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6,100 students to get text message this evening upgrading their LC result

The results of the review were announced this evening by the Department of Education.

Minister for Education Norma Foley informed the country of the error this week.
Minister for Education Norma Foley informed the country of the error this week.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Oct 3rd 2020, 6:30 PM

OVER 6,000 STUDENTS will receive improved grades, the Department of Education has announced, following a review of the Leaving Certificate calculated grades system.

The review was carried out after errors were discovered in the calculated grades system, introduced this year after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of exams. 

Students are set to receive a test message to let them know if they’ve been impacted by the mistakes. The CAO will now work out how many students are eligible to receive a new course offer. 

Minister for Education Norma Foley said that 6,100 students will receive improved grades. 

  • 5,408 students will receive a higher grade, by one grade band, in one subject.
  • 621 students will receive a higher grade, by one grade band, in two subjects.
  • 71 students will receive a higher grade, by one grade band, in three or more subjects.

In total, 6,870 grades will increase following the review, with 614 schools and education centres – out of a total of 741 – set to have at least one upgraded result. 

Earlier this week, Foley predicted that around 7,200 grades had been affected, with approximately 6,500 students expected to receive higher grades following the review process, which was conducted by US company Education Training Services. 

“Last week I expressed my regret to students for what had happened. I want to reiterate that today,” Foley said in a statement this evening. 

“You have had an exceptionally difficult year. I’m sorry for that. And I’m sorry this last week delivered more uncertainty to you,” she said. 

Foley stressed that no students would receive a lower grade from the review. 

It had been estimated that an 1,000 additional college places could be required to deal with the problems caused by the error. 

Foley said that the CAO may know as soon as Monday how many students will receive a new offer, but that the process could take as long as a week. 

She also said that her department and the Department of Higher Education were working to ensure that anyone entitled to a higher points course would be able to start it in this academic year. 

Asked by reporters about any potential legal challenges that may result from the errors, Foley said that the focus was on making available high-points offers to students. 

Officials from the Department of Education said that they were not aware of any correspondence about legal action in response to errors. 

Errors

The first error was in one line of code programmed by private company Polymetrika. It affected the way in which students’ Junior Cycle grades were included in the calculation.

It showed that instead of including Junior Cycle English, Irish, maths and the student’s two best subjects in the calculation, the three core subjects and the student’s two weakest subjects were instead counted.

When the department examined this error, it spotted a second issue contained in the same section of code programmed by Polymetrika.

This error showed that the Junior Cycle results for Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE), supposed to be discounted in the grading system, were instead included in the calculation.

As a result, some students received a higher grade than they should have, while others received a lower grade.

Foley acknowledged earlier this week that some students may have got places in colleges that they otherwise wouldn’t have if the system had not had these errors. 

In a statement, Education Training Services said that it had audited key parts of the coding, after being provided with “access to the full coding and the databases used to run the standardization process”.

It identified an issue about how the algorithm treated students’ marks at the extreme ends of the scale – students whose marks are 99% and above and students whose marks are 1% and below.

The company found that the approach did not exactly match the description found in the report of the National Standardisation Group, which designed and implemented the calculated grades process. 

However, the company said that such an error “would not have a meaningful impact on results”. 

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Since the errors were discovered, the full set of student data has been re-run using the corrected model. 

“When we found errors in the code, I decided to seek independent expert oversight in the interest of certainty, particularly for students,” Foley said. 

“I am glad that we can now provide students whose grades were lower than they should have been with their corrected results today and that this period of uncertainty is now over for all students,” she said. 

“I wish you all every success in your choices and your journeys.”

Reaction

Labour Education Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said that an independent, non-statutory inquiry was needed into the “calculated grading fiasco”. 

“The review into the Leaving Cert calculated grading process carried out by US company Education Training Services commissioned by Minister Foley is a whitewashing exercise that will not give an adequate examination of the processes, or provide the necessary information on who knew what, when decisions were made and why mistakes were not found”, he said. 

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