Teachers up against the clock to decide on Leaving Cert grade

Parochialism of Irish society suggests weeks ahead may be uncomfortable for educators

Leaving Cert 2020: There are sure to be losers in this teacher-based assessment process. File photograph: The Irish Times

Leaving Cert 2020: There are sure to be losers in this teacher-based assessment process. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

Second-level teachers will have weeks to determine the “calculated grade” each student will secure in a school-based, nationally standardised, assessment process.

They will be expected to carry out this work as an expression of professionalism, in support of their students.

The context in which they will exercise judgment will be governed broadly by past performance of the previous three years of Leaving Certs.

In the case of new schools where such data will be unavailable, Junior Cert results of each student may end up being used as a guide.

Moreover, and in the spirit of fairness, an option of sitting the exams when it becomes feasible remains open to students.

Performance

How will this model play out in your typical second-level school? The most important consideration for teachers applying the new assessment process will be the cards provided them by their principal. For example, how many H1s and H2s they have at their disposal based on the school’s previous performance.

In the case of a minority-subject teacher, where there is one class, it will be a matter for that teacher alone to build a table of achievement for the group.

In mainstream subjects such as Irish, English and Maths, teachers will have to agree how high-achievement scores are distributed among the entire year group.

This will be a new experience for all teachers. And it will require them to look collectively at the data generated by the school in relation to each student and agree on the most deserving.

Parents spend their lives encouraging and supporting children to reach their potential. So it will be unsurprising if parents seek to influence teacher judgment on what grade to award their child.

Watertight

In fee-paying and private-grind schools, where costs are substantial, processes to be put in place to protect teachers need to be watertight.

All schools must ensure teachers will be indemnified against litigation a student might take in pursuit of additional grades to secure a desired CAO place.

Given the parochial nature of Irish society, the coming weeks may be very uncomfortable for teachers, particularly in circumstances where they live in the same community as their school.

After the teacher submits estimated grades , they will be approved by the principal. In turn they will be submitted to the Department of Education to process the data and operate “national standardisation”.

The department will, ultimately, finalise grades.

Losers

There will be losers in this teacher-based assessment process. Thousands of students are studying subjects outside of school and there are hundreds of students of eastern European decent who traditionally sit the Leaving Cert in their native language without recourse to any teacher. These students have traditionally secured H1s and H2s in these languages and also met their third-language requirements for college entry.

Without a teacher to determine an appropriate grade under the newly devised assessment process, it is difficult to see how these people can be accommodated.

Overall, the decision to postpone Leaving Cert 2020 and put the new assessment process in place is the best option available considering the public health risk.

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