Almost one fifth of teachers’ predicted Leaving Cert examination results to be downgraded

Controversial plans for ‘school profiling’ in calculated grades process to be dropped, Minister for Education confirms

In Ireland the CAO operates on the basis of supply and demand, along with students’ relative performance.

In Ireland the CAO operates on the basis of supply and demand, along with students’ relative performance.

 

Almost one fifth of teachers’ predicted results for Leaving Cert students are set to be downgraded under the Department of Education’s new calculated grades process.

Overall, a large majority (79 per cent ) of students’ estimated grades will remain the same. The remainder will be either reduced (17 per cent) or increased (4 per cent).

About 60,000 Leaving Cert students are set to receive their final calculated grade results at 9am on Monday next. 

They are based on a combination of teachers’ estimated marks and a standardisation process, which adjusts marks up or down to help prevent grade inflation.

Defending this standardisation process, Minister for Education Norma Foley said this took place in normal years and she was confident it was “fairest approach and the right approach.”

She said the adjustments would help prevent the awarding of “unrealistically high grades”.

This led to the number of top grades being awarded by teachers this year doubling or even trebling over what would normally be expected.

Notwithstanding this,  she said this year’s results will be “stronger” or  more generous than results for previous  Leaving Cert years.
 

At a press conference at Government Buildings, Ms Foley said also said the Cabinet had agreed to drop a controversial measure know as  “school profiling”.

This reates to the use of a school’s historical grade data being used to adjust results for this year’s Leaving Certs.

Ms Foley said she had taken this measure to  students from disadvantaged backgrounds were not treated unfairly.

“Your school will not determine the results that you get through standardisation this year,” she said.

 “I am pleased that we have taken the time to get this right, and learned from others, and listened to the concerns of students.”

A breakdown of the new calculated grades results now shows the proportion of downgrades for students in disadvantaged or Deis schools is smaller (13.6 per cent) compared to other schools (16.8 per cent).

In addition, the proportion of upgrades in disadvantaged schools is slightly higher (5 per cent) compared to other schools (3.7 per cent). 

Overall, Government officials are hopeful that key differences with the Irish  approach to calculated grades will avoid the chaos and controversy witnessed in the UK when students’ calculated grades were released.

Officials say the Irish system places a “very strong” emphasis on teachers’ grades rather than the standardisation process.

They also say the fact that the teachers’ grades in Ireland were based on per centage marks rather than grades means our system is more accurate.

It also allows for exceptional students under lower performing schools to be recognised.

The move to allow more generous grades this year, however, is set to lead to grade inflation, which will impact negatively on up to 20,000 students who have applied for college this year on the basis of results in previous years. 

Officials say the release of more than  1,250 higher education places in high-demand courses this year is aimed at ensuring more students get their first choice and taking some of the heat out of the CAO points race.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said: “ Providing more places on high-demand courses gives us scope to ease anxiety, reduce uncertainty and demonstrate the ability of the education system to respond to student concerns.” 

He said the extra places were  focused on high-demand programmes that traditionally attract students across a range of CAO points level such as nursing, medicine, pharmacy, post-primary teaching and other areas.

Mr Harris said this will a have a “cascade effect”, creating greater capacity in lower demand courses.

Opposition parties gave the overall announcement a mixed reponse by welcoming the move to drop "school profiling" but raising concerns that some students may yet be unfairly treated.

Responding to the announcement, the Irish Universities Association  said it welcomed the additional  higher education places and was working to identify courses where demand from students is higher  - such as healthcare and teaching  - and where additional capacity can be added. 

The Technological Higher Education Association, which reprents institutes of technology,  said it was satisfied that the principle of equity has been fairly applied at every stage of the process, both in relation to the assessment of i students within this year’s Leaving Cert cohort, and in the assessment of their performance relative to previous Leaving Cert cohorts. 

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