Student grades in England are Unfair, too generous

By | August 18, 2020

The A-level grades at A & A* in England were up 2.5% compared with previous years after the standardization process for grading students. This shows that the process was generous and if ‘unfair’ it was to previous and future cohorts. To be fair to past and future cohorts more than 40% of teacher grades should have been adjusted down.
Teacher grades were generous across the board though more in some subjects than others. This is to be expected. When faced with students who are borderline, and in an examination half will get the lower grade, teachers will always give the benefit of the doubt and give the higher grade and will allow for the students background consciously or unconsciously.

The teacher proposed grades were 12% up on previous years. It seems people think that a 12% boost for this cohort, unfairly disadvantaging all other past and future cohorts is somehow ‘fair’. Such is the nature of a public wedded to emotional thinking. If their student’s grades have been lowered the system must be wrong! A public unable to admit that although they are on the receiving end, they know almost nothing about the assessment process and so are not in a position to make any sensible comments. Students are distressed that they have not got the predicted grades – yes, but this happens every year when they don’t get the exam grades they hoped for – this year is no different. Indeed with the grades inflated by 2.5% fewer students should be disappointed than previous years but no one looks at it that way.

Similarly to the government in Scotland the government in England through Ofqual has decided to give students the teacher proposed grades. However, Ofqual has a statutory duty to keep grading similar across cohorts and is now being forced to break the law! The governments decision is purely to prevent them being seen in a bad light and to loose support and votes in future elections. Better a U-turn and based on the evidence make the wrong decision than loose votes.

There are many media interviews with leading questions like “Why did the government get it wrong?” that are essentially lies since they assume the lie – that it was wrong. This is like the “When did you stop beating your wife?” question. The government’s standardization process was not wrong. Giving teacher proposed grades is wrong because as clearly shown by the evidence it markedly (12%) disadvantages all past and future cohorts.

I am not a supporter of the government and consider most of its policies awful but the standardization process was the correct way to generate grades. I have over 30y experience of setting and grading examinations and have published papers on how to grade multiple-choice questions.

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