Written answers

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Department of Education and Skills

State Examinations

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Dublin Bay North, Fianna Fail)
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278. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide a breakdown by gender of the calculated grades process in cases in which students had their predicted grades downgraded and upgraded subsequently; if she will provide a similar breakdown by gender concerning the coding error; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30242/20]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a result of COVID-19, which prevented the State from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations. The purpose of this process was to allow as many students as possible to progress to employment, further education and training, or higher education.

Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order for each student’s subjects. The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. Schools approached this task in a very professional manner, in line with detailed guidelines about the process, but inevitably some schools were overly harsh in their estimations while others were overly generous. In order to be fair to the class of 2020, the teacher judgements made at the level of the school had to be adjusted so that a common national standard was applied.

These adjustments resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. The standardisation process operated on the premise that the school estimates should only be adjusted through the standardisation process where there was credible statistical evidence to justify changing them.

The degree to which mark changes occurred related to the degree of over or underestimation in the school estimates for each subject and each level. This means that some students experienced mark changes from the school estimates but no changes to the grades based on the school estimates; while others will have experienced marks changes from the teacher estimates leading to grade changes in one or more of their subjects.

Following standardisation, the estimated percentage mark was converted to a calculated mark and subsequently, a calculated grade which was provided to students on 7 September. It is only at this point that students were awarded a grade.

Therefore, it is not accurate to state that student(s) were downgraded, or upgraded, through the standardisation process. Rather the grade that was awarded following the standardisation process is the grade for the 2020 Leaving Certificate (Calculated Grades).

The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics either at the level of the student or the school. The standardisation process means that the same standard has been applied uniformly across all schools.

While the datasets used to generate Calculated Grades do include certain demographic information, this demographic information was not used as part of the process of generating the calculated grades through the standardisation process.

Following the issue of the outcomes of the appeals of Calculated Grades, my Department will be arranging to update the national statistics for the 2020 Leaving Certificate (Calculated Grades) results issued on the 7 September with the revisions to these grades which resulted from the coding error which led to revised grades being issued to some students on the 3 October and with the outcomes of the appeals process. When the revised data set is published, a full gender breakdown of the national data will be provided at that time.


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