Vilified and scorned at opening 5 years ago, Cedar Grove Academy registers high pass rates in regional exams

Associate editor — features

Friday, August 24, 2018

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Five years after The Cedar Grove Academy opened amidst anger from some parents over inadequate classroom space, the high school in Portmore, St Catherine, which entered students to sit the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) for the first time this year, has registered a 100 per cent pass rate in nine of the subjects.

All 100 students in the cohort earned grades one to three in English A, electronic document preparation and management, family and resource management, food and nutrition, industrial technology-building, information technology, technical drawing, textile, clothing and fashion, and theatre arts.

In mathematics the school recorded a 77 per cent pass rate, one-and-a-half times the national average.

At the sixth form level, Cedar Grove recorded 100 per cent pass in all but five of the 19 Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) subjects sat.

“It pleases me that we were able to work with them and get them to the point where they did this well,” Principal Ottis Brown told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday.

“The school promotes a culture of excellence in which we make every effort to help our students understand and believe that excellence is in all of them. For this reason, our individual value statement for our students is 'The spirit of excellence is upon me!', while our school-wide value statement is 'The spirit of excellence is upon us!',” he added.

For Brown, the performance is a vindication of sorts, considering that at the outset, several parents transferred their children from the newly opened facility to other schools. He explained that 26 of the 99 students, who were placed there according to their Grade Six Achievement Test scores that year, were transferred out.

On top of that, the principal said “several of the students were performing below average and just above average” when they started at Cedar Grove.

In September 2013, the school drew the ire of some parents after they learnt that their children would be housed inside the hall of the New Testament Church of God which owns the land on which the school sits.

At the time, it was revealed that 100 students would attend classes in the church hall, while others would use a section of a basic school operated by the church.

The school, which was unfinished at the time, was being constructed at a cost of $600 million and would not have been ready to house students until the end of that year, education ministry officials had said.

During an emergency meeting held in the church hall on June 23, 2013 to discuss the school, one parent, Sasha Smith, scolded education ministry officials.

“Why does the experiment have to start with my child? You can't expect people fi send them pickney on a dirt track fi him come home with dirty uniform. This is an experiment. This is total rubbish. That nuh right. You should have waited until 2014. The school is not ready,” she said angrily.

On Wednesday, principal Brown said, “Having reaped the bulk of the results that we have got is testament to the fact that our enhancement programmes are effective and that we have added value to them.”

Cedar Grove, a partnership between the Ministry of Education and the New Testament Church of God in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, is marketed as a School of Excellence and has a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) focus. It opened in September 2013 to grade seven students and sixth formers in two faculties.

The CSEC and CAPE exams were done in May and June.

For CSEC, the academy registered candidates in 23 subject areas, 20 of which had pass rates above 70 per cent. Excluding the nine with 100 per cent pass, they are agricultural science, 93.75 per cent; principles of business, 97.14 per cent; biology, 80.77 per cent; Caribbean history, 82.35 per cent; English B, 84 per cent; human and social biology, 81.25 per cent; social studies, 84 per cent; geography, 78.26 per cent; mathematics, 77 per cent; office administration, 75 per cent; and religious education, 71.43 per cent. Chemistry, physics and principles of accounts recorded 59.26 per cent, 58.82 per cent, and 52.63 per cent, respectively.

“There are a few areas needing improvement but we will be working on them going forward,” principal Brown acknowledged.

Brown said the first CSEC cohort also sat City & Guilds English Language and maths exams and, with the exception of one student, did very well. He noted, too, that 25 of the students sat and passed English language, principles of business and social studies two years ago, while they were in grade nine.

Where CAPE is concerned, the five subjects with pass rates below 100 per cent are sociology unit II (93 per cent), accounting unit 1 (83 per cent), biology unit 1 (84 per cent), history unit 1 (81 per cent), and law unit 2 (75 per cent).

Cedar Grove first entered students for CAPE in 2015 and emerged among the top-performing schools in St Catherine that year, according to data published by education think tank Educate Jamaica. In 2016 the academy placed 34th among 103 schools islandwide with a 54.1 percentage pass rate, outperforming Bridgeport, Ascot and Cumberland high schools, and several prominent ones across the island.

“We go above and beyond the call of duty to help our students,” said Brown.

“Thanks to my very dedicated staff members (ancillary, administrative, and academic) and largely supportive parents and guardians and all other stakeholders. Above all, we thank God, the Master Teacher, for His guidance over these past five years,” the principal said.

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