ASTEP foul-up - Education ministry informs schools of national exam for poor-performing students at the ninth hour
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
A scheduling snafu by the Ministry of Education reduced several primary-level students to tears on Friday after they were given a day's notice to prepare for a test administered under the Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP).
Last week, educators from a number of schools told The Sunday Gleaner that they received a bulletin on Thursday which stated that the 11 and 12-year-olds had to do an assessment exam the next day.
Students in tears
"Coming in this morning to hear that they have an exam ... some of them were crying. They are all slow learners," said a teacher from a Corporate Area-based primary and junior high school who asked that her identity be withheld.
The teacher who spoke with The Sunday Gleaner on Friday - the day of the exam - said her school received a bulletin "dated June 5, 2012, informing the principal of an examination to be taken by the ASTEP students today, June 8, 2012".
When contacted on Friday, Grace McLean, acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education said she would investigate the matter.
She told our news team that if the students were only given a day's notice, then the tests would have to be administered again.
"I will more than look into the matter. If this is what happened it is unacceptable," said McLean, who insisted that schools should have been told that the date of the test is flexible.
The acting permanent secretary explained that the ASTEP is a two-year programme and the test was part of the continuous assessment that is used to check the progress of the 4,420 students currently participating in the programme in some 238 schools.
McLean said the grades would be stored, but stressed that the test was not a national exam.
ASTEP is designed to provide an alternative instructional path for children who, after four sittings of the Grade Four Literacy Test, have not been certified literate and, therefore, will not transition immediately to secondary schools via the Grade Six Achievement Test .
Jennifer Reynolds, principal of John Mills Primary and Junior High, confirmed the lateness of the bulletin but could not comment on why the memo came a day before the test. However, she said it would have been better if the students were given more time to prepare.
Reynolds said she knew that the students were going to be assessed but did not have a specific date for the test.