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.
On 30 September, I made a statement advising that two errors had been identified in the Calculated Grades process. These meant that incorrect grades were issued to some students when they received their results on 7 September.
The first error, in one out of 50,000 lines of code, was in relation to the processing of Junior Cycle data. The system was meant to draw on the core Junior Cycle subjects of English, Irish and Maths, and combine them with the students’ 2 best non-core subjects for all of the students in each class in each school. The coding error instead combined the core subjects with the students’ 2 weakest non-core subjects.
The error meant that, in some subjects, some students received Calculated Grades that were lower than they should have been, while some students received grades that were higher than they should have been.
In the course of a review which the Department then undertook, Departmental staff found a further error in the section of the code dealing with Junior Cycle results. The Junior Cycle subject Civil, Social and Political Education (CSPE) was meant to be disregarded as part of the model but was not. This second error, however, had a negligible impact on results.
At that stage I decided to seek independent expert oversight in the interest of certainty, particularly for our students. I commissioned Education Testing Services (ETS), a non-profit organisation based in the United States, to provide an independent expert opinion on the coding.
I provided a further update on 03 October, announcing that improved Calculated Grades would issue to impacted students that day. This announcement was made following a review of essential aspects of the coding by ETS.
ETS completed their review and provided it to my Department on 3 October. The review identified one further error, relating to how the code handled cases where students did not sit all three core subjects (Irish, English and Maths) at Junior Cycle level.
ETS also identified an issue concerning how the algorithm used in the standardisation process treated students’ marks at the extreme ends of the marks scale (99% and over, 1% and below). However, ETS also stated that this had no material impact on the results and no student could receive a lower grade as a result of it.
A copy of the report submitted by ETS is available on www.gov.ie/leavngcert.
I also announced on 3 October that I had asked that a comprehensive independent review of the design and implementation of the Calculated Grades process should take place when the process is complete.
The full scope of this review will be clearly set out in advance.