Incas Tests: software altered at the request of CCEA and DENI before the system failure.
November 18, 2009
When PACE were contacted by parents concerned about the results of Incas assessments given to them during parent/teacher meetings they undertook to write to the CEM at Durham University, CCEA and the DENI.
The first response from CEM Incas staff was unexpected and raised further concerns. Queries on Incas were being directed to CCEA, the Northern Ireland Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment who had recommended to the DENI that the software use become mandatory for use in primary schools.
The initial correspondence from CEM at Durham University stated:
“If you have any specific queries about InCAS, Paul Wright at the Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment would be the best person to help you, email@example.com. “
Amanda Mayman, Project Coordinator, PIPS & InCAS Projects Tel: 01913344220 Fax: 01913344180
Since CCEA were not understood to be the software owners this re-direction of concerns to CCEA seemed inappropriate and an attempt to downplay rising concerns.
Further contact with CEM at Durham University resulted in the following received on November 3rd, 2009
Dear Mr Elliott,
Amanda Mayman forwarded your query to CCEA last week and someone from there will be contacting you to discuss your questions.
Dr Christine Merrell, Acting Primary Director,
CEM, Durham University,Mountjoy Research Centre, Durham, DH1 3UZ. Tel. 0191 3344226
The following correspondence was received by PACE from CEM at Durham University on November 17th, 2009
Dear Mr Elliott,
Many thanks for your interest in InCAS. Your email has been passed on to me to respond to.
CCEA are not the owners of the InCAS software. InCAS was an existing assessment system that, upon the recommendation of CCEA, was adopted for use by the Western Education & Library Board and C2k, with the approval of the Department of Education.
The terms of the grant of license for InCAS are as follows:
’Installation and Use. Durham University grants you the right to install and use multiple copies of InCAS on your computers running validly licensed copies of the operating system for which InCAS was designed [e.g., Windows(r) 95; Windows(r) 98; Windows NT(r) etc.] within your institution.
Neither information distributed throughout the year for use with InCAS nor information generated by InCAS (be it numerical or graphical) may be published in any manner or form outside your institution without the express permission of Durham University.’
While InCAS was an existing assessment, under the terms of the contract we undertook to adapt it to better fit the requirements of the curriculum in Northern Ireland. With the introduction of this bespoke version of InCAS in Northern Ireland – including the provision of training to teachers – arranged by CCEA, it was agreed that all queries relating to the use of InCAS in Northern Ireland schools would be best dealt with by CCEA themselves.
I hope this provides a satisfactory answer to your questions from 27 October but please let me know if you have additional questions. However, as indicated above, CCEA may be able to provide a more complete response.
Mark Wightman, Operations Manager, CEM
It now becomes clear that CCEA had contracted to take complete control of the Incas assessment system that they recommended for procurement to the DENI, CCEA sought alterations to the software and when the software failed CCEA took control of the information provided to schools, principals, teachers, parents and the media via their press releases downplaying the extent of the problem. In summary CCEA took absolute control of the information management around a product owned by a third party. It is remarkable that the local media swallowed the explanation whole. Perhaps they were preoccupied with unregulated tests instead of the flawed taxpayer-funded Incas Assessment system.