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State Examinations

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 4 November 2020

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Questions (69)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

69. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education if she will respond to concerns raised by a person (details supplied) in respect of leaving certificate calculated grades; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33971/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations. In the absence of these examinations, every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students as possible.

The process of national standardisation, which forms a key part of the Calculated Grades process, was applied to the information provided by schools in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. 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. It was inherent to the system of calculated grades that school estimates would be subject to adjustment through this standardisations process.

These adjustments resulted in the school estimates of subject percentage marks 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.

A standardising process happens every year and would have happened in 2020 had the Leaving Certificate examinations been run as normal. In the system of calculated grades, the standardisation process applied uniformly across all subject and levels and school types. 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 overall data on school estimated marks showed that there was a very significant rise in estimated grades against what would normally be achieved nationally. This level of grade increase based on the school estimates would have been unrealistic. For example, based on the school data, there would have been 13.8% H1 grades this year when in a normal year it is approximately 5.8%. Even with the standardisation process the rate of H1s this year is over 9%.

While some students will be disappointed at the results they have achieved, this is the case every year when the Leaving Certificate results are published. It may be more difficult for students to understand when they see the estimated mark from the school.

The appeals process for Calculated Grades was open to students who were disappointed with the Calculated Grades they received in one or more subjects. Students unhappy with the outcome of the above process could invoke a separate process to have their appeal reviewed by independent Appeals Scrutineers. These scrutineers are independent of my Department. The independent Appeals Scrutineers will check to ensure the correct procedures were followed throughout the appeals process. The scrutineers will have access to the records and documentation considered in the appeals process.

In addition, students had the option to register to sit the 2020 written Leaving Certificate exams which are due to commence on 16 November.

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