Written answers

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Department of Education and Skills

State Examinations

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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453. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide details of the different demographic characteristics including gender and socio-economic status being used to review individual grades from 2020 leaving certificate students which are leading to significant delays; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18295/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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The design of the Calculated Grades model was informed by advice from a Technical Working Group comprising experts drawn from the State Examinations Commission, the Inspectorate of my Department, the Educational Research Centre, and international external expertise.

The use of demographic characteristics was inherent in the design of the statistical model developed by the Technical Working Group.

The use of these characteristics is part of the process of validating the model and is there to ensure that the statistical standardisation process is presenting outcomes that are as fair and equitable as possible, and in line with previous outcomes as much as is possible. Not to run these checks would run the risk of not being able to tell whether or not the standardisation process was working as intended.

In the Calculated Grades system, students’ expected performance in a subject and level, will be combined with information about how students in the school have fared in this subject/level in recent years in line with national performance standards over time. The performance of this year’s group of students against their overall performance at Junior Cycle will also be reviewed. The relevant information which will be used to support this process includes:

- National level for both leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle examinations for 2019 and previous years.

- School level for both Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle examinations for 2019 and previous years.

- Candidate level for both Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle examinations for 2019 and previous years.

- Candidate level for the Junior Cycle results of the 2020 Leaving Certificate cohort of candidates.

While these datasets do include certain demographic information, this demographic information is not being used as part of the process of generating the calculated grades through the standardisation process.

However, in order to make sure that the standardisation process is doing what it is supposed to do, there is a separate additional process being carried out called validation.

Validation is an inherent element of any statistical system, and in the Calculated Grades model the purpose of validation is to ensure that the statistical model is behaving as expected, and is achieving its objectives. As mentioned, the validation process has been part of the design from the beginning.

The workings of the statistical model will be reviewed and validated in a number of ways. There will be review of the distributions of results for each subject and level. There will also be a review of the demographic characteristics of the outcomes which will include gender and socio-economic status of the school.

The purpose of this review of the outcomes of the statistical model is to check whether the Calculated Grades model is resulting in any particular group being advantaged or disadvantaged relative to previous years’ outcomes. It is important to note that this assessment is being made relative to previous years; the validation will check, for example, whether or not disadvantage effects, or gender effects are being exacerbated under the model. This is to ensure that the model is presenting outcomes that are as fair and equitable as possible given its constraints, and in line with previous outcomes as much as is possible.

The purpose of the Calculated Grades system is to arrive at the grade that each student would have achieved if the examinations had taken place as normal. The validation process will check to see if the interactions between these characteristics and the calculated results are similar to the interactions in the historical data between these characteristics and examination results.

My Department has published a Short Guide to Data Collection National Standardisation and Quality Assurance which provides further details about the workings of the calculated grades model. The Guide is available on www.gov.ie/leavingcertificate

 This process requires adequate time is progressing. On 16 July, I announced that students will receive their Calculated Grades on 7 September. The recent announcement that the results would issue on this date has been portrayed by some as a “delay” despite no date having been announced previously. This is the earliest possible release date given the rigorous and robust quality assurance checks required to ensure the process has executed with equity and fairness to all students and to ensure that the 2020 results enjoy the same status as those of previous years.

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