Ministry official says mechanisms in place to safeguard integrity of PEP

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, April 26, 2018

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THE Ministry of Education says that structural mechanisms have been put in place to safeguard the integrity of the in-school assessment component of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP).

The issue was raised at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, where officials from the ministry explained that the performance task component of PEP will be developed by the ministry.

“So it won't be exposed until the student gets a copy on the day of administration. What the teachers will get prior to the administration is a teachers' guide, where, for example, the performance task asks the students to design an aquarium, the teachers, a couple days before, will walk the students through so as to get everyone on par to understand what an aquarium is, how it's used, what you put in there, the different types of fish and so on.

“So the teacher would get a guide. She will not get the exact questions. No one will know the exact questions that will be on the performance task except the test developers,” manager of the Student Assessment Unit at the ministry Terry-Ann Thomas-Gayle told editors and reporters at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue offices in Kingston on Monday.

PEP, which replaces the Grade Six Achievement Test, will provide a profile of where the student is academically, the student's strength and weaknesses, and their readiness for grade seven. It will assess students' knowledge, in addition to placing increased emphasis on assessing students' demonstration of 21st century skills which include critical thinking and communication.

It consists of three key components: a performance test, an ability test and a curriculum-based test. The performance task consists of real-world scenarios that will require students to apply their knowledge and skills from mathematics, science, language arts, and social studies. It will be administered in grades four, five, and six in the classroom by a teacher.

The ability test requires students to read analytically and use quantitative reasoning skills in responding to items. It will assess the students' aptitude in numeracy, verbal and non-verbal ability, and abstract thinking ability.

The curriculum-based test will assess grade six content in the areas of mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts. It will consist of multiple choice items along with other item types.

“So, although the teachers will be administering this task, it will be done under test conditions. The ministry has six regional offices. Each regional office will monitor the administration on the ground. We will have monitors going throughout the system and schools to observe how it is that the performance task will be administered.

“We will do quality assurance in that we will take samples from each school to ensure that there is alignment and that there's validity and reliability of how the students would have responded to the question, and that would be only for the performance task. The same procedure will take place for grade five.

“Grade six, because it's the final year, it will be under much stricter conditions where we will have an external person within the classrooms observing the administration of the performance task,” Thomas-Gayle explained.

She added that students have been registered for a mock assessment scheduled for June, and noted that this will continue throughout the duration of PEP.

Thomas-Gayle said that each student will be given a unique booklet with a number that will be used to track their performance from grade four through to grade six. A report will be sent out after each assessment detailing how the students are performing. The schools, upon receiving the report, are expected to put intervention strategies in place to ensure efficiency.

“So we have in place several mechanisms to monitor the integrity of the exams,” she said.

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