Norwegian Data Protection Authority Calls Out IB / Survey

The Norwegian Data Authority (NDA) has concluded the method used by the IB to calculate students’ final grades in 2020 was not accurate. As such, the NDA has sent notification they intend to order a re-do of the awarding of grades. (See entire NDA statement)

If you missed ISR’s previous Newsletter, the controversy over the IB grading system erupted after the IB cancelled final exams and, instead, calculated final grades based on the following 3 criteria:  Historical data, Teacher-predicted final test score, and Coursework.

“Unfair, inaccurate and obscure” is how the Norwegian Data Authority described the IB scoring system. A brief look at the 3 components of the assessment system reveals subjectivity and room for error:

Historical Data:  Relying on the final test scores of students previously at a particular school as a means to predicting the performance of current and future students fails to take into account the abilities of the individual, and rewards poorer students while penalizing harder-working students. With college acceptance at top universities contingent on final grades, many students have had their college dreams shattered due to a lowering of expected grades.

Teacher-Predicted Grade:  Teacher bias, prejudice, and a shaded view of students whose behavior may be less than stellar can easily influence a  prediction.

Coursework:  Using coursework as a means to estimate final scores is not a problem for those students earning 100% on all assignments. The system fails to work for students with lesser coursework results who may still still score high on the final exam.

As with any controversy, there are two opposing camps regarding the IB’s actions.

Get over it:

Yes, getting a lower score than expected may mean students not getting into the university of choice. It won’t affect their careers, though.

 Sounds like pushy parents who are used to getting their way and not respecting their children’s limitations. They’ve probably prided themselves on years of inflated grades in their children’s report cards. Not everybody can get a special sticker.

An injustice has been done:

So its fine for a student who has worked for 4+ years to get into a university of their choice and to have their higher education plans scuttled by a large, for-profit organisation who couldn’t really care? The parents might disagree with you but what the hell, they’re just pushy, entitled, helicopter parents, right? While I agree it might not impact their careers as much as they think, who are you to pontificate on their futures?

While there are always complainers, tell me in what logical world it’s reasonable to base an individual student’s score on the school’s historical data? The IB, as it so often does, is being disingenuous and needs to own up to its inadequacy here and rectify the problem.


What’s YOUR position on the IB controversy?

Take our short Survey:  Should the IB be required to re-score all 2020 final grades?


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20 thoughts on “Norwegian Data Protection Authority Calls Out IB / Survey

  1. An interesting comparison can be made with the AP Advanced Placement exams. A reduced exam was held online (e.g. for History courses) with just one paper held at the same time across the world, with different questions for different candidates. The problem here was that no account was taken of mock practice exam results held on campus, and there have been low marks allocated by Readers that were clearly not justified. At least teachers have been able to see students’ exam answers and then submit reasoned appeals on their behalf.


  2. It looks like a lot of grades will be increased. According to IB,
    “we are making the following adjustment:

    No student will receive a lower grade than what was received previously.

    Students’ subject final grade results will be adjusted to be equal to the internal assessment (IA) result when the predicted grade was only one grade less, equal to or greater than the IA grade. The student will be awarded their IA grade as their final grade for that subject in these cases. “


    1. Sure, it will help some and this is good! Sadly, it won’t help every student who has been robbed of grades.

      Let us really reflect on what they have done?

      1.Used an IA initially worth 20% to determine the final grade. We all know the IA is done at home- and let’s not be naive- many students can & do get ‘help’ with their IAs.
      2. The IBO found a way to hand out ‘pity grades’ to students who will probably be too late for their offers. To add salt to a wound, as of today IB students will be competing with students using their predicted grades.
      3. Lastly, making the assessment process ‘appear’ more human may help their defence against the NDPA. I suspect we will hear more about this by the end of the week.

      Sorry I am still not satisfied as it is still not a fair process.


    2. As an IB examiner and advisor, to me the most important element of student ability that must be clearly demonstrated is being able to think and solve problems. This is a life skill, and getting help with it is just part of the process. The ability is more clearly demonstrated in IAs than predictive grades. Even if the student got help, whether the question was properly understood and dealt with is apparent from the IA text. This is probably why IB is giving IAs the most weight. All IAs were marked by examiners, which achieves a degree of standardisation. Not ideal but as fair as possible in the circumstances.


    3. Sorry I don’t agree. The issue is still how much ‘help’ does a student gets, be it by a parent or a tutor. It isn’t an exam situation after all. Had this conversation with a Chemistry tutor who did exactly this with students who were given back IAs to ‘polish’ once teachers knew there would be no exams. A 20% piece of work should have stayed worth just that. What would have been done differently in that IA if students had known it was going to be the only determiner in their final subject grade. Interestingly enough I had a completely opposite response to yours from a very experienced Math IB teacher who also marked for the IB.


  3. Having spent the better part of three decades at various international schools with IB programs, and after having been both an IB DP/MYP teacher and DP Coordinator, I am feeling quite happy the pandemic has up-ended what has become a very flawed, elitist,greedy organization. As in so many other areas of our lives, there will likely not be any ‘going back’ to the previous ‘normal’. How education will evolve, and how schooling will be from now into the future is anybody’s guess, but I am hopeful the tyranny of the IBO has at long last been ended!


  4. It sounds like the IB hurriedly constructed 2020 grading algorithm was indeed flawed, and the lack of transparency is appalling. As the saying goes, though, we can’t always choose what happens to us but we can choose how we feel about it. We all have to make the most of what life dishes up. IB’s 2020 assessment approach may mean students have to be imaginative and follow a different pathway to achieving their objectives. It won’t be the last time they have to do this. Welcome to the real world.


  5. IB broke its own philosophy, it’s own dogma. Shame on IB and the parents, teachers and administrators that tolerate and encourage this


  6. I moved to my present school from on of the top10 IB school in the world ranking just two years ago. I spent four years in the previous place and every year IB results of my groups were around 6 or even more (e.g.6.27). I had about 100 students and in majority cases my PGs were the same as the final grades. In my present school, I was assigned to a group of selected students from 7 countries under the Eastern Partnership (EU). I gave them PGs according to my best knowledge. And grades of ALL my student were lowered by one! Automatically! For example – student V. Sevens in all tests. Mock P1- 7/ P2-7. IA assessed by me for 17 marks- IB moderator raised to 18 marks. Final IB grade – 6. Another example – weak local student. I had a dilemma whether I should give him 3 or 4. I gave him 3 hoping the that student can get 4 in the finals, maybe even 5. The IB assessment – 2. Seventeen students were punished, but for what reason? Excuse me – even now when I type it on the laptop my hands are shaking. What I could say to my students if I meet them? Sorry?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Please don’t take responsibility for this mess. Your students know what happened and it was out of your hands. By your post I imagine you care deeply about your students. Ours too have been very supportive and what really helped my son was that his teachers never doubted him and were equally shocked by his IBO delivered results.


  7. I predicted 5 for a student whose moderated IA grade was 6 but had a final grade of 3. Two other students I predicted 4 for with IA moderated grades of 5 finished with grade 4 as predicted. I just can’t understand.


    1. Hi Simon, Exactly! And there are many stories like yours leaving parents and educators asking what happened? We ‘guess’ use of historical data (whatever made up this component) and pieces of assessment that made up ‘coursework’? But who knows!


  8. I am stunned by some of callous comments here. Have the ‘get on with it’ people actually looked at individual students and asked them to explain why they are disappointed. I guess whatever the cause you will always have people who respond this way.

    As a parent of a M20 student who was hit by the May 2020 assessment model let me make these points crystal clear.

    1. How could they have done it differently? The decision to cancel exams was announced less than 40 days before they were scheduled to begin. The IBO could have been better organized earlier and kept the exams, be it online, open-book etc. I am sure they could have come up with something!

    2. The ‘school over predicts’ argument only holds any validity IF YOU COME FROM A SCHOOL THAT DOES THAT. We knew the ‘stretch’ in the university predicted grades were, if all went really well on the exam day. This could be accepted for a drop of 1 point here and there but we are looking at huge discrepancies especially in the sciences. Here is a quote from one of the science teachers, ” I would like to first state that I was absolutely shocked and disappointed (not at XXXXXX of course, but with the IB) at his score. I do not believe that the IB’s “black box algorithm” has been fair and he will continue to have my full support in whatever way I can help”.

    3. The use of historical data in the algorithm(s) will be unfair to some. This is not rocket science just a simple fact.

    4. The appeals process is stressful for students and surprise…expensive.

    5. Transparency on the assessment model has been like getting blood out of a stone.This is why NDA has had to step in. I am grateful they are demanded transparency. What has become apparent is that the IBO answers to nobody! If nothing else let us hope that they are held accountable for all their actions.

    6. My last point, of course parents will support their children. Families and friends will support each other in a crisis. Not in a ridiculous, unrealistic way, but if they feel a sense of injustice has occurred.

    Let us make no mistake about this they have used a ‘flawed’ assessment model. Doubters need to take time beyond this review to research before making judgements or reaching short-sighted conclusions. Let us ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Using the grades of previous students to determine the grades of current students at the same school ignores the large differences that occur from one class to another, especially at small schools. At international schools there is often a 15 to 25% change in the student body from one year to the next. As a science and math teacher for 23 years overseas I have seen big differences in classes, often due in large part to the absence of presence of class leaders as their families move from post to post. There is no way an algorithm worked out at IB headquarters can account for such changes at all the schools that use the IB program. Whoever came up with that part of the calculation has no idea what goes on in schools around the world.


  10. I am also an IB examiner but feel that the IB has used an obscure and highly invalid method to calculate grades. Based on the Scottish First Minister’s recent apology to students for using a similar formula for calculating grades, I feel that the IB should be held to the fire for their approach.

    Happily my own students did quite well and several exceeded the predicted grade. One did not but launched a successful appeal, so I don’t have a personal gripe. Yes, we’re in a pandemic, but there was no sense, as an examiner, that any grace or understanding should be extended when marking. At the very least I had expected that grade boundaries would be adjusted this year. I remain deeply disappointed by the IB’s stance.

    At the very least, IB needs to make clear the formula it used to calculate grades based on incomplete data. While I have been a strong supporter of IB for many years, I feel it has done its constituents a grave disservice. Moreover, schools pay for the program; they thus have a right to know how grades were calculated. If they are unhappy with the service they have received from IB, they have every right to protest.

    In short, I applaud the Norwegian Data Protection Agency’s stance: they’ve called out a poorly executed response to this situation. I hope to see more national and international bodies respond in a similar manner.


  11. I have had first hand experience of this debacle being both an IB arts and English teacher and having my daughter graduate in the same school I work in with a final score 3 or 4 lower than was predicted and consequently losing her university placement. Most of my Higher level students got moderated downwards while the Standard levels faired better. The results were illogical, inaccurate and worst of all, irredeemable as only a fraction of contested grades that were challenged were actually altered. As the IB effectively limits any form of action to just the IB coordinator (I was actually one myself) parents and individual students have virtually no other options but pay the heavily inflated fees and retakes. I think what the Norwegian authorities are doing is what all countries should be demanding from a system which has finally been revealed as grossly out of step with at least the assessment proceedings during this crises.


    1. @ Greg. I am sorry about what happened to your daughter! Terribly unfair and very ridiculous our children did not have a chance to prove themselves with real examinations. We have all taught those students whose predicted scores varied from their actual final scores because the students either really worked exceptionally hard or learned a lot more than anticipated.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Far out… As an examiner, I did the best I could with what I had. (And to be honest, it wasn’t much!)

    Maybe I have totally drunk to Koolaid, but I trust that the IB did the same. (I am currently not teaching the IB and I miss it so much!) What else could they have done?! I’m sick of people whinging about this. We’re in a pandemic! There are other priorities! Get over it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Other priorities”? Seniors had their lives disrupted yet still strove to do their best, only to receive what evidence supports are unjustified low scores, causing further disruption in their lives at a very unstable time. Surely we can support them in a manner kinder than the “get over it” proffered. Kudos to NDA for offering that support.


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