These days, the B.B. Coke High School in Junction, St Elizabeth, no longer faces repeated requests for the transfer of students placed there through the Grade Six Achievement Test.
That reflects brighter days for the school, which has been turning around its performance and image since receiving a rating of 'unsatisfactory' from the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) in January 2015.
During the years preceding the NEI inspection, the school had experienced low student performance in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) English language examination. The average pass rate was 19 per cent (2012), 45 per cent (2013), and 36 per cent (2014).
For CSEC mathematics, the average pass rate was four per cent (2012), 14 per cent (2013), and 12 per cent (2014). These results were all significantly below the national average.
But the change has started as administrators at the school believe it has benefited from the elimination of the shift system, which took place in September 2015 and the addition of 11 classrooms.
"Coming off shift has allowed the redeployment of teaching staff for more effective utilisation. We now have specialists in all subject areas," principal, Evadney Ledgister, told The Gleaner.
She cited several initiatives that have been implemented to improve student performance in English language and mathematics, including the staging of camps for both subjects, extra classes, networking with experienced teachers from other high schools, and participating in internal and external competitions in the subjects.
It is too early to tell if the negative trend in student performance in English and mathematics has been arrested.
The average pass rate for CSEC English moved from 41 per cent in 2015 to 62 per cent in 2016. For CSEC math, the pass rate was 54 per cent in 2015, but dropped to 21 per cent in 2016, reflecting a national decline.
At the time of writing, the CSEC 2017 results were unavailable, but administrators at BB Coke High were confident of an upward movement.
Evadney Ledgister (second right), principal of the B.B. Coke High School, meets with members of the senior management team and board chairman. From left are Laurette Ellis, Denise Mc Cleary, Sandra Pinnock, Cassandra Rowe, Roaul Chambers, Cetany Holness (chairman), and Nicola Levy.
A Shift In Time
Coming off the shift system in 2015 provided an opportunity for the St Elizabeth-based B.B Coke High School to expand the range of subjects offered, and this is being touted as a big reason for the improvement it has recorded in recent years.
"We reorganised our curriculum to offer world-trend subjects, and we had our first group of science students graduating in 2015," said principal, Evadney Ledgister.
She is proud of the sixth-form programme, which also came on stream in September 2015, and which has produced outstanding student performances in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
Candidates from the school attained 100 per cent passes in five of eight subjects that they sat and 83 per cent in another. This performance placed the B.B. Coke High School 36th in the national CAPE ranking in 2016.
Poor student behaviour was one of the factors that contributed to the marking down of the school by the NEI in 2015. However, Dean of Discipline Laurette Ellis is now reporting that "fights have been reduced significantly, and we have applied several intervention methods".
These include motivational talks to students delivered by the police and ex-prisoners, which have resulted in significant behaviour change among male students.
The school has also adopted the Positive Behaviour Intervention Support Programme, which promotes the curbing of negative behaviour through the application of rewards and other positive stimuli.
Vice-principal Cassandra Rowe points to the success of the grade seven cultural initiative.
According to Rowe, based on observations and the findings of some action research carried out through the Social Studies Department, it became evident that the grade seven students were not demonstrating the level of cultural awareness, patriotism, tolerance, as well as respect needed to stimulate effective learning that would result in creative functional individuals.
Rowe said that the programme was specifically designed to teach the students to respond appropriately to national symbols, develop greater awareness of Jamaican heritage and culture, develop skills in the creative art forms, as well as public speaking, research, and debating skills.
For many students, this initiative became the tool that shaped their attitude and behaviour, resulting in the positive changes evident among the grade seven students.
"We are excited about the results from this programme. Some good things are happening in behaviour modification," commented Guidance Counsellor Sandra Pinnock.
Among The Best In 'St Bess'
Since it eliminated the shift system in 2015, the B.B. Coke High School has been able to expand its offering of co-curricular activities, with 17 clubs and societies now active at the institution.
The school participates in all the major sports organised by the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association and is among few schools in Jamaica to play rugby, placing first in the regional competition and third at the national level.
"This helped to build the self-esteem of the school population," vice-principal Cassandra Rowe told The Gleaner.
"Students who now play on national sport teams return to the school, which was not so before now."
She argued that the community's perception of B.B Coke High has changed for the better, with the average pass rates for GSAT-placed students rising this year to 50 per cent and as high as 70 per cent.
"We are becoming a school of choice," said Rowe
In the meantime, the school administration has engaged the community by taking its programme with displays into the town centre of Junction.
They also held a meeting of the parent-teacher association in Alligator Pond.
"This engagement with parents prevented any fall in the compliance rate for parents' contribution to the school's financial needs," the principal, Evadney Ledgister, reported.
School board chairman Cetany Holness is upbeat about the recent improvements.
"We are proud of the school's performance and want the students to do well," said Holness, while acknowledge the contribution of his predecessor, Wentworth Skeffrey.
According to Holness, the board will be pushing for the reactivation of the B.B. Coke High School Past Students' Association.
Source: Jamaica Gleaner