Written answers

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Department of Education and Skills

State Examinations

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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180. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of leaving certificate students in 2020 that received results downgrades from their teacher-predicted grades through the standardisation process in two, three, four, five, six and seven subjects, respectively, in view of the upward revision of the grades of 6,100 leaving certificate students after coding mistakes were found in the calculated grades process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30734/20]

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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181. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of teacher-predicted leaving certificate grades that were downgraded in the standardisation process by more than ten, 20, 30, 40 and 50 percentage points, respectively, in view of the upward revision of the grades of 6,100 leaving certificate students after coding mistakes were found in the calculated grades process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30735/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 181 together.

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.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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182. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the analysis her Department has carried out into the number of leaving certificate 2020 students that have lost out on third level places due to the issuing in error of almost 15,000 grades of which 8,000 were higher than they were supposed to be; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30736/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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The Leaving Certificate system has a well-established practice of not reducing the marks or grades of students who have not appealed their results, but who through an appeal by another student or other systemic check are identified as somebody who received higher marks or grades than were merited.

In keeping with that principle, and mindful of the fact that the mistake was not the students’ mistake, students who received higher grades as a result of the errors in the Calculated Grades system will not be downgraded. The Leaving Certificate results of these students will remain unchanged as they do every year in these circumstances.

The CAO system operates on behalf of the higher education institutions solely on the basis of the Leaving Certificate results that candidates have been awarded.

Therefore, the CAO cannot differentiate within the group of candidates with the 2020 Leaving Certificate, just as the CAO cannot treat a 2019 Leaving Certificate candidate differently from a 2020 one. The CAO process for 2020 has been undertaken on that basis and there is no scope for the CAO to re-assess the selection of students for higher education programmes on the basis of any information that does not relate to the formal results of the Leaving Certificate in 2020 or any other year.

There has been an increase in the numbers of available places in colleges so that improved CAO offers can be made to all candidates who benefitted from upgraded Leaving Certificate results. There were also extensive additional higher education places in 2020 – the most places ever offered – and the Department of Further and Higher Education and the higher education institutions are fully committed to providing further places to accommodate all students who are entitled to improved CAO offers.

Of the 485 candidates who received improved CAO offers this week, some of them will move from one course to another and this will create the potential for further offers to other candidates in succeeding rounds of the CAO. This will mean an overall increase in the numbers of students in third-level education and will lessen any risk of candidates not being able to participate in third-level education.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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183. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the gender breakdown of the 7,943 students who received higher leaving certificate grades than they should have as a result of coding errors in the calculated grades process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30737/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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The Leaving Certificate system has a well-established practice of not reducing the marks or grades of students who have not appealed their results, but who through an appeal by another student or other systemic check are identified as somebody who received higher marks or grades than were merited.

In keeping with that principle, and mindful of the fact that the mistake was not the students’ mistake, students who received higher grades as a result of the errors in the Calculated Grades system will not be downgraded. The Leaving Certificate results of these students will remain unchanged as they do every year in these circumstances.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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184. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of the 6,100 students awarded improved leaving certificate grades as a result of the review of the calculated grades system that received improved grades in one, two, three, four, five, six and seven subjects; the gender breakdown of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30738/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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On 03 October I announced that improved Calculated Grades would issue that day to students who received lower Calculated Grades than they should have, as a result of errors that were found in the Calculated Grades process.

As a result of rectification of these errors, a total of 6,100 students received higher calculated grades. This breaks down as follows:

- 5,408 students received a higher grade, by one grade band, in one subject,

- 621 students received a higher grade, by one grade band, in two subjects,

- 71 students received a higher grade, by one grade band, in three or more subjects.

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.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

185. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the analysis carried out by her Department to the effect that the junior cycle class weighting system used in the leaving certificate 2020 calculated grades process constitutes a form of school profiling; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30739/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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On 1 September, I announced details in relation to the Calculated Grades model following approval of proposals made to Government. The change proposed removed the use of school-by-school historical data in the standardisation model.

The use which has been made of Junior Cycle data in the model is set out in detail in the Report of the National Standardisation Group. Individual Junior Cycle results were not used to determine any individual’s Calculated Grades. Rather, the Calculated Grades process took account of the overall Junior Cycle performance of the Leaving Certificate class of 2020 in each school and used this data to help in predicting the likely range of Leaving Certificate performance of that group using related information about the relationship between performance at Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate based on national data over time for that subject at that level.

Technical details of the Calculated Grades model and standardisation process were published on the date of issue of the results, 7 September, and are available here: www.gov.ie/en/publication/2ed9b-leaving-certificate-2020-calculated-grades-technical-reports/.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

186. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of leaving certificate students in 2020 that received results upgrades from their teacher-predicted grades through the standardisation process in two, three, four, five, six and seven subjects, respectively, in view of the upward revision of the grades of 6,100 leaving certificate students after coding mistakes were found in the calculated grades process; the gender breakdown of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30740/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

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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