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#466868 - 06/19/13 07:22 AM Standards 6 Teachers Can’t Pass The PSE Either
Marty Online   happy

Standards 6 Teachers Can’t Pass The PSE Either
by Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant /

As a follow up to our last article about the high failure on the PSE in Belize. Well it turns out that the teachers can’t pass the exam either. This tells us that something is still seriously wrong and actually makes the argument stronger. Either the teachers are so under educated or the system is so broken. I go with the last one, there is no way on this rock we call home that we have that high failure rate in our Educators base. This latest finding actually proves my point even more that we DESPERATELY need to do something about the current state of our education system but we need each and everyone of you to join hands and do your part no matter how small.

Here is the article as per 7News

As we’ve reported, failure rates in the PSE continued last year and with examinations coming up in May, most educators concede that it won’t get much better. And today, new information released by the Ministry of Education tells us why that may be the case. Late last year, teachers took the test and the results were alarming. Those were released to mixed reaction at a Ministry of Education press conference this morning. We were there.

Jules Vasquez Reporting,
There are 355 standard six teachers in Belize – from varying backgrounds and with different levels of training In October to November, they were invited to take the PSE. Some didn’t show up, but on test day, those that did were very much like the students they teach. Yvonne Davis is from the Examination Unit. She supervised the test.

Yvonne Davis,
“Their experiences were similar to those of the children.”

And the bad news is that they didn’t do much better than the children.

  • In problem solving, 10 of the 300 teachers got between two and ten points out of a possible 50 points – that’s a score of between 0 and 20%!
  • In the Toledo District, one teacher got 2 points out of that possible 50 – that’s a score of 4%.
  • What’s more, 98 of the 308 teachers – a third, outright failed the problem solving portion of the exam by earning a score of less than 60%.
  • But most teachers – 111 of them scored between 31 to 40 points, that’s a score of between 60 and 80% – considered adequate score – but certainly not impressive.
  • In fact of the 308 teachers that did the math problem solving, only 12, earned a perfect score.
  • The district averages show teachers in Corozal and Cayo averaging the best with 36 and 37 correct out of 50 – average scores of about 75%.

And while math was worrying – the English test divided into letter writing and composition, wasn’t as bad, but still gives reason to worry. 287 teachers sat this test and, again, most only did adequately.

Yvonne Davis,
“The majority of our papers were at the adequate level. 141 of our teachers were writing at the adequate level, scoring about ten to fourteen points on the letter writing paper.”

And on the composition again the greatest number, 115 of them were at the adequate level. 41 teachers failed this section of the test as well. Overall, the scores are abysmal and the results profoundly worrying. Chief Education Officer Maud Hyde underscored the concern.

Maud Hyde, Chief Education Officer
“When you face it, quite in this way and looking at the system across the board, it is certainly takes away your breath a bit and you know that you have to do something.”

And that something was follow up courses to improve on their weaknesses. But the follow up sessions on Saturdays were poorly attended.

Yvonne Davis,
“The response to the follow up was very poor I would say. For January 20th and 27th, the first two sessions in English by district overall only about 47% of the teachers came out and it fell on January 27th when 39.7% of them came out. February 46.7% came out and 52% last Saturday which was the last day of the follow up.”

So who is responsible for these failures, first in the test and then in efforts to follow up?. Union President Anthony Fuentes was on the defensive.

Anthony Fuentes, BNTU President
“The teachers will take this issue here today and see it as probably a deliberate attempt, maybe it might not be, but as an attempt to attack the teaching profession.”

Maud Hyde,
“The intent is not to necessarily be overly critical of what teachers and our teachers ability but as a nation to look at where we stand, to look at some of the things that keep us from seeing the performance from our children we would like to see and be able to address them.”

Anthony Fuentes,
“It is not only teachers who want but all stakeholders from Ministry, management, union, parents, children – all of us are involved in the delivery of the quality of education so all of us have to take blame.”

And all those stakeholders, with the exception of children and parents were at the head table – and all could point to a contributory cause. Management, represented by the Chair of the Association of School Managers Carol Babb said it was the quality of teachers.

Carol Babb,
“I was watching some of your expressions, your facial expressions when you learnt about the results of the PSE that the teachers themselves took. As a manager I am telling you that everyday we are faced with filling vacancies and being unable to find qualified teachers to fill those vacancies. Right now I look at one of my larger Anglican schools and at that school there are only three trained teachers and the principal and I, she came to me and she asked me what are we going to do?”

Indeed what to do, less than half the teachers are trained, one of them with only a standard six diploma.

Carol Babb,
“We have to admit too that in very remote villages, teachers don’t qualify, teachers don’t want to go there and sometimes you have to take what you get. And I am talking from experience. I would have problems right now to find somebody to go to Punta Negra. Nobody wants to go to those places and I am sure in the case of that teacher that has a primary school certificate, that might be the only person who is willing to go there.”

Problems wide and far reaching, and a test that now is failing both students and teachers. But Hyde says, nothing is wrong with the test.

Maud Hyde,
“If the system is not measuring up to what the expectations are, then the system needs to be addressed.”

Jules Vasquez,
How can you say that the system has to measure up, no in the system punishes. You get 100% of your salary, these teachers will get 100% of their salary, these kids get half a life?

Maud Hyde,
“I think that is putting it a bit strongly. Half a life…we wouldn’t want to say that our children can’t succeed if they don’t do well on PSE. Examinations are a necessary evil some people would say but education is not all about examination.”

With no stated targets for improvement – and a clear indication that many teacher just cannot teach what they don’t know – Hyde says things are under control – this is not a crisis.

Maud Hyde,
“Whether we’re in a crisis, I wouldn’t say so. A crisis to me is something where everything is falling down. I don’t think everything is falling down.”

#466869 - 06/19/13 07:23 AM Re: Standards 6 Teachers Can’t Pass The PSE Either [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

What Follows Low Proficiency Scores?
by Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant /

According to the recently released results of the 2013 PSE (Public School Examinations) proficiency exams, more than half of all exiting Primary school students throughout Belize ranked poorly in English and Math. The results that were released to the media show that 53% of the 7359 students who took the exams were assessed as not proficient. The median score in English was 58% while in Math it remained steady at around 54% as the previous year. These low proficiency scores indicate loudly that our students in Primary schools are not learning as they should. Readers who follow my Guidance Counseling columns know that, for years now, I strongly advocate and assert that Education, especially at early levels, needs to be focused on successful “learning”. Low PSE results this year show, without a doubt, that there continues to be large disparities between teaching and learning in our Primary schools.

The results of these standardized exams deem that half of all students who complete Primary school throughout the country this month are “not ready” to enter high school. How valid is this statistic? At the outset, I submit that it does not mean that our children and schools are deficient. Moreover, no amount of finger-pointing or vocal public accusations against schools/ teachers will even out any disparities between teaching and learning, or improve student performance. Politicization of these results merely focuses on blaming, and adds to the trauma that students and schools may be suffering now. Let us, especially after this unfavorable assessment, respect and uphold the dignity of our schools and teachers, and students. To remove the stigma of failure, policymakers who manage Belize’s Education Systems can focus on designing and providing multiple resources for schools and educators to use to help young students learn to develop their inquiry and reflection skills. Rote learning and memorization of fragmented academic subjects, which we continue to emphasize in Primary schools, are not learning methods. Teamwork, experimentation, and problem-solving are preferable.

A thorough analytical study of the data (PSE scores) and all other evidence might determine why and how so many students repeatedly score lowly on these Proficiency exams. Without a doubt, there are multiple causes – not one! Leadership and vision, instead of finger pointing and blaming, will push educators (schools) to tackle the challenge of minimizing the contributing factors or causes why students are not reaching required proficiency levels.

Studies of proficiency scores in other countries show that low test scores for students, especially in Math, end up costing a country hundreds of millions of dollars in the long run. This conclusion translates into a dim prognosis for Belize. To improve this prognosis, policymakers who structure and manage our Education Systems must learn why students are not reaching proficiency levels on PSE, and then act to help teachers improve students’ learning methods and techniques. This large scale lack of basic proficiencies in our young students is more than a political concern – it’s now a nation’s concern because Belize’s imminent future is at stake. So, let us address and minimize the contributing factors to students’ low performance on these proficiency exams. However, the emphasis now should be on taking positive remedial actions. A well-defined and fully working Educational Remediation Plan for educators shifts more accountability to those who are responsible for managing our Education systems. Without a doubt, options abound for improving the proficiency performance of our young students.

Paul Peterson, a Harvard professor, says that very low performance on Proficiency tests should sound a warning. “If we’re going to grow at the rate that we hope to grow at, to address the many issues that exist in our society, we need to have a powerful educational system that is producing a highly proficient workforce.” (Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete?) Belize should heed this warning. We need a strong Education system, at every level, if we are to grow as an Independent nation. Nonetheless, when Primary school students throughout the country fall way behind in Math and English (reading) proficiency, adding burdens of blame and humiliation to teachers or schools will not increase students’ performance on PSE examinations! Moreover, vulnerable judicial and law enforcement systems throughout the country might also be contributing to the low performance of students. Belizeans who live across the length and breadth of our jewel are not in need of scientific studies or statistics to prove that we’ve been painfully experiencing soaring crime rates over the last 5 years! Is there a correlation between students’ low proficiency scores each year and steadily advancing crime rates in Belize today? That’s material for a separate article.

The question that needs to be answered: why? A very popular post on Facebook claims that, “We don’t blame dentists when we don’t brush our teeth properly and get cavities. Why do we blame teachers when students don’t pass tests?” (Quote does not list author, but is attributed to The Diary of a Not so Wimpy Teacher.) I have worked intermittently since 1978, both as a teacher and Guidance Counselor within Belize’s school systems, with many “qualified and dedicated” teachers. The policymakers who structure, plan, and administer the Education System at the Primary School level in Belize cannot attribute students’ low proficiency scores solely to a lack of qualified or committed teachers. We boast of many intelligent young Primary school students throughout the country — look at this year’s PSE scores for highest scoring students! To be able to fully answer “why”, let us first study and closely examine/analyze the data on all students’ scores. Which students keep scoring low in PSE, and in what subject areas, and from which schools and districts? Let us first study and analyze the scores and all data and evidence “before” we start pointing fingers or hurling accusations.

Angry political finger pointing cannot assess nor improve on this critical situation. Let us first get to the heart/core of why our students score lowly each year in these proficiency exams. Thereafter, policymakers, schools, teachers, parents, and communities can start to join forces to work to improve on students’ learning abilities and performance. It is crucial though, that our Education policymakers find effective and powerful ways to build trusting rapport with Primary schools, teachers and parents throughout the country. Educators and parents, in turn, can learn how to be better equipped to positively influence all students, and help them to improve their learning methods, and prepare them to improve performance in next year’s PSE Exams.


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