# Fairness and equality when it comes to STACs

Discussion in 'Scotland - education news' started by Freddie92, Mar 10, 2012.

1. ### Freddie92Occasional commenter

I have said it again and again. Trying to compare subjects is a foolish process. How can one possibly compare results in one subject with another when it is not a level playing field? Yes, I am referring to coursework. Some exams have 40% of coursework and in some AH cases it can be 60% (I know you want have a RV for that). Some other exams are 100% all on the day in senior school. This is unfair. I find it really quite silly when so called professionals cannot be more objective and actually see that if a pupil can walk into an exam with a 20% or 30% head start then that will naturally ensure they have a higher RV than other subjects where kids have to fight for every single mark. I call on the SQA to standardise the coursework and final exam split for ALL subjects. Then we would see those 'super teachers' panicking if they had no coursework to help inflate their pupils' grades.

2. ### misterroyNew commenter

The stacs are always done before appeals in my school, surely if they are to be worth anything they should be post appeal.

3. ### gnulinuxOccasional commenter

Agreed it is not a level playing field - although the STACS people and SMT's would have you think that it is (that process is called divide and rule). It is quite easy to show from the SQA's own statistics that at e.g. Higher not all subjects are equally easy in a well defined sense. All you have to do is go to the SQA website (statistics) and download the file called
Pre-AppealsNationalQualificationResults4August2011.xls and then add in a column to the right headed EASE. In that column insert a formula (or get someone else to do it for you) based on % of passes x (A's/B's+B's/C's) and then rank (descending) order the sheet by that column for all subjects. Why the formula? If you only look at subjects with 1000+ entries then those with a higher percentage pass rate are arguably easier. Also for those who passed, the subjects with higher ratios for A to B and/or B to C are additionally easier since the results are skewed towards the A grade.

Result of all of this ... (starting with subjects at the easy end & 1000+ entries)
Spanish Music French Accounting German Geography Physics History Drama Chemistry RMPS Art & Design Psychology Maths 'Graph Comm' PE 'Modern St' Biology Computing Admin English 'Human Biology' 'Info Sys' 'Product Design' 'Bus Man'

Which of these subjects have coursework?? Graph Comm, Computing and Info Sys do and they are all at the 'hard' end of the scale.

4. ### misterroyNew commenter

for a grade 2 in some subject elements, 40% is enough, in others its 60%

5. ### gnulinuxOccasional commenter

That has been an issue for a long time. The solution to that is quite easy. When pupils sit an exam they should be given the mark raw + as a % and the SQA should not be allowed to put their spin on it. They (SQA) cannot be trusted - clearly. When an exam paper is written it is supposed to be thoroughly check v course arrangements etc. to ensure that it is of the standard. The SQA should not have the right to effectively re-define the standard after the exam has been sat by changing grade boundaries for their own??? purposes. In fact I would like to see a system in place where exam scripts are returned to centres so that both teacher and candidate can verify how marking was done. Without this kind of goodwill and transparency Scotland will never get a national education certificate system that can be relied upon or trusted.

When it comes to appeals it appears that in the future you will not be able to appeal unless you pay for it. So, for private schools they will appeal most likely because they can afford to while the rest - forget it. 2 tier system here we come.

The grade boundaries thing of course is a complete scandal and the SQA get away with this year after year because they are effectively answerable to no-one. There is no ombudsman for Education in Scotland (there is in England) to take them to task - hence they can do what they like - and they do. If you challenge them in any way they will simply batten down the hatches.

6. ### misterroyNew commenter

it is the ultimate feedback, and we dont get sent it.

7. ### Freddie92Occasional commenter

Great idea. I would also like to see the SQA write Prelim papers and have a national prelim diet in either January or February but marked internally.

8. ### misterroyNew commenter

No way, our 4th year prelim is officially in December, way to early. Last year I did a complete second prelim in March, the class on average lifted by a grade in each of the two elements. Come the appeals they lifted one of the elements by a further half a grade. What I'd do is no prelim, no estimate, SQA marks the paper, the ones who are sick get a paper to do a fortnight after the May exam, the exam papers are returned to the school for checking and as useful feedback. The papers are marked before we break up, they could be returned to us before the summer.

9. ### Cthulthu

It's not quite as simple as that, though, as subjects which appear difficult statistically may in actual fact not be. English, for example, may well have a lower pass rate or A and B rate, thus look more difficult: however, in most schools, English is compulsory in S5, whereas other subjects are optional. Pupils would tend to opt for subjects they like and are good at, but have to do English whether they like it or are good at it or not. In consequence, there is a high failure rate, which makes English look hard. In terms of options, I don't think anyone would really consider, say Physics, to be an easy subject; this opinion is shared by pupils and parents, so the only pupils who choose Physics are those who are good at it and motivated to work hard. Thus there is a high pass rate, which makes it look easy. At the other end of the spectrum, excluding English, the other six subjects are relatively low status, and would therefore attract weaker candidates looking for some Highers to do. They don't do very well, which makes these subjects look difficult. Apologies to teachers of these subjects, but Admin is NOT more difficult than Physics (I am not a Physics teacher).

10. ### Freddie92Occasional commenter

misterroy I was really thinking of the seniors. But perhaps that raises a salient point that S4 prelims should also be after the turn of the year? I actually am against second prelims as it devalues the first one, or makes you look silly if they don't do as well in the second one.

11. ### Freddie92Occasional commenter

I'd agree that Admin is not more difficult than Physics, but it is certainly one of the most difficult due to the practical paper looking for problem solving and indeed interpretation skills from pupils even before they attempt the solution. I know many kids who if they were asked in more simpler terms to calculate an if statement or a lookup they could do so, or even calculations in reports/queries but the wording of it baffles them.

12. ### gnulinuxOccasional commenter

I am sure that it is not quite as simple as that but these patterns are repeated year on year and also at AH. Therefore they should not be ignored. Also, the way in which they are calculated is simple to understand and easy to implement. The method emphasises the pass rate and the distribution of pass grades attained. By only looking at entries of 1000+ then the effects of e.g. 'school' and individual teacher in the data are minimised. Contrast that with the STACS data which is largely incomprehensible to most teachers and actually serves no useful purpose other than for SMT's to browbeat staff with. While it is probably true that self-selection plays a part e.g. with Physics, you can clearly compare similar subjects with similar entries usually taken by pupils as a group of subjects. It may be the opinion of some that Physics is a hard subject, but it has to be remembered that 'opinion' needs no evidence. In my analysis I have used the only available data - the significant problem with that of course that the SQA will already have monkeyed around with the true raw data so we are dealing with grade numbers that have been 'considerably' corrupted. That makes a nonsense of much of the STACS analysis. I do not totally subscribe to the 'status' concept - that is mixed up with opinion and prejudice, mostly prejudice.