Careers & Education

Software programme reaps success among slow learners

BY DENISE DENNIS Career & Education staff reporter dennisd@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 05, 2012    

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A software programme to improve literacy and numeracy among poor-performing students has been reaping positive results locally.

So says Pearson Higher Education and Edexcel Vocational, providers of the software — called SuccessMaker — which was purchased by E-Learning Jamaica for use in a pilot project targeting grade seven and eight students in 15 high schools.

"Firstly, it tests the students to determine their reading or mathematics level. They will go through a series of tests and if the student is not doing well, it lowers the level until it determines the instructional level that the student is at," said Caribbean Sales Manager at Pearson Higher Education and Edexcel Vocational Sharon Neita. "[This is because] it responds to students' input. At that point, it gives a report of what level the student is at and then begins to teach the student at that level."

The software programme was purchased at a discount by E-learning for more than $10 million from the international publishing/education company; 20 licences were purchased for the schools in the project.

According to Neita, educators have reported that their students using the programme have started to show up for classes earlier even as there has been an improvement in their self-confidence and work attitude.

Caroline Wilson-Lawes, a teacher at Carron Hall High in St Mary, is among them.

"I had students in my grade eight class who up until recently could barely read at a kindergarten level. I could not believe that after only a matter of days using SuccessMaker they were reading at the average level for their age," she said in a press release sent to Career & Education by Pearson Higher Education and Edexcel Vocational.

More than 900 students are currently being impacted through the one-year pilot project, which started last November.

The profile of students in the programme are majority males, students whose reading and/or numeracy levels are at a grade three or lower level, who are frequently absent from school and who usually display poor behaviour. They spend two hours twice a week with each subject area.

"The schools have a co-ordinator [one teacher from each of the participating schools] and volunteers. Sixty students are chosen in each school and there are six volunteers who ensure that students are in class and doing what they are to be doing," Neita said, adding that the schools had seen an improvement in reading and mathematics.

However, she said the programme has not been without its challenges.

"One of the biggest challenges is really managing schools with a small team of technical people," said Neita. "So they need stronger technical persons in the schools managing the labs. Leadership is everything, so administrators should ensure things are in place as best as they can and support the programme. If they do that, then it goes down to the teacher, it goes down to the parents and it goes down to the students."

In addition to Carron High, the participating schools include Haile Selassie High, Kingston High, Tivoli High, Cumberland High, Tacius Golding High, Kellits High, Brimmervale High, Islington High, Fair Prospect High, Claude McKay High, Alston High, Paul Bogle High, Robert Lightbourne High, and Thompson Town High.

Pearson also donated two lifetime licences for the programme, valued at $300,000, to Thompson Town High School in Clarendon to be used to help burn victims Kimone MacKenzie and her brother, who until recently found it difficult to attend school as a result of injuries sustained from a house fire 12 years ago.

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