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NEI questions support for failing students

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 18, 2013    

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THE National Education Inspectorate (NEI) says that the “mixed picture” presented in its most recent report on the education system calls into question the quality of support being given to schools and students who need assistance to reach expected standards.

“Overall, academic performance in key subject areas fell below the expected national standards,” the Chief Inspector’s Report from the NEI said. “This is against the background of students’ high levels of awareness, and generally good behaviour, and it is certainly grounds for the continued support for school improvement strategies that seek to establish a balance between the two,” said the report.

“The mix picture presented by the data calls into question the quality of support and provisions that are in place, to help our schools and students realise the significant improvements that are needed for them to reach the expected standards”

Chief Inspector at the NEI Maureen Dwyer said that it was noteworthy that academic progress was rated as satisfactory in almost half of the schools inspected, particularly in the areas of literacy and English Language.

“The mix picture presented by the data calls into question the quality of support and provisions that are in place, to help our schools and students realise the significant improvements that are needed for them to reach the expected standards,” the report said.

The report said that while the provision of teachers and materials was generally rated as satisfactory, the quality of teaching continues to be a cause for concern, especially as it relates to assessment and learning. “For example, in some cases, in-class tests do not reflect the curricular expectations, so there is a misalignment between what we expect our children to learn and what they are being taught and tested for,” the NEI said.

The report stated that while leadership was the driving force for school improvement and was generally satisfactory, significant weaknesses were detected in self-evaluation, improvement planning, as well as instructional leadership. “A significant correlation between weak leadership and poor teaching was also identified and, going forward, this will require further research as to its impact on school effectiveness.

In the report presented Friday morning by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites at a media briefing at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston, effective schools were defined as those with: strong leadership; a clear school mission; quality teaching and learning; a safe and orderly climate; transparent and effective monitoring of students’ progress; and high expectations and parental involvement.

In its report, the chief inspector concluded that too many principals of primary and secondary schools inspected were focused on insufficiency of resources rather than on how best to use the resources at their disposal. While acknowledging that some institutions are inadequately resourced, the NEI maintained that sufficient resources are available at many schools.

“This has, in some ways, restricted creativity and innovation, and has led to a situation where there is greater emphasis on what is lacking than on what can be done with that which is available,” the inspectorate said.

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