## Joe’s Jotter: Grade Inflation 2023 – Remarkable Subject Stats

With Leaving Certificate grades ‘apparently’ rising recently, I decided to do my own comparison analysis of Leaving Certificate results from the years 2018 and 2022 as per **Table 1** below. There had already been a steady rise in performance and points over the last twenty years anyway, but a recent sizable increase was now apparent. So, are our students working harder or is there something going on in the system?

Upon inspection, the percentage of students scoring a H4 or above in 2022 (A H4 is between 60% and 70% at higher level) has produced very surprising results. What amazed me from looking at the statistics was how grades in many subjects have jumped. **In the eleven subjects I sampled, the average increase (H4 grades or above) when comparing LC 2018 to 2022 was almost 10%. **As a Maths teacher, it is particularly concerning for me to see a cosmic jump in my own subject. I feel that Leaving Cert higher level Maths is now consequentially devalued, as there is no way students are performing that much better in four short years.

**Table 1: The percentage of students that scored a H4 or above in LC 2022 and 2018**

Sample Subject |
Percentage of Students achieving a H4 or above (2022) |
Percentage of Students achieving a H4 or above (2018) |
% Increase for students between 2018 and 2022 |

Music | 97% |
89% | +8% |

Technology | 83% |
72% | +11% |

Engineering | 81% |
70% | +11% |

Irish | 79% |
70% | +9% |

Design & Comm Graphics (DCG) | 79% |
70% |
+9% |

Home Economics (S&S) | 79% |
68% | +11% |

Accounting | 69% |
63% | +6% |

Biology | 68% |
61% | +7% |

Chemistry | 67% |
61% | +6% |

Maths | 81% |
60% | +21% |

Physics | 68% |
59% | +9% |

**Source: Data from www.examinations.ie*

From this data, my feeling is that you cannot compare Leaving Cert students who completed exams before 2018 to the 2021 or 2022 cohort; and of course we are doing so. This throws up a lot of questions about where our education system is going. It seems a new benchmark has been set for future student results, and we aren’t going back.

Is it a ‘medal for everyone’ mentality now? How can we compare Leaving Certificate results before, during and after the pandemic? Even the recent 2022 results (with Covid 19 a much less significant nuisance) are very high. I view this Grade Inflation as ‘optics’, and how Ireland’s PISA scores ‘need’ to compare globally. I welcome the Leaving Certificate review now, with a view to more continuous assessment; but there must be proper teacher input.

With increasing marking scheme flexibility and grades rising, the original bell curve is being rewritten. Students are evidently being ‘marked up’ on their efforts and are possibly heading to college with unrealistic expectations. Can the class of 2023 actually revise and prepare their own high quality notes? With many struggling in first year in college, it seems no. Students are scoring higher than ever, but are they more knowledgeable than their predecessors? Radical percentage increases over short periods of time does not sit well with me. Will these changes serve our students well for third level study and future life? To be honest, I am doubtful. Not everything in life will be handed to you. Joe

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