JIS News

There has been improvements in student performance since the introduction of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), according to assistant Chief Education Officer at the Student Assessment Unit in the Ministry of Education, Mrs. Sharon Neil.
“I think the Ministry is trying to be responsive, by putting these assessments in place, to provide teachers with tools that will guide them to impact on the performance of the students in the GSAT,” she said.
“I think we have been seeing some success in this regard, because, since the GSAT was first implemented nationally in 1999, we have seen some gross gains in student’s performance,” she told JIS News in an interview.
“The national means have been creeping up slightly in some subjects, more than others over the last six years for example, and I think that is attributable to the fact that teachers are using the information coming from the national assessments to help them to plan instruction and to address students learning needs,” she explained.
Mrs. Neil said that the GSAT review, which is in its second phase, should now focus on teachers making use of the material available to them.
“Where I think our focus needs to go, as we continue the revision of the GSAT, is to put in place other measures to ensure that more teachers are using the data that is available to them to drive the improvement in their schools”, she pointed out.
She also noted that, although GSAT is being criticized by different stakeholders as being difficult, students are doing extremely well.
“The criticism is taken that GSAT might be difficult for some students, (but) some students are doing exceptionally well. That sometimes create a challenge for us in placement, because of the competition and, very often, there is not much to differentiate the students at the top, because they are performing so very well,” she said.
“So we should not look at this criticism of the GSAT as being too difficult, but recognize that yes, it may be difficult for some students who are not performing at the expected level, but there are many students who are dong extremely well on the GSAT,” she emphasized.
The Student Assessment Unit ensures that national assessments are valid, reliable and fair to all students.
“In trying to achieve that, we ensure that as far as the GSAT is concerned, we have a table of specifications that guides us in the development of the test items. This table of specifications, as we were mandated to do, matches the objectives and the attainment targets in the primary curriculum and in developing the items on those tests,” she said.
“We employ teachers and other educators to develop those items, so we can take the performance of the students on that assessment as being a very valid measure of how the students are performing nationally”, Mrs. Neil stated.
In the meantime, the Assistant Chief Education Officer is appealing to parents to change their perceptions as it relates to quality school spaces.
“Look at all school types, talents, particular strengths, look at the programmes in those schools, talk with the teachers, talk with parents of children who have previously attended those schools, and find out for yourself if sending the child to school ‘A’ or ‘B’ is the right decision,” she urged.

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