June 12, 2018
The CPEA – How should its results be interpreted?

SEARCHLIGHT extends congratulations to the hundreds of pupils, parents and teachers all across our nation who are celebrating the results of the 2018 Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA).

We wish the youngsters all the best as they embark upon their secondary school careers. We also urge those pupils who did not make the standard to keep trying as the ‘race’ is not for the swift; they should not let this temporary set back define their future.

We are now into our fourth sitting of the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) and should now be in a position to analyze the performance of our students in this test, especially compared with its predecessor, the common entrance examination.

When the CPEA was introduced four years ago, one of the things that was immediately obvious was the huge jump (an over 22 per cent increase – from 55.74 per cent to 78.08 per cent) in the number of students who met the required standard. In the years that followed, this improved performance was bettered with 85.35 per cent of our students making the standard last year, and 87.43 per cent this year.

In 2014, 39 schools recorded a pass rate in excess of 80 per cent, which resulted then in much jubilation across the system because of what had obtained in prior years. This number rose to 47 last year, with a further increase to 49 in 2018.

Also immediately obvious from the results in 2014 was the presence of students from rural schools in the top 10, breaking the stranglehold which some other schools seemed to have had on the top positions. A similar situation obtains in this year’s results.

The CPEA consists of an External Assessment and a School-Based Assessment and some educators shared that the increased pass rate could be explained by the fact that since pupils were able to carry up to 40 per cent of their final mark into the exam room, achieving the marks needed to get over the 50 per cent hurdle would not have posed as much difficulty as it did previously.

Four years ago we asked this question and we repeat it again now – just what do these results mean in a practical sense? Can we now assume that almost 25 per cent more of our primary school leavers now have numeracy and literacy levels at the grade six level, whereas only about 55 per cent did before? Was there a vast improvement in students’ actual performance over the past years, or is it that the Common Entrance Exam did not properly assess them? What does it mean that more rural schools have been positioning themselves in the top 10?

Many questions remain even after four years of the CPEA. The Ministry of Education ought now to be in a position to share their comparative analyses of the results to help us answer these questions and understand how the results should be interpreted.