Predicted grades and public opinion
Sir, – Appendix C of the Department of Education report on predicted grades is only two pages long but its contents are shocking. It reveals that the mathematicians and computer scientists at the department created a sophisticated algorithm based on four criteria: the teacher’s predicted grade, the Junior Cert results of the student, the school’s Leaving Cert and Junior Cert results over the previous three years, and the usual national performance by students in each particular subject. The experts had conducted about 30 refinements, adjustments and tweaks, using extremely complex mathematics, to ensure that the results would be fair – especially to an outstanding student in a school where high grades were not so common.
I can imagine the dismay of these experts when the Minister, at the last minute, told them to get rid of criterion three and to give “greatly diminished importance” to criterion four.
And why did she do this? In the report’s own words, there was “little to be gained by increasing the accuracy of the standardisation process if, by doing so, one runs a real risk of losing public support in the public.” So she and the Government knew what they were doing. They were making the result “inaccurate” rather than face hostile public opinion and explain why their sophisticated algorithm with all four criteria was good. We now know that every Department of Education “inaccuracy” means (to a particular student) an “injustice”.
There is a possible resolution. The Minister should publish the results that students would have got under the more accurate four-criteria algorithm and allow students to choose the better mark. This will be a lot better than spending taxpayers’ money on expensive High Court cases, defending the indefensible. It will also bring justice to those students whose high results were taken from them for fear of public opinion. – Yours, etc,