The Truth Behind The National Achievement Tests - A Point Of Awarenes
- Preciosa S. Soliven () - June 3, 2000 - 12:00am

Part 1

The school year 2000 officially opens in the month of June. Next week the public schools will start classes but most private schools will open by the middle of June, usually after the Araw ng Kalayaan or Independence Day of June 12. The newspaper dailies more often, write about the lack of classrooms as the school population increases with newly enrolled children. DECS Secretary Brother Andrew Gonzalez is reported to be amazed at the sudden increase in the public school enrollment attributing this to the report that public high schools topped the National Secondary Achievement Test.

Five years ago when the dailies editorialized the top ten elementary schools and high schools in the National Elementary Achievement Test (NSAT), I wrote a column What is the NEAT and NSAT all about? In June 8, 1995. I am using this for Part I of two articles to update the public on the changes made for the National Achievement Tests for Basic Education this year 2000.

What happened to our valedictorians?

Think of the valedictorian in your class. How do you think he or she fared in life? A cursory survey of summa cum laudes, magna cum laudes or cum laudes will reveal that many of them simply disappeared from sight. Some of them who spent the average 15 years of studies, obsessed with memorizing facts, did not really become achievers. In our country, the politicians' bio-data usually boost their qualifications as "bar topnotchers," yet their moral discipline is wanting and they fail as civil servants.

During homecoming or school reunions, those who have become prominent in society for having accomplished much were the regular guys. They were not rigid but adaptable to various circumstances. They never allowed themselves to be enslaved nor attached to studies alone.

The 'cram method'

The educational system which used grades primarily as a yardstick has destroyed the hopes and dreams of many young people. It's tragic that they are not apparent in elementary school when the sevens' to twelves' strong reasoning power helps them acquire good grades, but everything begins to break down in high school.

The 1990-1991 EDCOM survey of Philippine education revealed that the system has failed in meeting the human development goal for self-sufficiency and employment. The main achievement has not been the formation of character, but merely the development of the memory and mental cleverness. The failure is, therefore, attributed by schools which force mass of textbook facts into the student's mind, practicing his dexterity giving back facts and knowledge when asked for it.

Facts about the National Elementary Achievement Test (NEAT)

The NEAT aims to measure the academic performance of Grade VI pupils in both public and private elementary schools by regions, divisions and districts in contrast to when it first began and the "cluster-system" was used. It is not a requirement for graduation, but the test results will be used by the DECS as an instrument for the evaluation of the schools.

Since 1994 the NEAT was taken every last Tuesday of August at assigned testing centers where private school students are monitored by public school teachers and vice-versa. However, beginning school year 1999-2000, the NEAT shall be administered on the third week of January to be able to get an accurate measure of the Grade VI students' achievement in the five subject areas.

Before there used to be only four subject areas namely, English (30 percent), Math (30 percent), Science (30 percent), HEKASI- Heograpiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika (10 percent). Recently Filipino was added. Each component test has 50 items. Multiple choice type of questions are used by which the right word is selected by shading the small circle beside it. Checked by computers, lightly shaded answers or erasures will be taken as wrong. The Communication Arts components of English and Filipino now include composition writing which shall be administered to sample schools only.

Facts about the National Secondary Achievement Test (NSAT)

The NSAT is assessment of the basic skills acquired by the secondary school student that will be useful to his entry to a higher level as well as vocational-technical education. It aims to compare the performance between schools as well as the extent of educational improvement of a school over time. While all fourth year students are required to take the NSAT, a low score will not prevent the high school graduate from entering college. Nevertheless, it may affect the graduate's chances of entry into the college of his choice.

The NSAT subject matter covers aptitude and achievement components distributed as follows: English (20 percent) and Filipino (20 percent) Proficiencies, Math (20 percent), General Science, Biology, Chemistry and Physics (20 percent), plus Vocational Aptitude (Abstract Reasoning, 20 percent), the last being a non-verbal test measures the reasoning ability of the student. Recently the subject matter of Social Studies was included.

Why some high-performing schools were not included in the NETRC list of SY 94-95?

The DECS National Education Testing and Research Center (NETRC) published twice in 1995 the results of the NEAT and NSAT. Parents, teachers and school heads of High Performing Schools which were not recorded in the list analyzed the process of this national assessment of grade schools and high schools in the country for constructive criticisms.

Noted then was the classification of schools according to population clusters. Cluster A has 200 examinees and above, Cluster B has 100-109 examinees and Cluster C has 55-99 examinees. Generally well known schools in Manila would have eight to ten sections of graduates. With an average of 45 students per class, this would total 360-450 examinees.

If four very popular schools recorded a total of only 270 examinees, is it possible that their "mean score" is the average of their excellent and high average pupils, without their low average pupils?

Small schools

Due to their limited population, Brent and the International School would not have a chance of being included in this list. In 1995 there were 104 O.B. Montessori high school graduates and a total of 209 elementary school graduates from four branches. We had a 100 percent rate of passing for both groups. However due to the lack of uniformed quota per cluster, the NSAT Cluster A recorded 138 upper scores as against 58 upper scores of Cluster B.

O.B. Montessori belonged to Cluster B. We had a mean score of 139.99. We should have then ranked within the 65-70 percent rank but NEAT Cluster B mean scores considered only 84 upper score. Our 100.50 mean score would have then meant a ranking within the 90-95 percent rank.

Since the tests are generally dependent on the "cram method," rating high is very possible if the review of facts is done in full force in the first semester, summer break, or the second semester of the previous year.

Will they top the list if the assessment were in English?

Like Brent and the International School, we have been using English as a medium of teaching. The OBMC kindergarten children go through the "bilingual system" since majority of our children come from families who interchange English and Filipino in their conversation. Filipino becomes a subject in the elementary school and high school.

This has been our policy for the past 29 years since we take in foreign students and several of our local students continue their schooling abroad. All entrance tests into the school use individual Stanford-Binet tests or the SAT.

How does the achievement test work?

A few schools conduct annual achievement tests. These tests maybe either standardized psychological tests like the SRA Verbal and Non-Verbal Test, the Otis-Lennon Scholastic Ability Test or the self-made achievement tests. The Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) is one of the most commonly used standardized achievement tests. It measures the students' knowledge on Language (Spelling, Grammar and general rules in Punctuation/Capitalization), Reading (Vocabulary or Word-Meaning, Paragraph Meaning or Reading Comprehension), Mathematics (Computation, basics on the four operations, Concepts and Problem Solving) and General Science. The SAT allows the school to assess the students' achievement level. Unlike the academic grades reflected in the students' report card which is based on several criteria, Daily Academic performance (20 percent); Orals (20 percent); Written Works and Requirements (20 percent); Periodic Exams (20 percent); and Personality Development (20 percent), the achievement test profile of the student reflects the student's achievement or stock knowledge without prejudice to the five areas mentioned earlier.

Determining the failure or promotion of a child

To determine the students' performance based from their achievement test scores, it is important to identify the level of the students so that the Expected Grade Placement (EGP) can be set. Above (see diagram) is a sample Profile of a Grade 5 student transferring from another school. Notice that the EGP is set at 5.0 on the left side where the grade levels from 1 to 12 are noted. For private schools in the Philippines let us just consider grades 1 to 7 while the whole scale up to the 12th grade pertain to the American schools.

All scores falling above the line (EGP) suggest that the child has "sufficient to above average" achievement level in the corresponding sub-test while those falling below the EGP line are indicative of "low or below average" knowledge in those particular subtests. As seen in the Profile, this Grade 5 applicant is underachieving in Reading and Language except for Spelling. The same is true for Math (except for Math Concepts which is slightly above) and General Science. She averages an achievement of one year behind so she has to repeat Grade 4.

Data gathered in the SAT becomes valuable to the school management particularly the academic department. It may be utilized as a tool in identifying which subject areas the students need to improve on and which ones the students excel in. At the same time, comparative studies may be done to find out whether the students' performance improve through the years, and whether changes in the curriculum help improve the students' performance in the SAT.

Without the right educational reform the Philippines remains a sprinter in the global race Early in the morning the whole world takes off to jog or do brisk walking to keep fit. The exceptionally healthy and strong ones or the "skaters" are those who ran in competitions. The healthy group or the "striders" move a bout in long strides. The moderately healthy walkers sprint several meters then slow down gasping and catching their breath. Lastly the weak and sickly ones -- "strollers" or "starters" barely catch up with the momentum.

In the survey of the Information Society Index or the ISI 2000, the Philippines is classified with the "sprinters" together with Thailand, Malaysia, Chile Argentina, Brazil and other South American countries who move forward in spurts before having to catch their breath and shift priorities due to economic, social and political pressures.


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