DepEd denies stiff fall in NAT results proof of cheating

The Department of Education (DepEd) is disputing the allegation in the article “Cheating in national exams bared by DepEd” in the September 9, 2018 Manila Times issue that massive losses in the mean percentage score (MPS) in the Grade 6 National Achievement Test (NAT) in 2016 and 2017 are solid proofs of the alleged widespread cheating attending the test previously.
The article which was written by this correspondent had quoted an unnamed high school teacher as claiming that the drastic reduction of the Grade 6 NAT MPS was due to the resetting of the NAT from the end of the school year to the start of the succeeding school year starting in 2016.
The source said that in the case of the Grade 6 NAT, this meant that the takers were already in high school and have “been cut off from the system of assistance available to them in their elementary schools.”
Based on data provided by the Bureau of Education Assessment (BEA) covering school year 2012-2013 to school year 2016-2017, the national Grade 6 MPS for 2016 was 44.46 and 39.40 for 2017 as compared to the 69.54, 71.82 and 70.88 in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively. The difference in the average of the MPS in school years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 and the average of the previous three years is 28.81, not 30.04 as stated in the article in question.
In the NAT, the descriptive equivalent of scores are as follows: 35 below – very low mastery; 36-65 – low mastery; 66-85 – average mastery; 86-95 – moving towards mastery; 96-100 – mastered. The target of the DepEd is 75 MPS.
In a letter dated September 10 but only emailed to this correspondent on October 23, Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction Lorna Dig Dino wrote that the DepEd is denying “in the strongest possible terms” that the result of the 2017 NAT proved that the test is tainted with dishonesty although the agency admits isolated cases of irregularities even as it claimed that these are dealt with swiftly once reported.
She claimed that DepEd policies intended to combat cheating and curb irregularities in the conduct of tests specifically Sections 10 and 13 of DepEd Order No. 55, series of 2016, are being strictly implemented.
She said that the DepEd will be very grateful if this correspondent could provide concrete evidence on cheating in DepEd tests including information on the identities of those involved commenting that the agency will never tolerate such acts.
Dino said that among the factors that may have contributed to the low MPS in 2017 was it aimed to test 21st century skills namely problem solving, information literacy and critical thinking of the students along with their knowledge of the curriculum.
“While the current NAT is progressive in nature wherein the items measure varying levels of skills, the previous NAT were based on curriculum content,” Dino said.
This correspondent, however, notes that Section 3 of DepEd Order No. 55, s. 2016, which, according to Dino, provided for the shift in the content of the NAT, states that new design takes effect in 2018, and not in 2017.
Too, in the data from the BEA, the separate subject area “Critical Thinking Skill Test” appear in Grade 10 except in school year 2016-2017 but is missing in the Grade 6 result for the five-year period.
Dino also did not refer in her letter to the result of the NAT in 2016, the year when the fall in the MPS was first experienced. The gap between the 2015 MPS and the 2016 MPS of Grade 6 is 26.42
Dino also said that other possible factors which may have affected the poor performance of the takers in the 2017 NAT are the preparation of teachers, learning materials, formative assessment to develop the skills of the learners, learning environment and class size.
The source had claimed that the practices of leaking the answers to pupils or actually coaching them during the exams are rampant in public elementary schools and that she had met Grade 7 students with near perfect NAT scores who “could hardly spell words intended for Grade 6.”
She said that cheating was motivated by the practice of the DepEd of ranking schools according to their NAT performance, treating high NAT performance as an edge in promotion and worst of all, the inclusion of NAT performance among the criteria in the computation of the Performance-based Bonus (PBB).
Dino informed that the DepEd already excluded NAT results as one of the criteria in the computation of the PBB effective 2015 pursuant to DepEd Order No. 25, s. 2016.
This correspondent notes though that DepEd Order No. 56, s. 2016, dated July 27, 2016 (not DepEd Order No. 25, s. 2016 as erroneously stated by Dino) which governs the granting of PBB in 2015 includes NAT performance in the computation of the bonus.
It was the following year the policy was scrapped by virtue of DepEd Order No. 53, s. 2017, the guideline for the grant of the 2016 PBB.
In answer to the allegation of the source that NAT performance affects the chances of teachers for promotion, Dino referred this correspondent to DepEd Orders No. 22, s. 2015 (hiring guidelines for teaching positions effective school year 2015-2016) and No. 3, s. 2016 (hiring guidelines for Senior High School teaching positions effective school year 2016-2017).
This correspondent found that DepEd Order No. 22, s. 2015, only covers the hiring of vacant Teacher 1 positions, the entry-level teaching position.**By Estanislao Albano, Jr.

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