JIS News

Principal of the Half-Way-Tree Primary School in Kingston, Catherine Malcolm, is appealing to schools and other education stakeholders to begin preparing students for the Grade 4 Literacy Test from as early as Grade 1.
“Don’t wait to prepare for Grade 4. I don’t agree with that and we don’t need the Ministry of Education to tell us that we had to have something in place to help our children,” she stated in a recent interview with JIS News.
“What if you never had a test at Grade 4, what would happen to these children, would they just go through the system without learning?” she questioned, while urging teachers to get creative in addressing students’ weaknesses.
“It is our responsibility, from the moment we get the students, to start looking at the data you gather with the Grade 1 learning profile. Look at what you have, where the weaknesses are, and find the resources within your school to work with those students. Get creative and start working on the weaknesses from Grade 1 and it doesn’t stop at Grade 4; you continue until the child leaves the school,” Miss Malcolm emphasised.
Using her school as an example, the Principal pointed out that numerous strategies are employed to assist students’ literacy and numeracy skills, starting from Grade 1.
“We don’t have any profound preparation for Grade 4 as such, we start our preparation from Grade 1. We are constantly working on the literacy and numeracy levels of the children and we look for where the children have weaknesses and we work on that…we strategise for those weaknesses,” she noted.
Depending on the weaknesses identified, children are given special attention, with specialist teachers working on those deficiencies. “We have three reading specialists working at different levels, pulling the students who are not reading at grade level and working with them at different times,” she informed.
Miss Malcolm noted that while there is no streaming of students, remedial classes have been set up for those who are struggling. “When the students are leaving Grade 2, we select those who are struggling and they would go into that class and the teachers would work on their literacy and numeracy skills and then, after that year in Grade 3, if they are still struggling, we also have a Grade 4 remedial class where another teacher works with them,” the Principal outlined.
Technology is also used to assist the students, Miss Malcolm said, informing that in addition to special computer software, there is a promethean or interactive white board that the teachers use with the Grade 4 students.
She also stated that the teachers are very skilled in the various techniques to work with the children and the school has had much success in bringing students up to the mark with their literacy and numeracy skills, and in achieving mastery in the Grade 4 Literacy Test.
“We have had great success. In 2004, we had 84 per cent mastery; 2005, 85 per cent mastery; 2006, 87 per cent mastery and in 2007, 92 per cent mastery. The strategies work,” she told JIS News.
In the meantime, Grade 4 teacher, Stephanie Sewell-Brown, pointed out that various strategies are used to improve the literacy level of students, including pattern reading, where children who can read at a higher level assist those who are deficient, and tape recordings, where the children read, listen to themselves and make corrections.
The Ministry of Education is on a drive to have 100 per cent literacy and numeracy at the primary level and is to spend close to half a billion dollars on literacy and numeracy specialists this financial year.
The Ministry is also expanding its corps of literacy specialists from 50 to 90 and the number of numeracy specialists from 56 to 70.
The Grade 4 Literacy Test will be held on June 18.

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