Failing support students fails them all
Regarding “Public Education: The Half That Has Not Yet Been Told”, during the 2013-14 school year, one of my former colleagues attended a Cambridge Checkpoint Conference in Miami, Florida.
Persons representing schools worldwide were in attendance. By conference end, the following had either been learnt or reinforced:
• Bermuda is the only country on the planet whose public school students sit the Checkpoint exam
• Bermuda permits learning support students to sit one of the world’s most rigorous exams, and includes their results with our regular students who have taken the same exam
• Many learning support students obtain a grade of zero
• Only the top ten percentile of private school students, from other countries, are allowed to sit the Checkpoint exam
• Those “ten percenters” are expected to obtain a score of three or higher
• Bermuda students, of both levels, are expected to be on par with the world’s top ten percentile by achieving a similar score
If there ever was an example of an exercise in seismic frustration, this could be it. I have no issue with academic rigour. As a matter of fact, when I taught at Sandys Secondary Middle School, Glenn Bascome led workshops on the topic of academic rigour. The purpose of the workshops was to help to enhance the level of academic rigour in our lesson planning and delivery of same.
Our regular public school students can, and do, successfully pass the Checkpoint exam. However, when the learning support students’ results are added, it looks like all are failing.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
As there is no known, or foreseeable, benefit to subjecting our learning support students to such an exam, I would suggest that they cease taking the exam and be tested in another manner. Even the world’s greatest proponents of inclusion would have to agree: there is no joy in advising a child that they scored zero on an exam.
However, should the Ministry of Education and Workforce Development insist on including all scores, it is only fair and reasonable to lower the expected pass mark.
After all, if Johnny scores three and Harry zero, the average is 1.5 — they’ve both failed.
Once again, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Parents are being frustrated needlessly. If I didn’t know better, I would ban my grandchildren from entering any public school on this island. The good news is, I do know better.
Parents, all is not lost. You, however, must get involved. Ministry officials will listen to you.
I end this letter with an example of why you must get involved. A few years ago, a public school parent asked the education ministry to provide a para-educator for her son. She was told that it wasn’t possible because her son’s school had its full complement of educators.
She would not take no for an answer and petitioned the ministry relentlessly. What, you may ask, did the ministry do?
They took a para-educator from one child and placed them with the son of the mother, who “camped out” on their doorstep.
J. CALVIN SMITH
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