Salter’s Hill All Age, with 3 students in grade 4, all of whom achieved mastery, had a marvelous turnaround from 0% mastery in 2010 to 100% mastery in 2011.
Mount Zion Primary, with 5 students in grade 4, had an equally commendable turnaround from 0% mastery in 2010 to 80% in 2011, with 20% (one student) almost achieving mastery. (The total enrollment at this school has unfortunately fallen from 45 to 30 students.)
Mount Horeb All Age and Infant had only one student sit the exam, but since this student achieved mastery, that gave them 100%.
These were the schools I tracked in my post ‘Class Size and the Teaching of Reading’ on September 6, 2011, when I didn’t name them, because of their poor performance. I am now happy to highlight their good performance. Unlike The Gleaner, Thursday, November 10, 2011, which chose to write about poorly performing schools, under the headline ‘WEAK SCHOOL WATCH’, when they could have given prominence to the fact that there has been an overall 4% improvement in results over last year.
That article glossed over the fact that the schools with 0% mastery are all small schools. The statistics (published on Wednesday), and responses from the principals, to the charge of being called ‘weak schools’, published in the Gleaner on Friday, November 11, 2011, reveal the following:
|Grades 4,5 and 6 students at Mount Vernon Primary School|
Rose Hill Primary, Manchester: The Gleaner’s statistics state that the school enrollment was 38, with only 2 teachers to teach grades 1-6. The number of children in grade 4 was 4, two of whom sat the test. However, according to the principal, 8 students were eligible to sit the exam, 2 were absent, 2 had no grade sent for them. Of the other four, one got mastery, 2 non-mastery and one almost mastery. He also stated that they have a serious attendance problem with the students. The current enrollment is 80.
Hamwalk Primary, St. Catherine: The school enrollment was 23, with only 2 teachers to teach grades 1-6. The number of children in grade 4 was 5. Four of them sat the test. A teacher’s comment “The previous principal was the grade 4 teacher and most of the time the students didn’t have any teacher… they were not prepared for the exam.” Where was the principal? He should have been able to do his administrative work after school was dismissed. The present acting principal, on secondment from another school, pledges to improve on this performance. I believe she will.
Juan De Bolas Primary: The school enrollment was 43. Pupil teacher ratio was given as 9:1 indicating 4 teachers to teach grades 1-6. The number of children in grade 4 was given as 5, while 6 sat the test (did one turn up who wasn't enrolled?)
For these 4 schools, the number of children who sat the test, and failed to achieve mastery, adds up to 13. Compare this total with a school with 68% mastery, a population of 1,067, a grade 4 enrollment of 205, and having 184 children sit the test. 32% of 184 means that 58 children didn’t achieve mastery. This school is not on the weak school list but clearly needs help.
However, I still think there’s a case for closing these (and other) very small schools and sending the children to schools where there is at least one teacher per grade, specialized in the curriculum for that grade. The minimum enrollment for a primary school, I think, should be 210—six grades with 35 children in each grade. Despite the challenges of teaching in deep rural areas, it’s really not fair that some teachers have such small classes, while those in urban areas have classes of 50. Furthermore, it's because parents move their children from these deep rural schools, possibly because teachers are not teaching as they should, that the rolls are falling and those in urban areas are increasing.
One other observation from this year’s results: Of the 33,148 students who achieved mastery, 56% were girls and 44% were boys. This highlights the challenge of teaching boys to read. Perhaps there needs to be more appealing reading material for the boys who aren’t achieving mastery.