Only one in five students coming into the International College of the Cayman Islands from public schools and the University College of the Cayman Islands are able to pass basic math and English tests, according to ICCI’s president.
David Marshall, in a letter to the Education Council lamenting standards across the education system, said 16 percent of students transferring from the government school system and UCCI could pass a simple math test, while 22 percent could pass English.
Even students gaining good grades at UCCI are flunking the tests, according to Mr. Marshall’s letter, which was obtained from another source by the Cayman Compass.
“When we parcel out the UCCI students wishing to transfer into ICCI, only 2 out of every 10 can pass these very simple tests even though their UCCI transcripts are showing these students earning grades of ‘A,’ ‘B’ or ‘C’ in English and Math courses,” he wrote.
He described the ACCUPLACER tests as simple arithmetic, sentence skills and reading comprehension and invited the council members to come and sit the exams to see for themselves.
The context of Mr. Marshall’s letter is a complaint that scholarship students at ICCI are being discriminated against because, he says, the school has a stricter marking system than UCCI.
Students on government scholarships risk having their funding pulled if they fall below a 3.0 Grade Point Average.
However, Mr. Marshall points out that a 3.0 at ICCI requires a better percentage score than a 3.0 at UCCI, because of different marking scales at the two institutions.
“A student at ICCI who has earned a 2.75, who is being suspended or put on warning regarding their scholarship at ICCI, can take that same GPA to UCCI and just about be on the honor roll,” he wrote.
Different higher education institutions use different conversion scales to convert test score percentages to a GPA.
A ‘C’ grade at ICCI starts at 70 percent, while a ‘C’ at UCCI, starts at 60 percent, Mr. Marshall states in his letter. A 3.0 GPA at UCCI is equivalent to 75 to 79 percent, while a 3.0 GPA at ICCI is 80 percent or above, according to transcripts submitted by Mr. Marshall to the council.
He claims the scale his college uses is more in line with U.S. institutions and accrediting bodies, citing transcripts from the University of Florida and the University of South Florida to support this.
“ICCI uses the higher calculated scores to maintain our U.S. accreditation and to ease the transfer ability of our graduates wishing to move on to schools in the U.S. or Canada,” he wrote.
UCCI President Roy Bodden defended standards at the institution. He said he was unaware of Mr. Marshall’s letter before it was brought to his attention by the Compass and had not seen any data to substantiate the claims about literacy and numeracy test scores.
“As to the allegation of a comparatively soft grading system which produces graduates with issues in English and Math, I must admit that I am completely unaware of this being an issue among UCCI graduates,” he said in an email.
Mr. Bodden said different colleges used different grading scales and insisted UCCI’s system was internationally benchmarked and was accepted by colleges all over the world.
“UCCI students transfer to universities all over the U.S. and Canada and now increasing numbers are opting to study in the U.K. There are currently no recorded difficult[ies] with GPA conversion as per our records,” he added.
He said UCCI would not be able to negotiate deals like its partnership with Pennsylvania’s West Chester University, which allows students at each institution to take courses at either college, if its grading system were not internationally respected.
He said UCCI students who fell below the Education Council’s standards were required to bring their grades up to standard before their scholarships continued. He said any issues around how scholarship funds for ICCI students were handled were between the college and the council.
He added, “Let me record that when UCCI encounters setbacks and challenges, the institution rises to the occasion of putting our house in order, not on blaming others for our woes.”
Mr. Marshall declined to comment further on the issues raised in his letter. He said his aim was to raise concerns with the Education Council in an effort to lift standards generally, not to publicly criticize another school.
A spokesperson for the Education Council said the letter, dated Oct. 25, was scheduled to be discussed at the November meeting of the council, which was being held Thursday. She said the council would reply to ICCI once it had discussed the letter.
The 4.0 Grade Point Average scale is used by U.S. schools and colleges to provide a single figure snapshot of a student’s academic performance across all courses. There is some variability among institutions on how percentage or letter grades in each course are converted to the GPA scale.
According to the U.S. College Board guidelines, an ‘A’ equates to 93-100 percent and a 4.0 average. A ‘C’ is 73-76 percent or a 2.0 average.
At ICCI, a 4.0 or an ‘A’ grade is 90 to 100, while a ‘C’ or a 2.0 is 70 to 79.
At UCCI, a 4.0 or ‘A’ is also 90 to 100 while a ‘C’ or 2.0 is 60 to 64 percent.
The reliability of such conversions also depend on each college’s marking standards.