Value-added ranking an option, but not for us — Educate Jamaica

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Value-added ranking an option, but not for us — Educate Jamaica

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Senior staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

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FOUNDER and chairman of Educate Jamaica Ainsworth Darby says he has no issue with considering a value-added approach to his organisation's ranking system but believes some schools may use it as a smokescreen for their underperformance.

“My worry is that it serves the potential of creating a platform where persons will hide behind it and their justification of not achieving the performance as required by the Government...Value-added has a place, we are not measuring value-added. If somebody else wants to measure value-added — by all means,” Darby said.

He said his organisation's ranking system is “measuring what the labour market is receiving, what percentage of the grade 11 students are ready for the labour market.

“And I am measuring readiness of the labour market because the labour market is asking for five subjects, universities are asking for five subjects — I am just measuring the readiness,” he explained.

His remarks come on the heels of criticisms by the old boys' associations of four prominent schools in Jamaica, which have recommended that Educate Jamaica employ a more value-added approach to its ranking system if the organisation insists on categorising schools by order of best to worst.

Darby said, too, that if the measure of usefulness of students to society is going to be based on value-added performance, then it is disgraceful, as his rankings show that only 30 per cent of those who leave secondary school in Jamaica are ready for the labour market.

“This is what it has improved to over the years. When I just started the rankings, it was only 25 per cent of our students who were ready for the labour market. It has now increased to 30 per cent. If you're thinking as an investor, all that money the Government is spending, it is only 30 per cent returns they are getting. That means only three in 10 [students] leaving secondary school are ready to play a meaningful part in terms of what the labour market is asking for and potential to go to university,” he insisted.

This, he said, is the real issue.

“So, we can have this conversation about 'value-added' but what this then means is that we have 70 per cent of our student population that we're going to have to use value-added to measure. That's disgraceful!

“If you have to do that, it simply means we are failing. The education system is in dire need of reform. We are significantly underperforming and the truth is, we are in trouble,” Darby said.

However, the old boys are resolute.

Major Basil Jarrett, president of the Jamaica College Old Boys Association, said Educate Jamaica needs to re-examine a way to make the rankings more reflective of the true academic status in schools.

“I know it's not as simple as widening the cohort to include the fourth and fifth form, because obviously you'd now start to double count results. Perhaps what needs to happen — and I appreciate how much more time-consuming and difficult this may be — is that Educate Jamaica works more closely with the Ministry of Education or the Caribbean Examinations Council to come up with a method that captures and presents all of a student's current and past Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination results during the particular exam year,” Major Jarrett said. “Yes, I appreciate that it's going to take some work but the overall result would be worth it, because students and teachers will now be properly recognised for the work that they've put in. It will also help to give parents and students a much more accurate picture of which school is really the best place for their son or daughter.”

Maurice Weir from the Kingston College Old Boys' Association said if Educate Jamaica was not lazy, it would come up with a system of comparing the improvement of children from first form to fifth form, which would be a much better means of comparison.

“I can't be taking in 300 boys who average 78 per cent and you take in 150 children who average 95 and over, and after five years tell me that yours have all got to 100 and mine have got to 90, but you are better than me? I've added 15 percentage points to mine, you have only added five. That can't be right. They must can come up with a better yardstick or stop doing the comparison, because what you are doing to some children is stigmatising them,” Weir said.

Former president and current executive member of the Wolmer's Old Boys Association, Kirk Benjamin said it is pointless to have rankings without any work or collaboration to build capacity, as that only serves to stroke the egos of those at the top.

Roger Thompson, one of the directors of St George's College Old Boys' Association, said if rankings are going to be done, they need to give a comprehensive position of the performance of a school in transforming the children and preparing them for society.

“When you look at the 'Ivy Leagues' on Educate Jamaica, these schools would have received the top percentile in the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations. In coming out at grade 11, it is expected that the 98, 100 per cent that they entered with, they would matriculate at a similar level. So those schools could be deemed to be maintaining the status quo or the norm.

“However, when you look at other schools who would have received a child at a 91 per cent or 85 per cent in PEP, would have taken that child, groomed that child in a number of areas, invested time and energy in developing that child and now move that child to passing six, seven, eight subjects at the grade 11 stage — there is no system to assess the work that the school has put in to move that child along the continuum from an 85 per cent to a 95 per cent. So the Educate Jamaica is a form of assessment but it does not reflect the true picture of a performance of a school or the life skills of these youngsters so that they can enter society as fully functional, educated, young people,” Thompson said.

He added: “If they enter with an average of 95 and leave with an average of 95, that is good. The school would have maintained that child's performance and that child would go on to make a positive contribution to society. But when a child enters the school system at 85 and you transform that child to a 95 per cent, you have to ask yourself the question, which school then is performing at a higher level? Is it the school that maintains the child at 95 or is it the school that grows the child from 85 to 95 per cent?”

Due to this exclusion in the data aggregation, Thompson said some schools have not bothered to include Educate Jamaica in a discussion, as the scores do not reflect the true performance of a school.

Instead, Thompson charged high schools to come together and develop their own mechanisms in order to have a balanced conversation about the performance of a child and that child's results at the end of five years.


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