Gov’t: Report ‘disproportionately negative’

Education officials paid around $33,000 to a U.K. inspector for a report on behavior in schools which they ultimately deemed unfit for publication.

The controversial report highlighted serious concerns about management of behavior, particularly at John Gray High School, and made a string of recommendations, including firing under-performing teachers.

But senior education officials raised concerns about the quality of the document produced by consultant David Moore and it was heavily revised with large sections and many of the recommendations removed completely.

A chain of emails from late 2012 and a “critique” of Mr. Moore’s draft report from 2013 show education bosses questioning the structure and content of the work.

The critique says “the main findings are disproportionately negative.” It says the report includes assessments on “teaching and learning” which were outside its remit and warns “most of the reviewers were not experienced in making such judgments.”

The original report was compiled by Mr. Moore based on a three-week review of Cayman’s schools involving a team of senior local educators, including four school principals.

The Ministry of Education yesterday released a break-down of the fees and expenses paid to Mr. Moore for the November 2012 review, which they said had to be “finalized” by his locally based assistant lead reviewer – veteran educator Favourita Blanchard.

They insist their intention in demanding significant edits was not to withhold information from the public but to ensure the review met acceptable standards.

Neither the original report nor the slimmed-down final draft had been made public until Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush tabled them in the Legislative Assembly on Monday – some 20 months after the original inspections took place.

A critique of the draft report and a chain of emails between education officials and Mr. Moore were also produced during Monday’s debate, following questions from Mr. Bush and other legislators about why the report was so heavily edited.

The single-page critique says Mr. Moore’s report lacked structure, failed to include detail on attendance, and did not cover support services such as Behavior and Education Support Teams and the extended after-school program, for all students in the public school system, in enough detail.

It states, “The main findings are disproportionately negative and focus on the very challenging behavior of a very small number of students. It does not give enough scenarios of good practice from which other schools can learn …

“There is a whole section on teaching and learning with judgments on the quality of teaching in lessons. This was not part of the brief of the review and most of the reviewers were not experienced in making such judgments, particularly when out of the phase of their own experience, for example, primary teachers in secondary school.”

Emails between Jo Wood, chief policy advisor in the education policy and planning unit at the time, and the inspector shed further light on the ministry’s dissatisfaction with the report by Mr. Moore, who is a former senior inspector with the U.K.’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills – known as Ofsted.

Ms. Wood writes, “You are highly experienced, skilled and perceptive. However, the standard of draft report version 1 did not match up to this. Overall it did not read as a coherent, well put together and accurate document … It is essential to have, especially in the public domain, a report of high quality, free of mistakes and inaccuracies … it could not possibly be published with spelling, grammatical and punctuation mistakes, sentences that are imprecise or difficult to understand with little mention of major initiatives introduced by the minister to address low attainment and inclusion …”

In a pair of emails from Mr. Moore, also provided to legislators, he attempts to explain the reasons for some of his recommendations – including a suggestion that an off-site support center, initially for up to four students per high school, be established for the worst, most persistent offenders.

In his email, he explains that the numbers for such a center were intentionally kept low – to avoid over-reliance from schools. One of the central concerns of the original draft report was that teachers were already overusing support resources for relatively minor incidents of misbehavior.

In the email to Ms Wood, he says, “If the numbers allowed to be placed are too large, the high schools will simply off-load the most troublesome and not look at their own systems of managing students … the current culture of the high schools, particularly John Gray, wanting students out and more resources will carry on.”

His emails also appear to acknowledge the potentially controversial nature of some of his findings and expresses a hope that publication is not delayed too much by the redrafting process.

“Clearly they will also have to devise a handling strategy for its release,” he says in one exchange.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Mary Rodrigues, chief officer in the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs, and Shirley Wahler, chief education officer, said there were “serious concerns” about the first report and suggest it was “appropriate” as part of the review process for it to be finalized by the deputy lead reviewer.

They state, “The Ministry’s intention in undertaking reviews of this nature is to gather information and identify weaknesses and strengths, based on actual evidence, in order to put in place corrective measures, and not to withhold information from the general public. In this instance the aim was to review the organization and effectiveness of educational and specialist provision for students at risk-including those with behavioural challenges.”

Fees and expenses paid to David Moore for 2012 review:

• Desk top review: £7,000

• On-island site visits and leading and developing a team of educators in field work and observation: £10,500

• Report writing: £3,500

• Travel expense: £1,582.82

• Subsistence: £1,155

Total – £23,737 (CI$33,049 at current exchange rates)