Mother and secondary school teacher Kathy Brooks believes the changes made to this year’s Caribbean Secondary Entrance Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE) by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – negatively impacted the performance of students and has set them back academically.
Appearing on CNC 3’s The Morning Brew yesterday, Brooks said she was first learnt that something was wrong when the distraught parent of her second top, student who was predicted to get a Grade I, called her and said the child had received a Grade III.
Immediately questioning if she had done something wrong, Brooks said this fear was laid to rest after a second parent reached out with the same complaint.
Revealing these two students had ranked in the top 100 in the Unit One component, Brooks said she knew something was amiss.
Minutes later, she said the same issue surfaced with her teenage daughter when she, “heard screaming and yelling in my own house.”
She explained, “My daughter had pulled up her results on her screen only to discover her grades, were well below what she expected.”
Brooks said three persons reporting incorrect grades – as opposed to what was expected based on their past performances – meant, “Something was definitely up.”
Networking with other teachers, parents and students as news of the results spread, Brooks said they initially thought the issue was confined to T&T alone but as the days went by and they realized similar complaints had emanated from almost all of the territories where the exams were administered – they concluded it was a systematic error and not necessarily an individual slip up.
She said the absence of the Paper II which is the long-answer paper and accounts for the largest amount of marks, from the 2020 exam would have a definite impact on the students’ overall grades.
Brooks said the uncertainty which overshadowed the exams following the lockdown in March, had also affected the students who were unsure of what format the exams would take; and the weighting or marking scheme to be used.
Claiming she was still ignorant and confused as to what weighting process was used by CXC to grade students, Brooks said all her School-Based Assessments (SBA’s) has been graded and submitted to CXC within the stipulated time.
Indicating she had also complied with the directive from CXC’s Chairman Sir Hilary Beckles for all teachers to rank their students and provide an estimation of the expected grades based on work completed within the last two years, she questioned, “Why weren’t you guided by those predictions?”
Looking at CXC’s quality control processes, she also rubbished statements that this was the preliminary results and that final results would be issued later on.
Brooks acknowledged, “You have preliminary results in the event there are queries which you will have…statistically you will have queries. Human beings make mistakes but not to the scale that happened this year. Clearly…clearly, something went horribly wrong and the kids were under a lot of pressure.”
Claiming students lives were at risk after being instructed to appear physically to write the exams during the pandemic, Brooks said the SBA’s were authentically marked – and that for anyone to imply teachers had been less than honest in their marking was unfair, hurtful and unjustified.
Brooks said in hindsight, had she graded her students higher than she did – perhaps they would have received better grades at the level of CXC.
Addressing claims by CXC that approximately 14,000 SBA’s had been ungraded as students across the region had failed to reach the benchmark prescribed by the examination body, Brooks said, “That is a huge number…statistically that does not happen.”
She said customarily, teachers are asked to submit a handful of SBA samples which are randomly selected by a computerized system but this year, they were asked to scan and upload copies of each student’s SBA and forward to CXC.
Brooks said without the proper systems and infrastructure being put in place to accommodate this last-minute directive was a recipe for disaster, and that CXC begged for this to happen.
Indicating she was not surprised this debacle had occurred, Brooks said in the meantime, “My kids are suffering,” as she revealed that Lower Six students could not be promoted to Upper Six; whilst her Upper Six students could not move on to university just yet.
She said her students now continue to question her professional abilities, while she had been forced to don various hats to continue reassuring, comforting and encouraging them to look to the future with hope as this was not the end.
Brooks said she hoped CXC would improve their quality assurance procedures moving forward to avoid a repeat of what transpired this year.