THE LEAVING CERTIFICATE this year will not go ahead as planned and instead now the 61,000 students who were due to sit the exams will receive ‘calculated grades’.
Minister for Education Joe McHugh made the announcement today after receiving Cabinet approval. He said this was “not a perfect solution”, in fact he acknowledged it was one he had “massive reservations” about in recent weeks.
However he said the reality of the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak has led to the decision.
He said he has “compelling evidence” based on medical advice and other assessments that the examinations cannot be held in a reliable and valid manner, or in any way that would be equitable for students.
Here’s how the process will work:
Teachers will be asked to provide a professional judgement of each student’s attainment, which will be subjected to an in-school alignment process to ensure fairness.
They will provide an estimate of the percentage mark for their subject that each student is likely to have achieved.
Teachers will also compile a “class rank order”. This will be a list of all students in the class in order of the predicted level of achievement of each student.
The department will advise teachers that they should draw on existing records and available evidence including:
- Records of each student’s performance over the course of study including classwork and homework
- Performance on any class assessments such as house exams, Christmas exams, summer exams and mock examinations
- Performance on any coursework component, even if this had not been fully completed
- Previous results in school on this subject
The school principal will approve the estimated scores being provided and the rankings of each student in each subject in the school.
A special unit in the Department of Education will process the data provided by each school and operate national standardisation. This means the teachers’ estimated marks will be adjusted to bring them into line with the expected distribution for the school.
Each school’s expected distributions will be arrived at from a statistical analysis of all the historic State Examination Commission datasets.
The department will finalise the grades for each student which will be issued as close as possible to the traditional date. Formal State certification will also be provided.
What if students aren’t happy with that grade?
Students retain the right to appeal. This will involve checks on school-entered data, correct transfer of that data to the department, a review that it was correctly received and processed by the department and verification of the department’s processes by independent appeal scrutineers.
However, officials have said the actual grade initially given by the teacher at the start of the process cannot be “re-opened” as part of this appeal.
The appeal system focuses on the department’s process , rather than that of the teacher.
Only the final mark – which may be different from the one given by the teacher after it goes through the entire process – could change on appeal if there a problem with that process is identified.
If students are unhappy with their results and with the decision of an appeal, they will retain the right to sit the 2020 exams at a later date when it is deemed safe for them to be held.
And when they get those exam results, they can still choose to revert back to the calculated grade if they do not do better in the exam.
The minister said he can not put a specific date now on results, but he hopes they can be given to students as close to the traditional date as possible.
He also could not give the later date that exams could take place for those who are unhappy with their calculated grade.
However, it was confirmed that this part of the process will not be completed on time for students to enter into university.
This means anyone who is unhappy with their calculated grade and who wants to sit the exams instead will have to wait until the following year to start college – if they want to hold out for their first choice.
Anyone who opts to sit the exam can still start college if they are offered a course while they go through the exam process and change courses the following year if the exams change their grades.
Officials confirmed that the right to free fees and Susi grand support would be extended for a year in this instance.