Test Scores In RMI Schools Show No Improvement

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Slight decline in standardize testing despite reforms

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Oct. 16, 2015) – Student mastery of academic subject areas as tested in the Marshall Islands showed a decline or stayed the same as last year, according to the Marshall Islands Standard Achievement Test results released by the Public School System on Thursday.

The tests were conducted earlier this year near the end of the 2014-2015 school year for students in third, sixth and eighth grades around the Marshall Islands.

Education Minister Dr. Hilda Heine last year called for schools to aim for a five percent annual improvement. The test results show this did not materialize. "It is our turn to perform," she told elementary principals recently. She pointed out that the ministry has made structural improvements to its governance and if guidelines are followed, "improvements can be made."

In a statement issued Thursday, she said "with the right combination of effort, schools can get the right results."

Public schools have struggled over many years to improve subject proficiency at any level, and this year’s national test confirmed the pattern.

Third graders showed academic advancement in math and science, but also a significant drop in Marshallese reading ability. English reading results remained the same as last year. The best result was in science, but showed that only 34 percent of the students are "proficient." Only one in five third grade students is proficient in English.

At the sixth grade level, the number of students able to read Marshallese went down, and science scores stayed flat from 2014-2015 (15 percent proficient). English and math both went up by one percentage point each to 19 and 21 percent able to do the subject work, respectively.

For eighth grade, the overall results declined after two years of improvement. In 2012, one-in-three eighth graders (33 percent) were proficient over all subjects. It rose to 39 percent in 2014, but dropped to 38 this year.

The eighth grade results also were used as an entrance test for the five public high schools in the nation. The PSS results showed that the fewest students achieving a "passing score" on the eighth grade test were in Kwajalein Atoll. The highest percentage of passing students came from Majuro, schools in the northern islands, and private schools.

The "best" results show on average fewer than half of eighth graders are proficient. According to the PSS results, the highest average "proficiency" level for eighth graders in the country is 45 percent of those tested in Majuro and northern schools. The lowest average proficiency rate is 18 percent for Kwajalein eighth graders.

At sixth grade, the best result was 32 percent of students proficient in Marshallese language (a decline from the previous year).

In third grade, the best result was 34 percent of students proficient in science.

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