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President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) Antonia De Freitas

The Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) has extended heartfelt congratulations to all students, teachers and parents following this year’s Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) results which were released yesterday.

Commending the thousands who wrote the exam on August 20 for displaying remarkable resilience, dedication and perseverance as the country and world navigated the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic – Tekah-De Freitas said despite the lock down that had resulted in schools being closed on March 16, the exam students along with their teachers had not faltered despite the restrictions imposed.

She said the students and teachers had displayed a keen sense of determination and focus as they prepared for the exam.

A total of 19,201 students wrote the exam this year – of which 50.42 per cent or 9,681 were male; and 49.58 per cent or 9,520 were female.

In addition, the 2020 cohort is the highest number of students to have sat the exam over the last 11 years. The analysis continues to display the same trend observed since 2010, of more males writing the SEA.

Schools were reopened on July 20 after closing on March 15, to allow the exam students to return to the physical classroom setting.

However, classes had to be suspended just two weeks into the process after the COVID-19 virus began spreading among students and teachers, forcing officials to bring the arrangement to an immediate end.

Despite this, the students and teachers shouldered on and the results were released to school principals by 8 am yesterday.

Responding to questions if any discreprencies or anomalies had been reported to TTUTA regarding the placement of students, Tekah-De Freitas said up to 4 pm yesterday, she had not received any complaints or queries from anyone.

She added, “From the feedback I have gotten, persons were satisfied with the grades they got.”

Meanwhile, Tekah-De Freitas said the distribution of the results had gone smoothly as collection times had been staggered, while sanitization and social distancing measures had been enforced at schools.

In a release from the Ministry of Education (MOE) last evening, officials advised that students had been assigned to secondary schools based on the established placement policy which comprised six criteria including Order of Merit; Choice of school; Gender; Principals’ 20 per cent selection; Residence; and Multiple Birth.

The MOE advised that students who were unsuccessful in obtaining a score sufficient for placement into one of the four schools of their choosing – were assigned based on their place of residence and availability of spaces in the schools within their community of residence.

They added, “If spaces were unavailable in the nearest school to the residence of students, then they were placed in the next nearest school with available spaces.”

In keeping with the Concordat and the practice of previous years, principals of government-assisted secondary schools were permitted to select 20 per cent of their student intake.

Students born after August 31, 2007 who are younger than 13 years old and whose average score was 30 per cent or less, but who had not previously sat the SEA – will be required to repeat the year and re-sit the SEA in 2021.

Students who attained a composite weighted standard score of 30 per cent or below and who were born before August 31, 2007 or who were doing the assessment for a second time were placed in a secondary school based on choice of school or residence.

The exam comprised three subjects including English Language Arts Writing, Mathematics, and English Language Arts.

English Language Arts Writing and English Language Arts, which are in the same cognate area, are combined and together contribute the same percentage to the final score as Mathematics.

This is the second year of SEA with the new test format, which was designed to assess higher order skills in Mathematics (reasoning and analysing), and English Language Arts (for example, inferring, evaluation and appreciation).

In 2020, the mean Mathematics score is 52.9. Similarly, the mean English Language Arts Writing score is 57; and the mean English Language Arts score is 60.7.

In 2019, the mean Mathematics score was 53.4; the mean English Language Arts Writing score was 50.1 and the mean English Language Arts score was 53.8.

The MOE said in 2020, the performance in SEA was also analysed according to the percentage of students attaining three important thresholds.

The percentage of students scoring above 50 per cent on the SEA in 2020 was 63 per cent, and the percentage of students scoring 30 per cent or below was 11 per cent. The percentage of students scoring above 90 per cent was 1.61 per cent.

Officials explained that these percentages are reflective of a normal distribution of scores for norm-referenced assessments that are suited for accommodating the placement of students. In 2019, 52 per cent of students scored above 50 per cent, with 0.69 per cent scoring above 90 per cent, and 13.7 per cent scored 30 per cent or below.

In 2020 – female students attained the distinction of the Top Three students in SEA, while the Top Male student placed seventh.

Recognising students from special schools, the MOE acknowledged the three top SEA performers – that being a top male student; two students from special schools; and five students who excelled from schools which have been working hard to improve overall academic performance.

TTUTA: There Will Be No End-of-Term Assessment

Commenting on the status of online teaching and learning which had officially begun on September 7, Tekah-De Freitas said, “It is still very difficult because we still have students without devices and proper connectivity.”

Heartened that additional funding had been allocated to the MOE for the purchase of devices and to improve internet capabilities, she went on, “We would hope the same would be done for teachers because they cannot live on the expectation that teachers would continue to utilise their personal resources to facilitate online teaching.”

Claiming that challenges continued to be experienced relating to time management and the impact online teaching was having on the work/life balance of all teachers, the TTUTA head said, “We have discussed with the MOE over the past few weeks…an adjustment in the content go be delivered, time-tabling issues and hopefully these things should be sorted out in the next week or so, to allow teachers and parents to breathe a little easier.”

Tekah-De Freitas revealed that similar challenges continued in the area of copyright and use of textbook materials – an issue for which no resolution seems to be in sight.

She indicated there would be no end-of-term assessment but rather a cumulative assessment formed from marks collected during the term.

Friday Is Term’s First Official Day-Off

As one month of online classes drew to a close yesterday – teachers embarked on their first official day off today since the new academic term began as they attend TTUTA’s annual district convention…virtually.

World Teachers’ Day was celebrated on October 5.

The theme of this year’s convention is “Teachers Leading in Crisis: Re-Imagining the Future.”

Tekah-De Freitas said discussions will take place today with input from teachers on charting the way forward in this new normal.

There are just over 14,000 primary and secondary school teachers across T&T; and an additional 2,500 teachers at the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) level.