US-based Trinidadian author Nathalie Taghaboni, right, recently returned home to launch her latest book, Side By Side We Stand.
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Row over CAC marking system brings SEA of turmoil
Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan yesterday admitted that there were some discrepancies with the scoring system used by teachers to assess students in the Continuous Assessment Component (CAC). He said so as he addressed concerns raised by parents and principals across the country about the placement of students following this year’s Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam. Seecharan explained while the placement of students had been a fair one, the performance of the students created a problem. “The reality is that this year, we have had higher scores overall and the competition was extremely keen,” he said.
The improved performances resulted in many students not being able to secure a place at their first or second choice schools, Seecharan said. While 18,239 students wrote the 2014 SEA exam, Seecharan said there were only 3,500 spaces available at seven and five-year schools and they were often listed as first and second choices by students. Several principals, parents and students have raised questions seeking clarification about the criteria used to assess and place students as they believe moderated scores played a great part in this determination.
Many contend their individual performance rating, combined with the CAC marks, were not reflected in their placements. Introduced this year, the CAC formed 20 per cent of the overall SEA grade.
But on May 8, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh announced that from 2015 the CAC would account for 40 per cent of the final SEA grade. Asked about the assessment process, Seecharan said the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) had specific guidelines. He said a random sample of student booklets were collected from all primary schools and in instances where the discrepancies in the marking scheme were noted, all the booklets of the respective schools were then taken to be assessed. “We recognise when teachers assign scores, some may have been lenient or marked unfairly, so we had to take all the booklets for remarking and scores would have been adjusted based on the findings,” he said.
Unable to say just how many schools had discrepancies which were reviewed, Seecharan said the ministry was yet to receive a final report from CXC. He also reminded parents placements were based on merit, choices and individual performance. He said parents had two weeks to submit queries to the principal for it to be sent to the ministry and then on to CXC. He said this would cost Bds$25, as the student’s booklet would have to be sent back to Barbados for review. Regarding the issue of transfers, he said there was a procedure to be followed. Contacted on the issue yesterday, T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Davanand Sinanan declined to comment, as he said they had not received any “solid evidence” to that effect but he noted the concerns expressed and promised to address the matter with the ministry. Sinanan said if parents were dissatisfied with their child’s results they were free to take up the issue with the ministry.
Parents seeking a transfer for their children must register the student at the school to which the child has been assigned. Following the registration, parents can indicate to the principal they are seeking a transfer and a form will be provided to them. The form, which is to be submitted to the principal of the assigned school, will then be forwarded to the Ministry of Education for consideration. If the transfer is approved, the parents will be contacted and advised.