Education crisis: teachers’ grading rebellion

  • Shannon James, president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Anxious period: Mike Charles, general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers (File photograph)
  • Education minister Diallo Rabain gives an update on education (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Teachers have refused to enter pupils’ grades into an all-schools computer network, the education minister admitted yesterday.

But the head of the teachers’ union called the minister’s comments “very misleading”.

Diallo Rabain said teachers had been told by the Bermuda Union of Teachers to “not enter grades into our system”.

He said: “For teachers to be told not to enter grades into the system is a dangerous precedent that is being set and we intend to address that.”

Mr Rabain added that the union move was “completely unacceptable”.

He was speaking as he delivered an update on talks between the Ministry of Education and the union about teachers’ concerns.

Mr Rabain was asked to confirm that pupils would receive report cards this term.

He said that he had earlier announced that midterm report cards would not be issued.

Mr Rabain added that parent-teacher conferences would be held to give parents updates on their children’s progress.

Shannon James, the president of the BUT, said Mr Rabain’s comments were “very misleading”.

Mr James said teachers were “confused” on the standards-based grading system.

He added: “Therefore, the grades that have been entered have not been as accurate as they need to be.”

Mr James described the standards-based grading system as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. He explained: “The ways in which teachers have arrived at a grade has varied from school to school due to the lack of training around standards-based grading.

“Parents have expressed great concern over teachers not being able to explain this new way of grading and it has left them utterly confused.”

Mr Rabian announced last month that the implementation of a new standards-based grading system was to be suspended.

He admitted that teacher training for the new standards-based grading model “wasn’t as good as it should have been” but that measures had been taken to improve teacher preparation.

Mr Rabain added at the time: “We are not looking to have any grading come out until December.”

Mike Charles, the general secretary of the BUT, said last month that the union had “advocated strongly” for a delay in the introduction of the new reporting system.

Mr Charles said that teachers “widely supported” standards-based grading, but problems with its introduction had caused “a lot of anxiety”.

The new grading system was introduced in September.

Kalmar Richards, then Acting Commissioner of Education, said in a letter sent to parents in June that the new evaluation system ensured “that all students, no matter which school they attend, are taught the same standards and learning objectives”.

Scores of 0 to 4 will be given to pupils for their work under the new system, designed to replace the former percentage or letter grades.

The letter said a score of four showed advanced understanding exceeding grade level and a zero indicated no evidence or insufficient evidence of learning.

A total of eight report cards a year are to be sent to parents under the new rules.