9 Nov. 2020 (Remembrance Day)
Weekly Current (archived version)
Thanks for reading, and thanks for caring about education! Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education news in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
The total estimated cost for the new John Gray High School project is around CI$170 million. That sounds like a lot to pay for a new high school. But, in context, just how much is it? Well, looking at examples in the US and Canada, it turns out that the answer is … a lot.
The new John Gray would rank among the most expensive public high schools ever built in the US. The total budget of US$204 million is more than double the amount of the most expensive public high school ever built in Florida.
On a per-student basis, the costs of John Gray (and Clifton Hunter High School) are multiple times greater than the cost of building high schools in even the most expensive urban centres in the US, including San Francisco and New York City.
For those protesting that it’s not accurate to compare Cayman’s construction costs to the US, that’s a valid consideration. We did attempt to identify other new high school construction projects in British Overseas Territories, such as Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos Islands, but were unable to locate any projects on the scale of John Gray or Clifton Hunter within the past decade.
The top 3 most expensive school construction projects in Cayman are:
- US$204 million, new John Gray High School, 1,420 students
- US$132 million, Clifton Hunter High School, 800 students
- US$122.4 million, Cayman International School, 1,100 students
On a per-student basis, Clifton Hunter tops the list at US$165,000 per student. Second is John Gray at US$143,622 per student (including CIFEC). Third is CIS at US$111,273 per student.
Overall, the per-student cost of the new John Gray is nearly 30 per cent greater than CIS, more than double the cost of construction in San Francisco, and more than four times the cost in Miami.
We put on a pot of coffee and had a thorough read of the 46-page report on 2020 CXC exams by an independent review panel. The panel concluded that the controversy over lower-than-expected grades on CSEC and CAPE exams can be attributed largely to inaccurate teacher assessments, data failures and communications errors.
Here are some key takeaways:
- None of the issues were new to this year’s tests, but the COVID-19 pandemic accentuated existing flaws.
- School-based assessments from teachers tended to award students higher marks than they achieved on the actual exams.
- The inflation of teacher-predicted grades in 2020 was consistent with errors observed from 2017-2019.
- SBA scores were lower than recent years, but students’ results on multiple-choice exams were higher than recent years — meaning that overall grades in 2020 were comparable to previous years.
- Reviewers were troubled that CXC multiple-choice questions were found circulating in the public domain.
So far, we’ve heard very little about CXC issues in Cayman, but we’ll keep monitoring the topic on a regional basis. (Read our analysis of the CXC review here.)
St. Ignatius Catholic Church and School leaders have announced transition plans following the impending departure of the Head of School, whose duties will largely be taken over by the current Head of Primary and Head of Secondary. (Read the story here.)
ABC Kids preschool achieved a ‘Satisfactory’ (passing) grade from the Office of Education Standards. This is the first inspection of the Savannah school since it opened in September 2019. (Read the story here.)
Government officials closed schools Friday due to the approaching Tropical Storm Eta, creating a four-day weekend including Monday’s Remembrance Day holiday. That break will be extended throughout the week for students at Savannah Primary School, which suffered storm damage such as “downed electricity and telephone pole lines, damage to several areas of the roof, air conditioning units, fencing and the canteen area,” according to the Ministry of Education. In the interim, Savannah Primary will switch over to virtual learning. (Read the press release here.)
Finally, more than 200 University College of the Cayman Islands students were honoured for making the President’s or Dean’s list. The annual convocation ceremony was held Saturday, 31 Oct. (Read the press release here.)
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- Jamaica Observer: EDITORIAL | Let’s avoid a repeat of the return to school cock-up
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Mother scolds education ministry for lack of focus on special needs children
- Stabroek News (Guyana): EDITORIAL | Back to school
- Jamaica Gleaner: EDITORIAL | Get the education dialogue going
- Jamaica Observer: EDITORIAL | Dreaming of a more equitable education system
The Week Ahead
- A look at the Cayman Islands library system and its role in 21st century education