Assessing Primary School Work

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With the Barbados Secondary School???s Entrance Examination (BSSEE) over, emphasis is now being placed on the Criterion-Referenced Test (CRT) and National Assessments which start next week.

The Criterion Referenced Test has been in existence for about 10 years and is based on the syllabus which teachers in all public and private primary schools currently use.

It is, therefore, considered by the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation as a reflection of the skills and content which children have acquired overtime.

Administered at Infants B and also at Class 2, it tests critical skills; problem solving and concepts in Comprehension, Grammar and Mathematics.

Education Officer, Everton Briggs, in explaining the rationale behind its introduction noted that it was designed to diagnose where there are strengths and deficits as it relates to student learning.

The information gathered may then be used to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the particular school. The Criterion- Referenced Test is also supposed to provide meaningful feedback on the instructional needs of students in the various subject areas.

He stressed: ???It is not an exam for marks; it just diagnoses those strengths and weaknesses; it is just for us at the Ministry to determine whether the students are versed or have mastered a particular concept or whether they need to be some focus on a particular concept.???

Intended to create a quality learning environment, Mr. Briggs maintained that it is nothing for parents to ???worry about??? and that they need not pressure children who will sit the test in the next few days. ???In the past couple of years we (The Ministry) have had lots of questions from parents and we have had parents looking for persons for CRT lessons. We do not advocate such actions,??? he said.

Explaining the process, after the test is taken, he noted: ???At Infants B, when it is done, scripts are corrected by teachers at the schools and the analysis sheets are returned to the Ministry. The Ministry further analyses the information and reports back to the school allowing teachers to see the areas in which their students are strong or in need of further development. Once we undertake the analysis of the Criterion Referenced Test in Infants B, we return to assess the students in Class 2 and we make a comparison between the two levels of performance.???

The onus is on the principal and staff to determine a course of action to address the needs of the student, he pointed out.

???We are always able to see what strides are being made to combat the deficiencies. This analysis gives teachers the opportunity to tailor their instruction to work on deficiencies so that by Class 2 when the Test is administered again we should be seeing a change – those deficits in Infants B should no longer be recurring at Class 2. The onus then is on the teacher and the school to put systems in place to deal with those deficiencies before Class Two and even after,??? Mr. Briggs explained.

The official, who works in the Examination Section of the Ministry, also noted that a copy of the analysis sheet should be given to parents. According to him, the aim of sending these home to parents is to make them aware of the work being undertaken and tested on the syllabus.

Noting that some parents do not avail themselves of these sheets, he said: ???We want parents to go to the schools and collect the criterion reports as they too would be able to lend assistance to their charges.???

While in most cases, the Ministry continues to see changes, Mr. Briggs believes there is room for improvement.

???We can see that the students are picking up in certain areas. However, there are some areas that continue to pose challenges to students, for example, analysis and inference in comprehension. In Grammar and Mathematics, we are seeing too that critical areas are being worked on by the teachers so we are quite happy with what we are seeing but we are still asking principals to keep talking to staff and keep employing strategies with respect to the problem solving and critical thinking skills that are recurring,??? he explained.

There are also National Assessments at the Class 3 level in Science and Social Studies. A decision was made in 2000, to include Science and Social Studies in the core offerings at the primary school level. This was deemed necessary to broaden the foundation of knowledge, skills and attitudes of students who exit the primary system.

As a result, national syllabuses were created and schools mandated to expose students to the full gamut of subjects, not only English and Mathematics. Limiting students to select subjects could result in them having major deficits which often prove to be insurmountable.

The purpose of these National Assessments is to ascertain the level of progress being made by students in meeting the attainment targets as prescribed in the syllabus documents. The assessments also seek to address content and concepts as well as skills.

The ultimate goal, for each subject, is to generate a profile for each child indicating the level of competence in each discipline assessed. It is hoped that this data will be forwarded to secondary schools to inform the planning process for the students assigned based on the results of the BSSEE.

The Criterion-Referenced Test and the National Assessments start about two weeks after the BSSEE or Common Entrance Examination, as it is called, and as such they are slated to begin next Monday, May 19. It is expected that all schools will administer them at the same time and would end by Thursday, May 22.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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