After the refusal of the Department of Education to release figures on how many Kerry students were affected by the calculated grades scandal, Deputy Pa Daly asked his fellow constituency representative, Minister for Education, Norma Foley for a break-down of the figures concerning their constituents.
“I am disappointed once again in the Minister’s handling of this issue,” said Deputy Daly.
“When the story first broke, I straight away submitted a question to ask for how many Kerry students this issue involved.”
“In the meantime, we have seen more revelations about the scandal come to light, including that the Minister was aware of the issue several days before the matter was revealed in a haphazard way in the Dáil.”
Some Sort of Transparency
“I had hoped at least for some sort of transparency on the matter, but today I received a reply from the department that they would not tell me how many students in Kerry have had their grades changed incorrectly.”
Give People the Facts
“Time is running out for Kerry students and their families.
The data I requested does not give rise to any concerns given I am asking for a county level figure, and I would appeal to Minister Foley to recognise this and give the people of Kerry the facts.”
Teachta Daly’s Question
To ask the Minister for Education the number of leaving certificate students in County Kerry that have had errors with their calculated grades identified; the nature of these errors; and the way they are categorised in tabular form.
Minister Norma Foley’s Reply
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.
Canadian Company Involvement
My Department contracted a Canadian company, Polymetrika International Inc. to assist with the development of the model.
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.
One of 50,000 Lines of Code
The first error was identified by Polymetrika as having taken place when processing students’ data. The 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.
Weakest Non-Core Subjects
The coding error instead combined them with the students’ two 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 the complete review which the Department 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 (CPSE) was meant to be disregarded as part of the model but was not. This second error, however, had a negligible impact on results.
Issue to Impacted Students
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 Educational Testing Services, ETS, a non-profit organisation based in the United States.
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.
The Nationwide Break-Down
As a result of rectification of the errors, a total of 6,100 students have received higher grades. This breaks down as follows:
- 5,408 students have received a higher grade, by one grade band, in one subject,
- 621 students have received a higher grade, by one grade band, in two subjects,
- 71 students have received a higher grade, by one grade band, in three or more subjects.
Guarding Against Information Release
National policy in relation to examination outcomes, as given effect in Section 53 of the Education Act 1998, as amende), is focussed on guarding against the release of information which would enable the compilation of information – that is not otherwise available to the general public – in relation to the comparative performance of schools in respect of the academic achievement of students.
Data not Released on a Granular Level
This means that generally examinations performance data analysis will only be presented and/or published on an aggregated, national basis and not at any more granular level, including by school but also by school type, geographic location, regional location, etc.
In addition to the students who received a lower grade than they should have in this year’s Leaving Certificate, some students received a higher grade than they should have. However, these students grades are not being amended.
Texts Sent to Students
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.
Impacted students were sent a text message advising them to log onto the Calculated Grades Student Portal to access their revised results from 6.00pm on Saturday 03 October.
The Department has sent a corrected file of student results to the CAO. The CAO will now establish how many students are eligible to receive a new CAO offer.
In Line with Appeals Process
The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science will work with the CAO and the higher education institutions to see how these students can be facilitated to commence the course that they would, in other circumstances, have been offered in an earlier round.
Any student who would have been entitled to a different offer in previous CAO rounds if they received the correct grade on 7 September will receive this offer or a deferred offer as soon as practicable after the updating of results.
This is in line with the practice that occurs in the appeals process every year.
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