The Debacle of Calculated Grades

Today the big news is that of the ASTI withdrawing from talks about the Leaving Certificate 2021.

“Why would a Teaching Union withdraw from such important talks?” I hear you ask.

The line from the ASTI is that the primary option being discussed was that of Calculated Grades. (or “Predicted Grades” as we called them until we were told not to)

The simple fact is that Calculated grades are unfeasible for the class of 2021. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • This cohort of students will have missed approximately 25% of their school time since last year
  • They have not sat full-scale formal exams since Christmas 2019. It’s now 2021. Yes, you could say they had this year’s Christmas exams, but they were managed in an unusual way, and the implementation varied greatly from school to school. They will have had no 5th year Summer exam (Yes, some did, and this is important. Not everybody had the same access to online exams due to their own disadvantage)
  • There is no parity of access to education during the pandemic. Students who are at home largely rely on their families resources to do well. Think of trying to work on a phone versus a laptop; having fibre broadband or patchy mobile coverage; Rural Vs Urban access to the internet. Having your own room where you can work versus a busy family in a small house

The class of 2020 had a profile behind them. Whilst their education was severely disrupted with the lockdown in March, they had a reservoir of grades and progress from which to predict/calculate a grade for each student.

The class of 2021 does not have this same resource. For that reason Calculated/Predicted grades would be an unfair burden to place upon them.

There is a secondary issue I have with calculated grades.

Last year the Department issued circular 0037/2020 which laid out the process of calculated grades.

As the Summer progressed, a number of the procedures in this circular were ignored or bypassed.

For example:

  • on page 33 of the procedures teachers are instructed NOT TO RETAIN parts A or B. This was later changed
  • We were told that the ranking order would not be released to the public. This was changed as reported here.

The whole process was fraught.

  • Students were concerned that their work would not be effectively recognised
  • There were numerous concerns regarding grade inflation
  • There were concerns as to what this meant for college applications and college places
  • Grades were adjusted by the department, famously in this case of these twins, where one lad had his grade reduced
  • There was no real appeals process. A student could only appeal the process, not the result.
  • By the time the grades were released the department had still not finalised plans for written exams – the students who had lost out would lose a year of college.

And this is the system that was being proposed today is not what was implied in this statement from the department.

bilateral discussions with Department officials to progress work on two distinct processes for Leaving Certificate 2021: planning for examinations and scoping out a corresponding measure, different to examinations that can also be offered to students.

The clear emphasis was on planning for examinations, with the ‘corresponding measure’ in second place.

Enough time has been lost, and the minister has failed our Leaving Certs. It’s time she and her department started taking this seriously and put real plans in place for our Leaving Certs.

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