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U.K. Used an Algorithm to Estimate Exam Results; The Calculations Favored Elites

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student protesters in South Staffordshire, England

Students in South Staffordshire protesting the U.K. government's use of an algorithm to estimate exam results.

Credit: Jacob King / AP

After mass protests, the British government has changed its strategy for using an algorithm that estimates how students would have done on A-level high school exams used for university admissions, which could not be taken due to the coronavirus lockdown. The algorithm heavily relied on a school's previous track record for the A-levels, benefiting students at exclusive fee-paying private schools and penalizing top-performing students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Using the algorithm, the proportion of private school students awarded grades A and above was more than double that of students at state schools. There were concerns that the estimates generated by the algorithm would cause some students to lose the university spots they had been offered for the fall.

The government has since announced that the official results would be based on the algorithm approximation or teacher estimates of how their students would have done, whichever is higher.

From The Washington Post
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Abstracts Copyright © 2020 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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