Towards standards-based grading in high schools
Jamaica needs to align our present assessment reporting mechanisms to reflect the trend in more advanced countries.

Dear Editor,

Jamaica's education system, regardless of its many deficiencies, has undergone much restructuring over the years.

Among the many admirable changes is the introduction of a standardised curriculum, the National Standards Curriculum, across all public schools. The curriculum identifies standards across diverse disciplines, outlining what students should know and be able to do. By implication, teachers in public education institutions are required to align instruction, assessment, and curricular planning to these national standards.

At the core of education is assessment. The substratum of which is to communicate students' learning. The traditional reporting mechanism used for communicating students' learning is using percentage scores. However, this percentage fails to adequately communicate the level of students' proficiency in relation to the national standards.

A more appropriate reporting mechanism to communicate students' level of learning in relation to the national standards is a standards-based reporting system. This system communicates students' level of learning using proficiency scales — for example, beginning, proficient, and exemplary.

The use of this type of system shifts the currency of the classroom from earning points and percentages to learning based on a continuum. This develops in students a disposition to improve their performance, as opposed to a belief that learning is linear.

Admittedly, a similar system is used when reporting grade 6 students' performance in the Primary Exit Profile. However, high schools continue using a traditional reporting mechanism, reporting students' performance on a single report card.

Consequently, Jamaica needs to align our present assessment reporting mechanisms to reflect the trend in more advanced countries, which is to use proficiency scales to communicate students' level of learning of the national standards across subjects areas, particularly at the secondary level at which point the curriculum is implemented.

Alanzo Johnson


Belair High School

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