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Usual mixed emotions greet GSAT results

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Senior staff reporter douglasl@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, June 21, 2011    

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STUDENTS reacted to the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) results with a mixture of tears of joy and sadness yesterday, as the placement of the 43,000 candidates in the country's high schools sparked the annual debate about the appropriateness of the examination.

The report from the schools surveyed were mostly positive, with a few expressing disappointment about the schools which some children had been assigned as a result of their performance in the controversial exam.

The Ministry of Education scheduled a press conference for today to give further details about the GSAT, which is used to place primary level students in secondary level schools.

In registering to sit the GSAT, parents are asked indicate five schools they would like their child to attend in order of preference. Students who perform well, averaging over 90 per cent in the exam, usually get into a school of their choice, which is almost always one of the country's so-called traditional high schools.

But students who average below 80 per cent are placed in so-called non-traditional high schools, or all-age or junior high schools.

A stand-off usually ensues when students averaging in the 80s are placed in a non-traditional school, angering parents who feel their children should be placed in "better" schools.

Grade six teacher at St George's Primary School for Girls, Janet Davids said most students of the school located in downtown Kingston were pleased with their results.

"There were a few of them who said the school they got was not on their list but for the most part, they are happy with the results they got. Generally the tears that they cried were tears of joy," she told the Observer.

It was still unclear whether it is more competitive to get into one of the top schools this year. There was one report of a student averaging in the nineties being placed at a Corporate Area non-traditional high school.

However, Davids said there were no such reports at her school.

"Two girls in the nineties in particular never got their first choice but still got into traditional high schools," said Davids, adding that it took "about 80 per cent or more" to be selected for a traditional high school. She said students placed at non-traditional high schools had "a mixture of scores ranging from eighties to the seventies and lower."

Principal of York Town Primary in Clarendon, Gregory Bartley said his students did marginally better in GSAT this year over last year.

However, Bartley noted that it was getting more difficult for students to get into the top school in the parish, Glenmuir High. "You have to score an average in the high eighties to go to Glenmuir. In fact, once you fall out of the nineties, chances are you won't get in," he said.

Over at Tredegar Park All-Age in Spanish Town St Catherine, about 50 students sat the GSAT with only five getting into traditional high schools, a source who requested anonymity told the Observer. However, most students and parents felt okay with their placement.

According to the source, there was more competition to get into the top schools this year. "It seems as if the scores are a bit higher this year so it becomes that much harder to get into the traditional high schools. However most parents and students are satisfied with where they have been placed. The few who are unhappy are those who are placed in the same school," the source said.

Meanwhile, the ministry's director of communications Colin Blair said less than 10 out of the more than 800 primary, all-age, and primary and junior high schools had not yet gone for their results at the ministry's regional offices up to yesterday afternoon.

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