Dodgy CSAT questions result in political fallout

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Dodgy CSAT questions result in political fallout

The main opposition party launched a task force Wednesday to discuss reforming the dreaded annual College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), while blaming the Park Geun-hye administration for the recent grading gaffes on a test that have traumatized college-bound students nationwide.

“The continuous CSAT grading corrections prove the absolute ignorance of the Park Geun-hye government,” Moon Hee-sang, interim head of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), said at a party leadership meeting on Wednesday.

“We must comprehensively overhaul the educational system rather than patching up the 20-year-old CSAT,” he continued.

The NPAD’s task force will be led by three-term lawmaker Ahn Min-seok, who is affiliated with the National Assembly’s Educational, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee.

Park earlier raised her level of complaint about the grading mistakes, stating in a Tuesday cabinet meeting that the corrections have “tainted the credibility of test authorities and caused anxiety among students and parents.”

“[We must] conclude there’s a systemic problem [in organizing the CSAT], when considering that not one but several mistakes were made on the test,” she said.

The NPAD’s action came two days after education authorities said multiple answers will be recognized for two disputed question - one in the English section and another from the second biology section - on this year’s CSAT, which was held on Nov. 13.

Kim Sung-hoon, head of the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE), a government organization that oversees the administration of the CSAT, said he would take full responsibility for the gaffes and resign from his post on Monday.

It is unclear precisely how many students will be affected by this year’s grading adjustments as the final scores have yet to be calculated by authorities; they will be individually reported to each test-taker on Wednesday.

But considering the fact that the CSAT is based on a relative grading system in which students are divided into nine groups in each subject based on their scores, getting a single question right or wrong can put a student in a different group among the nine.

Cram schools are leaning towards the conclusion that some thousands of students will see their ratings change.

The grading corrections are expected to lead to more drastic rating shifts in the second biology section, as roughly 60 percent of the test-takers chose the answer that was belatedly admitted to be correct, while only about 10 percent chose the answer initially considered correct by KICE, according to data released by private institutes.

Of the roughly 33,000 students who took the second biology test, 4,000 will likely see an improvement in their ranks. But as they improve, they may squeeze other students into lower ranks. Some 1,700 to 6,000 students will fall in their rankings, cram schools say.

In contrast, 80 percent of the students on the English section got the answer right from the beginning, so the changes will be relatively small.

Controversy around the CSAT flared earlier last month when the Ministry of Education admitted that a question in the world geography section of last year’s CSAT was misgraded. Last week, the ministry said that students who failed to be admitted to universities because of that question will be given a second chance at admissions.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [selee@joongang.co.kr]

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