Career & Education

Good news for Jonathan Grant

Career & Education writer

Sunday, July 16, 2017

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From unsatisfactory to good; that's the progress Jonathan Grant High School has made in the five years since the National Education Inspectorate's (NEI) first report in 2012.

In its latest report, based on a inspection conducted in December 2015, the NEI found that the school has improved significantly in the 11 indicators tested, receiving 'good' in nine categories and 'satisfactory' in two.

The good scores were recorded for school-based leadership and management, self-evaluation and improvement planning, governance, relations with parents and community, teachers' subject knowledge, teaching methods, student learning, the progress made by students based on their starting points in maths, and how well the maths curriculum meets the needs of students. Meanwhile, the areas of assessment and the enhancement of programmes received level three — satisfactory.

In September 2012, the NEI found that, “While the leadership has overseen a number of changes in the school, the overall system of school improvement is undeveloped.” As it relates to teachers, it found that “most teachers are knowledgeable of the subject they teach and have well-written lesson plans, but there is very little variation in the teaching methods used and there is little opportunity given to students for research and problem solving”.

The 2012 report also found that the students' overall performance in English and mathematics was unsatisfactory. Then, performance in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) was below the national average for the 2009-2011 period. For the period 2008-2010, the school recorded a pass rate of 17 per cent in mathematics, which decreased to 16 and then 15 per cent. The figures for English language in the same period were 30 per cent, which then increased to 43 and 44 per cent.

But the latest NEI report has only good things to say, and in stark contrast to previous years, the NEI now lists mathematics as Jonathan Grant's major strength. The report found that the mathematics curriculum was appropriately modified and enhanced to meet the needs of most students in the school. Also, it said the school improved the quality of boys' participation and performance in the subject over the past three years.

The school's Principal Dr O'Neil Ankle said the winning strategy for his school included a system of reward that saw the students vying for bragging rights, as well as extra classes.

“We use the formula of motivation and reward; carrot and stick. A lot of work is built around literally motivating the students and rewarding them for their hard work. Secondly, we host classes on Saturdays and Sundays — Saturdays for those who are Sunday worshippers, and vice versa — and in most cases free of cost. Food is also provided at certain times of the year at no cost, all the students have to do show up. Data analysis also plays a very important role in what we do. Teachers are given targets and they are displayed across the campus for all to see, so it becomes a constant reminder,” he said.

The school's performance in CSEC mathematics moved from 30 per cent in 2013 and peaked at 65 per cent in 2014, surpassing the national pass mark by nine per cent. Similarly, the passes in CSEC English language increased from 79 per cent to 81 per cent.

NEI found that the school has implemented a rigorous programme of mathematics education at all grade levels and, as a result, more students are making appropriate progress in the subject.

Dr Ankle told the Jamaica Observer that plans are also afoot to ensure that this newfound excellence continues.

“(We plan to do this by) maintaining the discipline, and working closer with parents. In the pipeline for September is a plan to experiment with a homework czar at a particular grade, so that we can get more students doing homework. Currently, we have some 212 grade eight and nine students preparing to sit CSEC mathematics in 2018. They form part of a special programme that we are working on. Furthermore, we will continue to motivate and inspire the students to believe in self. The team is also hoping that we will be off shift system in short order so that we can give more to the students by virtue of contact time,” said Dr Ankle.

The NEI has recommended that Jonathan Grant should be removed from the shift system in the shortest possible time, as this would greatly improve the amount of contact time for students and reduce the need for some of the mathematics sessions that are held outside of school hours.

Last month, Minister of Education Senator Ruel Reid said that the ministry is on track to phase out the remaining all-age and junior high schools in the Jamaican education system, as well as those operated on a shift system, over the next three years.

“I did commit to remove as many schools as possible off shift and to phase out the all-age component in three years. We are almost there, as we only have one per cent more to get out there,” Reid told journalists at a press conference then.




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