Credit: Merrion Street

Foley: We’re going to “balance” LC grades for gender and economic status

What fresh nonsense is this?

Ms Foley said all individual grades will have to be checked and reviewed using different demographic characteristics – including gender and socio-economic status – to ensure they are as fair and equitable as possible.

“I want to make sure that this work is done rigorously – so that the results of Leaving Certificate 2020 are of the same high quality and reliability as the results in any other year,” she said.

Let’s be clear about this: This does not happen in a normal year, with normal results. Teachers get a batch of papers to correct, and all they are given is the exam number of the student. The papers are marked blind.

The only exceptions to this are in cases where a student with a learning impediment is granted a waiver for things like grammar and spelling, and the corrector is provided with this information in advance.

But reviewing the results according to gender and socio-economic status to ensure they are fair? What is that supposed to mean?

Does it mean, for example, that someone might conceivably lose their H1 grade because somebody from another gender or socio-economic group needs it more? Because it sure sounds like that.

Remember, the leaving cert is marked on a curve every year. That is to say, the number of H1s and H2s (A1s and A2s to people of my age) is fixed in percentage terms year on year, to prevent grade inflation. Every year, a certain number of students will get H1s, and a certain number will get H2s, and so on. This is all well and good when the exams are being marked blind, because there’s no discrimination in who gets the good grades and who gets the less good ones.

But in this situation, where, for the first time, the department of education has final responsibility for who gets what, they are now introducing “gender and socio-economic considerations”?

That is the opposite of blind marking, because it directly suggests that students are not being marked on the work they did, but are being marked instead on who they are.

Aside from anything else, this is a series of lawsuits waiting to happen. If a student discovers, for example, as they very well may, that their teacher gave them a H1, but the Government adjusted their grade down on the basis of “gender and socio-economic status”, then they would be well within their rights to go straight down to the High Court and have the whole thing judicially reviewed. And multiply that by thousands of students, potentially.

It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen.

And for what reason? The aim, obviously, is to redress the balance between your average upper middle class kid in a private school, and the English-as-a-second-language child of a recent, poor, immigrant family. That’s not an ignoble goal, but the method of doing it is not to tamper with the results. All you’re doing there is masking the inequality between the two students. You’re not actually fixing it, are you? You’re just taking one student down from a H1 to a H2, and the other up from a H3 to a H2, and saying they achieved the same outcome, when they didn’t. It’s the lazy man’s way of addressing inequality, which is presumably why the Government like it.

Anyway, the whole thing is gearing up to be a massive mess. Plenty of teachers are going to get angry calls from parents in September asking why they only gave poor Aoibheann or Adam a H3, and are going to be told by teachers with nothing to lose that actually, the teacher gave them a H2, and the parents should take it up with the department.

And then the fun and games will begin.

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