***Editor’s note: This is the third in a planned series of stories analysing the Education Data Report 2021.***
Relatively poor performance on Year 11 Mathematics exams is the primary reason why only 40% of Cayman Islands public high school graduates are able to meet the ‘national expected standard’.
However, in the Education Data Report 2021, officials point to better-than-expected results in Maths among Year 6 students as a positive indicator for improved overall scores in the future.
The national expected standard for Cayman’s high school graduates is to achieve 5 or more ‘Level 2’ passes on external exams, including in English and Maths.
Since 2015, the overall pass rate for Year 11 public school students has ranged between 36% and 42%. In 2021, the overall pass rate was 40%.
Similarly, during that time the pass rate for Maths has ranged from 40% to 47% (including 43% in 2021).
Meanwhile the pass rate in English is much higher, ranging from 59% to 75% (including 67% in 2021).
Put another way, many more students pass English than Maths — and those students who do pass Maths are extremely likely to meet the national standard.
The number of students who meet “national expectation is closely aligned with … achievement in mathematics,” according to the Data Report.
***Editor’s note: We have excluded from this analysis results from the 2020 exams, which were administered differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, education officials have cautioned against comparing 2020 results to other years.***
‘Cognitive Abilities Test’
In Years 4, 6 and 9, government schools evaluate students’ “reasoning (thinking) abilities” using what is known as the ‘Cognitive Abilities Test Fourth Edition’ (or CAT4).
CAT4 is not a test of ‘knowledge’ (like the CSECs or GCSEs) but is designed to assess a student’s ability to think — i.e. in terms of words, numbers, shapes, and space.
“CAT4 is also used as a valuable screening tool to identify a pupil’s strengths, weaknesses and learning preferences and to help set challenging but realistic targets. Significant identified variations between the potential measured by CAT4 and actual outcomes can form the basis for further investigation of potential barriers to learning,” according to the report.
Year 6 predictions, outcomes
The report states that ‘actual outcomes’ for Year 6 students were in line with predictions made by their CAT4 results in Reading and GAPS (Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling), while 'actual outcomes' in Writing lagged behind the predicted outcomes.
However, 'actual outcomes' in Year 6 for Maths slightly exceeded the results predicted by the CAT4.
"The mathematics figures are somewhat consistent with the predictors, however, they show evidence of 8 percent more of the students exceeding expectations than predicted. This performance augurs well for the future," according to the Data Report.
"That is, the number of students achieving national expectations at the end of [secondary school] for this cohort should be significantly higher than current standard, provided this trend in mathematics’ performance continues."
According to the Year 6 CAT4 results, very few students were expected to be able to exceed expectations in Reading, Writing or Maths.
For Reading and Maths, less than 1% of students were expected to exceed expectations. For Writing, that amount was 2%.
However, in GAPS, 69% of students were predicted to exceed expectations. The actual proportion of students who did was 65%.
Playing 'catch-up' in secondary school
The report notes that the CAT4 is designed so that the average score is 100 and that results follow a ‘normal’ distribution -- i.e., that equal numbers of students will fall above or below the average score.
For Cayman’s public high school students, their average score on the CAT4 was a 92, and their results were “skewed to the left” -- meaning scores tended to cluster on the lower end of the scale.
In other words, the CAT4 predicted that the majority of high school students would be unable to meet national standards by graduation.
According to the report, 53% of students had ‘Low’ CAT4 scores, 26% had ‘Average’ scores, and 14% had ‘High’ scores. (About 6% didn’t take the test.)
"The expectation, given these prior attainment results, is that at a minimum, 40% of the cohort would meet national targets," according to the report.
In fact, 40% of Year 11 students met the national standard, with 43% passing Maths, 63% passing Science and 67% passing English.
"Performance metrics indicate that the actual external examination results significantly exceeded predictions particularly in English and science," according to the report.
The report estimates that between the CAT4 and the Year 11 exams, secondary school students progressed more than 1 grade point above expectations in English, more than 1 grade level above expectations in Science, and about half-a-grade above expectations in Maths.
"The results ... imply that schools were able to add significant value by moving lesser able students to achieve acceptable grades," according to the report.
Read the Education Data Report 2021 here: