International Baccalaureate grade-predicting algorithm reinforces historical inequalities


The algorithm and mathematical model used to predict students’ grades by the International Baccalaureate programme, which was forced to cancel exams because of the pandemic, incorporated three elements: coursework, teachers’ predictions of their students’ exam grades, and “school context”, which was based on historical teacher grade predictions (which universities use for provisional acceptances) and the school’s historical performance on each subject’s coursework. The result was to penalise exceptional students from schools with poor historical records, costing some large sums of money in classes they would now be required to take and others university places they expected to qualify for. IB insists, against the opinion of experts, that its model is not an algorithm, and says 2020’s average scores are in line with previous years. IB has declined to publish the model, despite requests. The Norwegian Data Protection Authority has written to IB asking it to provide more details about how it processes student results, which are classed as personal data, and confirm that it complies with seven named aspects of GDPR.


Writer: Avi Asher-Shapiro; International Baccalaureate; Tom Simonite
Publication: Thompson Reuters; International Baccalaureate; Wired
Publication date: 2020-07-21; 2020-07-18

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