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Black And Minority Students Could Lose Out If Grades Are Based On Predicted Results

By Nadine White

Update: See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.

Parents, teachers and students fear that Black and minority ethnic, working-class and other marginalised pupils could be penalised by the decision to award predicted grades to students instead of regular exams this summer.

Following the closure of schools and cancellation of examinations due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Education confirmed teachers would award marks in place of GCSEs and A-levels.

But that could disadvantage the same groups of students already under-represented at top universities.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, even a number of Black educators described being marked down in their predicted grades when they were at school before going on to gain higher grades.

And research suggests that this sense of alarm is warranted.

A 2016 study carried out by University College London’s Institute of Education found that just 16% of predicted A-level results are correct; only one in six university applicants will achieve the grades they were predicted.

And 2011 research by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found Black applicants had the lowest predicted grade accuracy, with only 39.1 per cent of predicted grades accurate, while their white counterparts had the highest, at 53 per cent.

The study found that Black students are most likely to have their grades underpredicted.

Violet Johnson, a mother-of-three, told HuffPost UK she is concerned that many Black children will be under assessed by teachers when it comes to their end of year predicted grades – and the predictions for middle class white children will be overinflated.

“My biggest concern is that the educational system discriminates,” she said.

“We see that in the disproportionate rates of exclusions for BAME children, boys in particular. It is so rare to see a Black African or Caribbean ancestry teacher, and Brexit has brought to the surface the underbelly of racism previously bubbling just below.

“This is obvious in schools where if you are Black they are happy for you to be great at sports, even if you clearly aren’t, but all too often don’t necessarily encourage excellence elsewhere.”

“Let’s be honest, teachers have no idea how a child will actually perform on the day in an exam, and what they could have achieved,” Violet added.

“Now some will never be able to prove that they were far more academic than their teachers believed.”

Kia Commodore is weeks away from finishing her Bachelor’s degree in French and business. She’s already learning to code and plans to break into the tech industry.

The 22-year-old was marked down for her GCSE predicted grades where it was estimated that she would achieve Ds and Es; Kia ended up earning A*s and As, which secured her place at one of the country’s best colleges.

“Rolling out of predicted grades is not a good thing,” she told HuffPost UK.

“If this happened when I was in school, I would’ve come out with Ds and Es and it would’ve completely changed my whole path in life. I wouldn’t be driven to do what I’m doing now.”

Kia explained that her academic attainment suffered during Year 9 and 10 due to a high turnover of teachers and the instability of being taught by various supply staff. As a result, her mock results were lower than desired and her predicted grade was firmly pinned to that, despite the extenuating circumstances.

The undergraduate maintains that this was not enough to warrant such low predicted grades.

“As you can imagine, we had one teacher for two weeks and then it changed to someone else, so it was very hard to keep the consistency of the learning as well. So that just meant I wasn’t understanding what I was being taught and that.”

When teachers told her she’d be entered to sit lower exam papers, which denoted that the maximum possible grade was a C, Akeeyah remained confident in her own abilities and asked to sit the higher paper.

After arguing her case time again with staff, she was allowed to sit the higher paper.

“Teachers said I wasn’t going to do well and it would be a waste to give me a higher paper if I get a lower grade. I knew I could sit the higher paper – the teaching wasn’t what it should’ve been across all my subjects at the time.

“I spent a whole year of teachers putting me down, moving me to lower sets because of the grades I was getting, it was really hard but it really pushed me. Thanks to me coming out with those grades, I was able to get into the sixth form I ended up attending.

“And I do think racial bias was a big factor but at that age – 15, 16 – it’s not something I was conscious of at the time.”

Aji Ayorinde

Sarah Turner is a trainee secondary school teacher in London. After moving here from Jamaica at the age of 15, she was given lower predicted grades in her GCSEs for a number of subjects despite previously attending a very good school.

She eventually surpassed teachers’ expectations, achieving five A*s and six As.

“I had issues with my sociology teacher in particular. She predicted me a C and I went to her and asked what I can do to improve it. She asked me why I need a better grade,” Sarah told HuffPost UK.

The trainee said students were aware at the time of how important it was for students to achieved the grades predicted by teachers, who had internal targets to meet.

“I knew at that time it was important for us to get similar grades to what we were predicted; my maths teacher was quite honest about that and told students that it was great if students exceed but its especially bad if they don’t make the predicted grade.

“They tried to be on target; though that’s not the case everywhere at every school,” she said.

Predicted grades

Sarah believes that her lower predicted grades were biased based on her nationality, as a migrant, and ethnicity.

“I think I was given lower predictions because I came from a different country,” she told HuffPost UK. “If I had been in this country from a younger age, like my sister came when she was 10 years old, things would have been different.”

Poor and ethnic minority students will be heavily impacted by this.Sarah Turner, trainee London secondary school teacher

The trainee teacher said she was “shocked” to learn the government’s announcement about the rolling out of predicted grades and now worries about the prospects of younger students in her family.

“I worry about my cousin in Year 11 who will have a predicted grade because I know how much better I did than the predicted grade I was given at school.

“I was, first of all, shocked. I figured exams would be delayed but never cancelled. It puts teachers in quite an uncomfortable position where we have to decide their grades.

“And I know for a fact that from mocks in January to exams in the summer students can work hard to get better grades. January to summer is a while – you could definitely improve in that time. I feel the students have been a bit cheated.”

Following the announcement on Wednesday, teachers at Sarah’s school didn’t “have the heart” to tell their students to study the following day, she said.

“The last five years of their lives have been leading up to this and it was an opportunity to prove themselves.

“Poor and ethnic minority students will be heavily impacted by this.”

Aji

Lawyer and entrepreneur Ajibola Ayorinde was predicted BBC grades for A- level but went on to achieve A*AA in English Literature, mathematics and economics.

In his sixth form, which predominantly consisted of south Asian and white students, the 27-year-old said it could be detrimental if Black boys stood out for the wrong reasons.

“The Issue with predicted grades and track record being so determinative is it doesn’t really allow for someone to pull through in the end when it really, really matters,” he told HuffPost UK.

“As you go through school, there might be a number of factors that cause you not to perform as well as you’re capable of. I don’t want to defend my teachers at all, because the BBC wasn’t necessarily justified, but I imagine they were going off of what they thought they have seen coupled with the other elements of unconscious bias.

“I guess in my case what they saw to be behavioural issues was then led to the BBC prediction. From my perspective, in a weird way, it spurred me onto do better. But without that kind of opportunity to turn it around, you’re pegging people to their lowest as opposed to what they’re truly capable of.”

Ajibola is calling for an option to defer awarding grades until the coronavirus outbreak clears up and schools are able to resume – though he recognises the challenges around that.

“I think the issue here is not having the choice to take the exams if you feel that would be the best way to obtain the best grades. For those students who want to rely on predicted grades then fair enough but for anyone who feels they would be unfairly prejudiced, there should be that option – in my opinion – to be able to defer.

“There would other consequences to a mass deferral and I’m not advocating for that but for those students, and it may end up being minority students, who feel like they would be unfairly prejudiced, they should have that option and it should be made clear to them that they wouldn’t then be able to go back to having those predicted grades.”

The government said last week that students would have the option of sitting an exam at the earliest possible time, or in summer 2021, but not that they could defer their predicted grades being issued.

Jordan Crawford

Jordan Crawford, 31, is an assistant head teacher at a secondary school.

“On a general level, anything that involves any person’s bias determining an objective piece of data about that person is always something to be sceptical of in regards to minorities,” he told HuffPost UK.

“There needs to be a clear, explicit process for parents, students and carers to be able to challenge issues if they’re not happy with the predicted grades. Then that process needs to involve schools having a rigorous justification process for the grades that they’re giving.

“If I think back to my own education and the perception my teachers had of me, I definitely think that would have hindered the grade that they gave to me. I grew up in Liverpool where I was very much a minority.”

Keisha Anderson teaches sociology and psychology at a London secondary school.

“I sincerely believe that many teachers hold unconscious racial bias towards students,” she told HuffPost UK.

“I’ve seen that through being a teacher myself working around predominantly Black and ethnic minority students – some of them will come into my lessons and be wonderful, well behaved, engaged with the content, working hard and diligently.

“And then I’ll speak to another teacher who’s not ethnic minority who’ll say the child is horrible, they don’t do anything, won’t get anywhere and they don’t believe in them – and what you see is that having an impact on what the teacher predicts them.”

We’re concerned that using predicted grades alone for university admissions will further increase existing race and class inequalities in Britain’s universities.Dr Zubaida Haque

This is a scenario that Keisha is all too familiar with. Like Jordan and scores of other Black teachers, she experienced being marked down in her predicted grades herself.

The 22-year-old earned seven A grades at GCSE after being predicted just one, and was told she shouldn’t expect to get into any good colleges.

“The worst thing the government can do to say teachers will have the opportunity to predict the grades of their students, not understanding that many teachers don’t like their students, don’t believe in their students and don’t really care about how far they get,” she said.

Keisha is worried about what this will mean for many Black students and has witnessed, first hand, the sheer chaos the government’s announcement has caused.

“I know right now a lot of students are currently emailing their teachers, begging them for a chance to prove to them that they were working to get good predicted grades.

“A lot of students are concerned about the outcomes of these grades, not being able to show their true potential, really concerned about their places at university and college and what this will mean for their future.

“I’m also scared for them,” she added.

“Sometimes the teacher might predict the child a ‘5′ based on behaviour and not on ability, based on what they believe the child might get and not really looking at their potential and that is sometimes based on racial bias.

“The issue is not isolated; predicted grades are not merits on which you can base your ideas of people on, and this can have a really serious impact.”

Keisha is worried about what this will mean for many Black students and has witnessed, first hand, the sheer chaos the government’s announcement has caused.

“I know right now a lot of students are currently emailing their teachers, begging them for a chance and proving to them that they were working to get a good predicted grades.

“A lot of students are concerned about the outcomes of these grades, not being able to show their true potential, really concerned about their places at university and college and what this will mean for their future.”

“I’m also scared for them,” she added.

“Sometimes the teacher might predict the child a ‘5′ based on behaviour and not on ability; based on what they believe the child might get and not really looking at their potential and that is sometimes based on racial bias.

“The issue is not isolated; predicted grades are not merits on which you can base your ideas of people on and this can have a really serious impact.”

But Keisha went on to stress the importance of teachers not being placed under pressure to give good predicted grades for the sake of it.

“I do think it’s really important, though, that teachers are not pressured under these circumstances to give children these really high grades if they were never going to achieve them – there’s two sides to every coin,” she said.

“I already feel stressed out having to determine my students’ futures so I can only imagine how other teachers feel.”

Please see our statement with @KidsOfColourHQ on the cancellation of GCSE and A-Level examinations.

Whilst we welcome the cancellations, we need to guard against alternatives that exacerbate race and class inequalities.#coronaviruspic.twitter.com/qZwY62p1TO

— RacialJusticeNetwork (@RaceJustice) March 19, 2020

In a statement published on Thursday, the Racial Justice Network said: “Like the closure of schools, the cancellation of examinations is an entirely necessary and proportionate response to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, it is vitally important that any solutions to the cancellation of exams do not exacerbate already existing race and class inequalities.”

Ziggy Moore, an independent subject and behaviour specialist at Moore Education, described the predicted grades rollout as a “scary prospect” for Black students.

“I’ve worked in schools and I’ve personally seen this bias played out where a teacher’s cultural expectations of how a child behaves and what they think a child should be doing is very, very different to the background that that child comes from. Therefore they have a different set of expectations for that child.

“It will reflect in how it’s marked,” he continued.

Ziggy describes permanent school exclusions – which affect Black Caribbean boys three times more on average than their white counterparts – as a knock-on effect of teacher bias.

“I don’t think systemic inequality in education is something that’s widely acknowledged,” he said, “although there have been studies and Black communities have been screaming about this since the 1960s.”

Shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler said inbuilt biases in the education system were a worrying reality.

“Students will need to be able to appeal and take an online exam for this to work,” she told HuffPost UK.

All queries around predicted grades must be tackled head on if progress is to be made, the Brent Central MP added.

“African-Caribbean kids and working class kids are affected the most by structural inequality,” she said. “Unconscious bias is unconscious; those who bear the brunt of this must be listened to and given a fair chance to progress in their academic learning.”

The Runnymede Trust, the UK’s race equality think tank, said at the very minimum some level of school-level or external-level quality assurance needed to be implemented to prevent and minimise the effects of individual bias.

Dr Zubaida Haque, deputy director, told HuffPost UK: “There is evidence to suggest that Black and ethnic minority students, and students from working class backgrounds, are sometimes predicted grades lower than their actual grades.

“While schools are operating in exceptional circumstances during the Covid-19 pandemic, we still need to ensure that cross-checking and quality assurance processes are still put in place for grade assessments – both at school-level and externally – to minimise the effects of individual teacher bias.

“We’re also concerned that using predicted grades alone for university admissions will further increase existing race and class inequalities in Britain’s universities.”

Haque added that this is not just a race issue but has implications for working class students and those with special educational needs and disabilities.

I went from gifted and talented in primary to receiving E grades predicted at GCSE to smashing 10 A-B. Predicted grades are indeed racist.

— Jenaé Esse (@jxnaeV) March 18, 2020

On Friday, the Department of Education announced it would aim to ensure the distribution of grades “follows a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students do not face a systematic disadvantage as a consequence of these extraordinary circumstances”.

In making this decision, a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment would be taken into account.

An appeals process will also be implemented, it said.

HuffPost UK has approached the department for a response to concerns around predicted grades and racial disparity.

Via:: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/many-teachers-hold-racial-bias-towards-students-fears-spark-around-predicted-grades-amid-coronavirus-exam-cancellations_uk_5e74f542c5b6f5b7c5438a21