Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Joy at Penwood as CXC reverses failing grades

Published:Friday | December 4, 2020 | 12:27 AMJovan Johnson/Senior Staff Reporter

Weeks of agony ended in jubilation recently for more than a dozen students of Penwood High School in St Andrew, who have now learnt they did not all fail the 2020 English language exam offered by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

Last month, The Gleaner revealed that the entire cohort of 36 students failed, joining the long list of regional candidates who protested alleged irregularities with COVID-restructured exams done in July and August.

On November 11, news came from CXC that 19 of the students were successful in obtaining grades within the acceptable bands of one to three.

“I cannot tell you how happy I am,” said one of the students who was delighted to learn of the adjusted results. “I know some of my schoolmates who did the exam are a little bit unhappy, but at least the new results show that we did some work.”

The 53 per cent pass rate is within the average pass range for the school, which receives mostly students with low performance in the Primary Exit Profile (formerly GSAT), the national secondary-school placement test.

“I feel good, good about the passes,” said a pleased Ann Marie Malcolm, acting head of the English language department at Penwood. “I think it’s fair and it’s within my expectations.”

The reasons for the initial result have been linked to problems with the uploading to a CXC portal of School-Based Assessments (SBA), the practical element of the exam that CXC uses along with written papers to award grades.

It ’s understood that a cover page was missing.

A similar problem confronted Jamaica College, a St Andrew-based all-boys institution, which was left shocked after learning that 94 per cent of the 299 boys failed English.

Following a review, more than 90 per cent were awarded passing grades.

The 2020 CXC results were plagued with controversy following their release in late September, forcing the organisation to undertake a hasty review.

Beyond noting the need for improved communication with stakeholders, the findings did not confirm claims of systemic irregularities on CXC’s part.

However, they raised concerns about fraudulent SBA grades, grade inflation, and leaked examination questions.