Exam results ‘best ever seen’

John Gray students broke a Cayman Islands record on their 2009 exam results with 36 per cent of the student body passing at least five exams required for graduation with scores in the top three grade ranges.

The 36 per cent figure represents a 12 per cent improvement when compared to 2008 test results.

What this means is that, out of 330 John Gray students who sat standardised tests required for graduation, 36 per cent got grades from A to C (or I to III, depending on the test). Grades in this range are required for students writing A-levels or being accepted to university.

The results were received in at least five separate subjects for those students.

Both current Education Minister Rolston Anglin and former Minister Alden McLaughlin noted the achievement last week during a Legislative Assembly debate.

‘Will (the minister) say whether or not the external exam results just received are the best this country has ever had since it started keeping records?’ Mr. McLaughlin asked.

‘As I understand, the results were positive,’ Minister Anglin replied.

Speaking at the Professional Development Days commencement ceremony for government schools educators held at Mary Miller Hall on 26 August, Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler praised the school’s staff and teachers for the good news, calling the results incredible.

‘Change is starting to happen,’ said Mrs. Wahler.

‘Preliminary results indicate an overall five A-C/I-III pass rate of 36 per cent of the entire student cohort, rising from a previous average of about 24 per cent,’ she added.

John Gray students’ previous high score for the exams was 29 per cent.

Mrs. Wahler noted the 12 percent rise translates into a 50 per cent improvement.

‘Compared to an average year, that means about 53 additional students over the expected number actually attained these results,’ she said. ‘That is 50 lives transformed forever beyond what we would expect in the past.

‘There is no evidence that the students were any better, it is just that teachers did things differently.’

However, Mrs. Wahler made it clear that the job was far from done.

‘What we see is not what we aspire to; these figures do not represent what can be achieved.

‘While this is not an unqualified success, a corner has been turned. We have proved that positive change is possible, we have shown that the capacity for change lies within our system, and we demonstrated that our children have the potential to achieve amazing things if we show them the way.’

Ms. Wahler also detailed how at the secondary level, students benefited from new and more appropriate option choices, an emphasis on higher expectations of student performance, better assessment data, the implementation of a structured School Support Plan for John Gray.

At the younger levels, she noted that the previous school year saw the implementation of the National Curriculum for all students in Key Stages 1, 2 and 3, which encompasses students at the primary school level. .

‘The Primary Literacy Strategy programme has already helped drive measurable changes in primary schools, not least in promoting positive behaviour and student engagement as well as in developing critical thinking skills,’ Mrs. Wahler said.

In addition, she said that one of Cayman’s primary schools is well on its way to achieving International Baccalaureate world school certification.

Minister Anglin said the newly-elected government was committed to continued implementation of the International Baccalaureate, or IB, programme system wide.

‘It is certainly a step in the right direction,’ Mr. Anglin said. ‘The Education Ministry is also actively exploring…the viability of including the IB diploma programme as one of a range of post-(age) 16 options to be offered to students, at start of the 2010 school year.’

Mrs. Wahler said that priorities for the 2009/10 school year would include moving to a new model of secondary education including developing appropriate and challenging pathways for post-16 students.

Mr. Anglin said it was important that any IB programme not replace student options to pursue ‘A level’ studies, and that schools should offer vocational and technical options as well.