Recycled test causes concern

A practice examination very similar to a key-stage examination given to some Caymanian public school students was viewable on the Internet, it was revealed in Finance Committee Wednesday.

MLA Cline Glidden Jr. asked Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin about something he had heard about the examination, which was given to key stage two students last month.

Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler acknowledged there was truth in the report that some students were able to essentially view advance copies of the examination online.

‘There has been a concern raised,’ she said. ‘I was very distressed that it was possible; I didn’t know it was.’

Mrs. Wahler said it had been a practice in the past to base the key-stage examinations on ones from the UK. The test given to the Cayman students was very similar to one previously given in the UK that was now posted online for practice purposes.

The examination given to the Cayman students was not identical to practice test posted online Mrs. Wahler said outside of Finance Committee.

‘But it was similar enough to cause us concern.’

It is unknown how many students saw the practice examination.

‘The best we can determine, only a couple of individuals [accessed the examination online],’she said, adding the Education Department heard about the issue from a teacher and a couple of parents.

Mrs. Wahler said using the UK examinations previously had not been a problem because there had been restricted access to them.

‘Because [the examinations] are increasing availability online, [the students] found it,’ she said.

Mr. Glidden expressed concerns that having access to the examination ahead of time could skew the results or cause an unfair disadvantage to those who did not have access to it beforehand.

Mrs. Wahler said the key-stage examinations were only a part of a student’s assessment and that this examination would not be used against any student.

‘They are not high-stakes examinations,’ she said, later adding back in Finance Committee that ‘no one test is the means by which we assess our children. There are a number of other assessments in place.’

Mrs. Wahler pointed out that studies had shown children cannot actually memorise the contents of an entire examination paper in any case.

Mr. Glidden asked why a test given to students in Cayman would be based on a UK examination.

Mrs. Wahler explained the practice had been in place for several years, but she thought it had been discontinued.

‘We have taken aggressive steps and it will never happen again,’ she said.

The results of the examination in question are not yet in. Once they are received, Mrs. Wahler said an assessment of the results and the possible effect of the practice test will be done.

Speaking outside of Finance Committee, Mr. Glidden said he understood the differences between the test given and the one online only amounted to changing minor things like ‘pounds and pence’ to ‘dollars and cents’.

He acknowledged that practice examinations were a standard procedure for testing, but he maintained they should only help students prepare for the types of questions they will receive, not for the exact questions.

Mrs. Wahler said when the new national curriculum is introduced in September, key stage examinations would no longer be based on UK tests, so a repeat of the problem would be impossible.

‘It the current system, while key stage results are certainly part of a student’s record, its not as important as they will be in the national curriculum.’

Because Mrs. Wahler had said the practice of using UK examinations as a base for Cayman’s key-stage tests had been used for years, Mr. Glidden questioned if students might have been getting the tests in advance before this year.

‘It is interesting that something like this occurred and there was no statement from the minister about it,’ he said. ‘If it hadn’t come out in Finance Committee, we have to wonder if it would have come out at all.’

Mr. McLaughlin excepted blame for the matter because it fell under his ministry, and said what had happened was wrong. He also said he was working hard at trying to correct any shortcomings in the education system.

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