Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (520)

Seán Haughey


520. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education the reason estimated marks given by schools to students in respect of the leaving certificate 2020 were upgraded in some cases and downgraded in other cases following the standardisation process; the way in which this standardisation process was applied and operated in practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38779/20]

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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%.

The appeals process for Calculated Grades was open to students who were disappointed with the Calculated Grades they received in one or more subjects. In addition, students had the option to register to sit the 2020 written Leaving Certificate exams which commenced on 16 November.

Following the conclusion of the appeals processes, students who consider that their case has not been processed correctly can make a complaint to the Ombudsman or, in the case of students under 18 years of age, the Ombudsman for Children.