Jamaica Gleaner / Teachers at Glendevon Primary and Junior High in Montego Bay, St James, were elated on the day the results of the Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy tests for 2016 were published in the daily newspapers.
“Our school stands tall. We are the top primary and junior high school in the region,” oozed principal Susan Simms.
The school, which is in a sometimes volatile community in St James, was ranked 10th out of 46 public and private schools in the region, which includes Hanover and Westmoreland. The school attained approximately 62 per cent mastery of numeracy and 85 per cent mastery of literacy in the grade four tests.
These recent test results are indicators that the school has been improving on its weak areas, which the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) found during its assessment in 2013.
LITERACY MASTERY BELOW AVERAGE The chief inspector reported then that overall student performance in national tests was unsatisfactory, although the school was rated overall as satisfactory, which is the minimum level of effectiveness expected.
At that time, the school’s grade four mastery of literacy was below the national and regional level for 2010 and 2011, and was one percentage point above the regional mastery in 2012.
The chief inspector found then that the school’s Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) language arts average “was consistently below the national average”. Furthermore, the school’s communication tasks average of 72 per cent in 2012 was below the national average, too.
Fast-forward to 2017.
This year’s GSAT results showed an improvement in the averages for social studies, language arts, and communication tasks over last year. Language arts accounted for the highest score of 99 per cent, while four students scored 11 out of 12 on the communication task examination.
The results revealed that student Alex Vernon, the deputy head boy, received 90s for all subject areas. He is the recipient of a Scotia Foundation Shining Star Scholarship to attend Cornwall College.
This is the second scholarship from Scotia Foundation, as the head boy of 2014, Tyris Griffiths, was also awarded a scholarship to Herbert Morrison Technical High School. The present head boy, Claude Blackwood, is also the recipient of a scholarship from the Jamaica Ambassador Programme and will be attending Cornwall College.
“We have been going up and down in our subject areas over the past four years, but on average, we have been seeing a steady increase,” Simms tells The Gleaner .
…… Making steady progress in numeracy Glendevon Primary and Junior High in Montego Bay, St James, has been making steady progress in numeracy, with 62 per cent of the grade four cohort achieving mastery in 2016.
The average attainment level for Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) mathematics is 50 per cent in 2017, as it was last year, with students scoring as high as 91 per cent.
Rewind to 2013.
The National Education Inspectorate (NEI) reported then that mastery of numeracy for the three preceding years was “below national and regional averages”. GSAT mathematics averages also “fluctuated marginally over the period and remained below the national average”.
There is clearly more work to be done in improving student performance in numeracy and mathematics.
“We go the extra mile to ensure that students are given quality time, being here from as early as 7 a.m., so they get early work done,” explained Richard Chevers, coordinator for grade six and mathematics.
“I am here after school and every Saturday. All of that is free, because our students are from poor socio-economic backgrounds, so we do what is necessary to achieve positive results,” he added.
As the mathematics coordinator, he exchanges classes with other teachers while they teach another subject. This has become more structured since the new school year with the piloting of specialist teachers in mathematics.
Chevers is the mathematics teacher for grades six and four. It is hoped that this will bring about even greater improvement in mathematics.
For the third consecutive year, students have made it to the finals of the Maths Olympiad competition hosted by the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. This year, seven students made it to the finals and three will be awarded certificate of merit.
CHANGING FOR THE BETTER
Chevers, echoing other teachers, underscores the importance that nutrition plays in the students’ ability to learn: “We ensure that needy students are fed, even if it means giving up my lunch; I do that at times”.
In the past, many of the students admitted to grade one were poor in their readiness level, because parents were unable to send their children to privately run basic schools to receive early stimulation. So, the children entered primary school for the first time at age six.
That situation changed for the better with the introduction of an infant department, which has now become a feeder for the school’s primary department. Principal Susan Simms boasts that it is the first government-run early childhood institution on the island that was licensed by the Early Childhood Commission effective July 2016.
“Now most of the children who enter at grade one are proficient as assessed by the Grade One Inventory diagnostic test. Those who are weak in reading are exposed to Jolly Phonics lessons,” she noted.
… Pleased with performance of principal Glendevon Primary and Junior High in Montego Bay, St James, provides breakfast and lunch for its students. In noting the social impact of the school’s nutrition programme, board chairman Norman Brown said there are times when attendance falls by 25 per cent if the canteen is out of operation for a period.
He is effusive with praise for principal Susan Simms’ overall performance.
“The board is pleased with her leadership. Education is a results business,” he stated.
“Even if the aesthetics are good, if the exam results are not satisfactory, we have not achieved. We measure our success by the development of our students,” Brown added.
GOOD MANAGEMENT TEAM
He commended teachers for their dedication to come in on Saturdays to prepare students for GSAT free of cost.
The principal attributes the school’s improved performance to her staff. “We have a good management team at the school and the teachers are success-driven. We use data to drive the changes that take place during each academic year,” she explained.
Simms discloses that teachers are given job descriptions that are aligned to the policies of the Code of Regulations and the Appraisal documents. Each teacher keeps files for each student and this is used to further analyse the students’ behaviour and progress. Teachers submit termly assessments plans and grades are recorded on cumulative records. Teachers also submit action plans at the start of the school year that are aligned to the School Improvement Plan.
The National Education Inspectorate (NEI) has selected Glendevon Primary and Junior High for reinspection. Will all the efforts of the board, management and staff lead to an improvement in the overall rating of the school?
The school is also actively involved in extra-curricular activities and has nine clubs. Shakira Bell was recently awarded the national award for table setting at the national 4-H Achievements Day. The school is also actively involved in sports and enters both internal and external competitions.
The school continues to model its motto, ‘Achieving Excellence Together’.