010.

"The issue that has been brought to my attention is that 100 per cent of the cohort has to be redefined to approximately 85 per cent because the argument is that about 15 per cent of the children are challenged and they couldn't be expected to reach the standard," Thwaites said.

"I am uncomfortable with that. I accept that there will be some proportion like that, but I need to know whether that proportion is an excuse for poor performance or whether it is verifiable."

He said the ministry would be seeking to verify the figures so the necessary assistance could be given to the students who are in need.

"This is something that we are investigating because we want to offer special assistance to those who need it and who are exceptional, but we don't want to baptise others into that category in order to make the figures look better than they really are," he added.

Meanwhile, Thwaites said the improvement in the results was an indication that the country was on a path to achieving the education goal of having full literacy by 2015.

"I am gratified that we seem to be making measured progress and I am confident that with specialist help and renewed focus, we can be on track for the 2015 target," he said.

"I want to express appreciation for the renewed effort of schools to meet their targets and we must always keep firmly focused on the absolute imperative of our young people being literate at their appropriate grade level."

nadisha.hunter@gleanerjm.com

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