US non-profit company to design new Leaving Cert accredited grades process

Canadian firm linked to last year’s grading errors will not be involved

US non-profit Education Testing Services (ETS) has been awarded the contract to design this year’s accredited grades process for Leaving Certificate students.

On Monday, the Department of Education described the firm as a world-leading specialist in educational measurement.

"ETS will work with the Department of Education and the State Examinations Commission (SEC) to deliver the various elements of the standardisation model and the implementation of the standardisation process," a spokesman said.

Canadian company Polymetrika, which was linked to coding errors that led to thousands of Leaving Cert students receiving incorrect grades last year, but which has since defended its work, has not been hired.

Legislation is currently being prepared to allow the SEC to conduct the Leaving Cert examinations and accredited grades process.

However, ETS is being brought in to design the accredited grades model, bringing its skills in both external and statistical coding, and psychometric expertise, the Department said.

It explained that a procurement process was initiated to facilitate this, in order to “ensure confidentiality, reliability and timely refinement of the standardisation model” for the delivery of accredited grades.

“As this process is one of sensitivity and urgency, the tender documents are not being published,” the spokesman added.

Incorrect grades

Last year, about 14,000 grades were incorrectly issued due to errors in the standardisation process used to adjust teachers’ estimated grades for consistency and fairness.

Students who were wrongly downgraded were later upgraded, while those who received higher grades than they should have were allowed to retain them.

However, Fernando Cartwright, chief executive of Polymetrika, said independent reviews into the calculated grades process had characterised its work as "remarkable".

"Ireland is noteworthy in that not only did we complete our work on calculated grades in less time than neighbouring jurisdictions, but ours was the only process that successfully achieved its goals," he said.

Mr Cartwright also said that any depiction placing sole responsibility for success or failure of any aspect of the Leaving Cert 2020 project with his company would be inaccurate. The company was paid €163,000 by the Department of Education.