First minister apologises after predicted awards downgraded more heavily in poorer areasNicola Sturgeon has apologised to tens of thousands of Scottish teenagers whose exam results were downgraded last week and promised urgent changes to their awards.The first minister attempted to defuse a growing crisis for her government by confirming her deputy, John Swinney, would lay out proposals to regrade results in the Scottish parliament on Tuesday. Continue reading...
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Education secretary forced into humiliating reversal on A-level and GCSE grades in EnglandWhat does the UK...Education secretary forced into humiliating reversal on A-level and GCSE grades in EnglandWhat does the UK government’s U-turn on exam results mean?U-turn on exams may create new set of problems in EnglandGavin Williamson has tried to lay the blame for the exams fiasco at the door of the regulator Ofqual after a humiliating climbdown that overturned up to 2.3m grades but left thousands of pupils in limbo.Two days after saying there would be “no U-turn, no change”, the education secretary apologised and ordered a complete reversal whereby pupils in England will be able to revert to the A-level grades recommended by their teachers, if those are higher. Continue reading...
The UK conducted a wild pandemic experiment by letting an algorithm grade teens' exam results, and outraged students want to sue over bias
A British school student is threatening to sue the UK government over an algorithm that was...A British school student is threatening to sue the UK government over an algorithm that was used to determine final grades after national exams were cancelled due to the pandemic. The algorithm has been widely criticized for hurting bright students at disadvantaged schools, costing them life-changing places at top colleges. Almost 280,000 students saw their A-levels downgraded from what teachers had predicted thanks to the algorithm. An online petition to change the system has already been signed by nearly 250,000 people. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. A student is threatening to sue the UK government over an algorithm used to determine the final grades of school leavers in the absence of formal examinations during the pandemic. Curtis Parfitt-Ford, a student at a comprehensive school in London, is working with the justice non-profit Foxglove to initiate legal proceedings this week if the UK government does not change its policy. Parfitt-Ford says he's happy with his own results, but says people in his school have been affected by their grades being downgraded by the algorithm. The results were published on Thursday, and have caused national outcry. "The government has a lot of explaining to do to all the young people whose futures have been really, really impacted by this," Parfitt-Ford told Business Insider. During a chaotic 72 hours, the UK government has tried to justify the process it has used to determine final results in a year where students have been unable to sit exams thanks to the pandemic. These results affect which universities students will — or won't — attend. The UK's education regulator, Ofqual, has explained how the grading process, aka the algorithm, works in a 300-page technical document. Broadly, it relies on two things: the school's own assessment of how an individual student should do; and wider information on how the school did on exam results in prior years. There was likely never a perfect solution for grading a cohort of students who didn't take exams. But this second part of the algorithm has been widely criticized for penalizing outliers — bright students at disadvantaged schools — thanks to that reliance on data about a school's historical performance. Critics say teachers' assessments are a better reflection of a student's academic merit. "These problems happen when there isn't transparency in algorithmic decisions," said Cori Crider, director at Foxglove, which is helping with Parfitt-Ford's legal challenge. "They're these problems are only being discovered by outside advisors basically now." A quarter of a million students had their results downgraded thanks to the algorithm According to figures from the exam regulator Ofqual, 40% of teacher assessments on an individual's grades were downgraded, amounting to almost 280,000 students and costing many their university places. (The government has disputed this interpretation.) "A computer programme has determined the life chances of thousands and thousands and thousands of British kids," added Crider. "[And] it's turned out to be designed in a way that is biased and unfair." On Sunday, thousands of students gathered at Westminster, London outside the Department for Education to protest their results. At one point, they chanted: "Fuck the algorithm." chants of “fuck the algorithm” as a speaker talks of losing her place at medical school because she was downgraded. pic.twitter.com/P15jpuBscB — huck (@HUCKmagazine) August 16, 2020 The algorithm favors expensive private schools, which have smaller classes For students in classes of 15 or fewer, the grade predictions given to students by their teachers were given weight, meaning that the student's actual academic performance was taken into account. In classes of fewer than five pupils, these teacher predictions were given as the final grade. As fee-paying independent schools are far more likely to have smaller class sizes, this means that students from more affluent backgrounds are more likely to have been judged on their own academic merits. "It's particularly disadvantaging that especially bright kids from the underperforming school who is on track to get that school's first A* in Maths. That kid was totally stuffed by this algorithm," said Crider. "Whereas if you went to a tiny little independent fee-paying school and studied classics, a lot more often, you were fine." Under the current system, students themselves are not able to appeal their results directly. Students' only options are to sit the exams later this year, or for the school to appeal on their behalf by providing evidence that the performance of previous cohorts is no longer representative. Confusingly, the exam regulator over the weekend issued guidance on how schools could appeal, then withdrew it the same day. Parfitt-Ford and Foxglove want at minimum to enable students to appeal directly on the basis of their individual academic merit for free. Historically appeals to exam boards can cost students upwards of £100 ($130) if their grade remains unchanged, discriminating against students from poorer backgrounds. Critics are hoping for a government U-turn similar to the one seen in Scotland earlier this month. Scottish students are now able to appeal and get teacher predictions as their final grade after a public outcry forced a change in policy after the results had been announced. But even this may have negative consequences. In the rest of the UK, university places are already filling up fast and whatever changes are made could come too late. Offers for university places are often "conditional", meaning they are contingent on a student achieving their predicted grades. "I'm not entirely sure there is a best-case scenario at this stage," said Parfitt-Ford, adding that it's frustrating that earlier action was not taken. "The fact is, if I could see that happening a week in advance, then I'm more than sure that people in government could see that happening a lot more than a week in advance." He adds: "We have to get that appeals system in, because not doing so is to provide an injustice that not only affects students now, but will affect students for the rest of their lives." Parfitt-Ford has already launched an online petition, which has accrued almost 250,000 signatures at the time of writing, and a crowdfund campaign to pay for legal proceedings. The debate over the UK's exam results is part of a wider battle against algorithm-driven government decision making with in-built biases. On 4 August, Foxglove won the first-ever case against a UK government algorithm that was being used by the Home Office to grade visa applications. During the pandemic, it also brought a successful transparency challenge against the handover of NHS data to US tech giants like Apple and Google. "[We're] concerned that these systems are being rolled out with no transparency and with a total democratic deficit," says Crider. A Department of Education spokesman told Sky on Sunday after a weekend of confusion: " "Hundreds of thousands of students have received a calculated grade that will enable them to progress to the next stage of their education or into work. "We have been clear that we want to build as much fairness into the appeals process as possible to help young people in the most difficult cases and have been working with Ofqual to achieve that. "Ofqual continues to consider how to best deliver the appeals process to give schools and pupils the clarity they need."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why Pikes Peak is the most dangerous racetrack in America
Coronavirus live news: Brazil death toll nears 100,000 as Australian state of Victoria reports 466 new cases
Anti-Bolsonaro protests as Brazil cases near 3m; Australian state of Victoria reports 12 more deaths; Italy...Anti-Bolsonaro protests as Brazil cases near 3m; Australian state of Victoria reports 12 more deaths; Italy cases soar. Follow the latest, liveTrump poised to intervene in relief plans after talks break down‘We’re still so tired’: European doctors brace for second wave‘Very dead’: army and police patrol the deserted streets of coronavirus-stricken Melbourne 8.25am BST The Guardian’s print edition is leading this morning on the news that two-fifths of predicted grades given by teachers to students unable to take their exams this summer due to the outbreak of coronavirus are to be lowered. Saturday's Guardian: 40% of teacher predictions for A-levels to be lowered #TomorrowsPapersToday #TheGuardian #Guardian pic.twitter.com/6Kcnc9LnuHAnalysis of the algorithm and data used by the exam regulator Ofqual to distribute grades after the cancellation of exams amid the coronavirus pandemic found that a net 39% of assessments of A-level grades by teachers are likely to be adjusted down before students receive their results.That would mean nearly 300,000 A-levels issued are lower than the teacher assessment of the more than 730,000 A-level entries in England this summer. Related: Nearly 40% of A-level result predictions to be downgraded in England 8.20am BST Hello, this Damien Gayle picking up the blog in London, at the start of what promises to be a very hot and potentially quite eventful day. If you have any comments, or tips or suggestions for coverage, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter direct message to @damiengayle. Continue reading...