UK to get better league tables

March 14th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Parents will get powers to rank local schools using a series of new-style measures under Government plans to stop schools massaging their results.

They will be able to sort primaries and secondaries based on results in any subject to find out which schools are best for sciences, languages, history, geography, music, drama or even PE.

Families can also find out which schools have the worst attendance records and the highest number of exclusions.

Currently, schools are principally ranked by the number of pupils gaining five good GCSEs in almost any subject.

But critics claim the measure is too crude and schools can inflate their positions by moving pupils onto “soft” subjects or prioritising vocational courses that are often worth the equivalent of five GCSEs.

A Coalition source said the move would boost transparency following attempts by Labour to hide the “shocking performance of some of our schools”.

This is what we should be getting in New Zealand. What I especially like is that having realised the existing are crude, the response is to improve the by providing more data.

I agree with critics of league tables that a league table that merely ranks school on the basis of the percentage of students who make a particular grade, doesn’t provide a fair comparison.

But the answer is not to ban the publication of educational data as the teacher unions want. It is to provide better data.

So rather than have a league table just of achievement, have a league table which compares schools in the same decile and which measures the average improvement in students from the time they enter – now that would be really useful.

Even better, do what they did in LA – rate teachers (I would remove names for privacy reasons but have them known to school boards) by their effectiveness at lifting student achievement. Because almost all the research tells us the quality of an individual teacher is what makes the biggest difference to learning.

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11 Responses to “UK to get better league tables”

  1. GJKiwi (179 comments) says:

    So, what about this that repudiates the ranking of schools by a former advocate.

    http://www.thenation.com/article/why-i-changed-my-mind

    Basically, the teachers, schools and even entire states change things so that the results become skewed and it all becomes a meaningless nonsense. The only way to check to see if everybody is on a level playing field is to have nationwide exams. However, even that doesn’t tell us how good certain teachers are. A great teacher at a lower decile school might simply have to deal with worse students. Or the principal always gives a teacher he/she doesn’t like the worst pupils.

    Let us try the East Asian method: spend more time learning, even with the worst students. Send them to night school, and make them work harder. mmm, how would that go down?

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  2. Mark (1,421 comments) says:

    Putting aside the unions arguments for the moment as they tend to be somewhat self serving. If my child goes to a decile 3 school for example and that school performs at below the standard for the decile ten school in Epsom/Thorndon/Fendalton etc. Apart from moving to epsom and purchasing a house I cannot afford how do I access the best perfroming school for my child?

    We can stamp our feet and demand our teachers perform better but here is the rub. There is a significant probability that there are more kids in the decile three school that have had limited access to early childhood education, home support in learning to read etc so the teachers at the decile three school are working their guts out trying to bring those kids up to speed often at the cost in terms of teachers attention of kids who have had a better start. In the mean time the kids at the decile 10 school are advancing more quickly because their teachers have a significantly more advantaged lot of kids to deal with, much more likely to have home support and much more likely to have better financial resources to put their programmes in place.

    In the mean time the league tables will tell us what we already know that the Decile 10 school kids have a significantly higher probability of being at or above the national standard than the kids in the decile three school.

    There is no doubt that as I parent with a kid heading to a decile 3 school I want to know how my school compares to other decile threes. But of much more importance is I want to know why my kid cant get the same benefits and education standards as the kid in the decile 10 school and league tables will not go anywhere close to answering that question.

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  3. Mikey (13 comments) says:

    Rankings for teachers are not necessarily a bad thing, but surely other professions need better transparency well before them. Bankers for instance. You know, the guys who screwed the world’s economy for the next 20 years. This American teacher’s proposal has some rather good ideas:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/07/953476/-Notice-to-All-Banker-Types-from-a-Teacher

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  4. BeaB (2,080 comments) says:

    Good stuff on the Australian My School site too. I have always believed in as much information as possible. Parents aren’t dumb. They can see the difference between high grades in life skills and high grades in physics. By fighting greater transparency, teachers come across as patronising and, worse, scared they will be exposed.
    In Australia, new information has shown some of the best funded schools don’t achieve anywhere near some lower-funded state schools and even the lowest-funded Catholic schools. So it’s not all about money.
    Let parents see all the info, let the media make its usual mess of trying to rank schools, support parents to see it’s much better to send your kids to the nearest school (especially at primary level) and work hard to help improve the school through being involved in a positive way.
    I know of mid to low decile schools that have knocked the socks off higher ranked schools so it can be done.

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  5. MT_Tinman (3,043 comments) says:

    Mark (146) Says:
    March 14th, 2011 at 12:12 pm
    But of much more importance is I want to know why my kid cant get the same benefits and education standards as the kid in the decile 10 school and league tables will not go anywhere close to answering that question.

    The answer Mark is simple indeed.

    Those children going to decile 10 schools in Fendalton, Epsom etc. more often than not have parents who have worked bloody hard, bloody long and bloody smart so that they can afford to send their children to a decile 10 school (including where necessary being able to purchase a residence in the school area).

    It’s probably too late for your children Mark but not too late for their children if you personally start teaching them (your children) that the only way to get ahead is to work hard, smart and if necessary, long.

    Meanwhile league tables and results-based salaries should alleviate (but not cure) your problem reasonably quickly, much more quickly than the head-in-the-sand option championed by the teachers.

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  6. mpledger (429 comments) says:

    Here are some articles that have come out in recently about ranking teachers, teachers manipulating test results (both on the right side and wrong side of legality) and teacher incentives for performance. They are all from reputatble sources.

    1)
    Here’s an article from the New York Times
    “Evaluating New York Teachers, Perhaps the Numbers Do Lie”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/education/07winerip.html?_r=3&src=twrhp&pagewanted=all

    Interestingly enough the teacher comes out as being in the 7th percentile (93% of teachers are better than her) but they managed to put an error around her figure which was (0%-52%). Putting a true error around league table data is what I would be a strong advocate for because I have worked with such data before and know that the standalone figure i.e. 7%, is practically meaningless because there is generally huge variation i.e. (0%-52%). Putting the error in would give parents are better understanding of what value they should place on such data. (And I bet that is the sampling error, adding in the non-sampling error would blow it out of the water.)

    In this case the problem for the teacher is that she is teaching excellent students so there is less room for them to improve notwithstanding they go onto some the best high schools in the city.

    2) And here’s a story about how teachers teach to the test and/or cheat to get good results when testing becomes high stakes and how very little is done about scores that are unbelievably good.

    “When test scores seem too good to believe”
    USA Today
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-03-06-school-testing_N.htm#

    3) And evidence that teacher incentives don’t work.

    “TEACHER INCENTIVES AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT: EVIDENCE FROM NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS”
    Roland G. Fryer
    http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/fryer/files/teacher%2Bincentives.pdf

    ABSTRACT
    Financial incentives for teachers to increase student performance is an increasingly popular education
    Policy around the world. This paper describes a school-based randomized trial in over two-hundred
    New York City public schools designed to better understand the impact of teacher incentives on student
    Achievement. I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or
    graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behaviour.
    If anything,
    teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools. The paper concludes
    with a speculative discussion of theories that may explain these stark results.

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  7. nasska (10,878 comments) says:

    Regardless of the neophobic stance of the teacher’s unions sooner or later some sort of ranking system will be introduced. The government may prove to be too spineless to shake the teachers’ tree but parents will eventually prevail. Whether we have another generation of semi failures before the pedants see sense who knows?

    In the meantime the one thing the parents can do to help their offspring is to instill the correct attitude towards education. I have little time or respect for the teaching profession but they have my sympathy having to face rooms of kids who have no desire to learn. The school may teach the ABC’s but the value parents place on education will be reflected in their offspring for good or for bad.

    A bit of interest & praise from Mum & Dad can go a long way.

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  8. mpledger (429 comments) says:

    Beab said
    In Australia, new information has shown some of the best funded schools don’t achieve anywhere near some lower-funded state schools and even the lowest-funded Catholic schools. So it’s not all about money.

    I know of mid to low decile schools that have knocked the socks off higher ranked schools so it can be done.

    In the first few rounds, the schools that realised what you had to do to do well in the tests did well in the tests. In later rounds, once everyone starts teaching to the test, giving more and more “rote learning” homework and extra classes on test taking then things will even themselves out again.

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  9. berend (1,673 comments) says:

    Can I already predict this won’t help pupils?

    If government mandated standards and run organisations and companies would work, the USSR would still be with us, and Cuba would rank top in the world for literacy and health.

    Schools will do whatever it takes to get ranked better. But their focus will be on the ranking, not on the pupils.

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  10. BeaB (2,080 comments) says:

    mpledger That shows a low opinion of teachers, most of whom do all they can to help their students learn and achieve, including teaching them as much as they can about how to pass the test.

    Your NY Times stuff is mainly irrelevant. We cannot compare what we do here with the UK or the USA which is remarkably free of public exams, a mainly British obsession perhaps arising from the Poms’ entrenched class sytem that likes to put everyone in their place. Sadly we have inherited this insanity, along with ridiculous school uniforms.

    I have never seen the problem with teaching to the test. Parents want their kids to pass whatever the standard/test/exam is at their level so teachers should be teaching in a way that gets as many students through as possible. Otherwise it’s a just an insane guessing game.

    That’s partly why there are so many open book exams now at university. The point is for students to show what they know and the quality of their thinking – not to take them on some magical mystery tour where they may or may not have learned the stuff the examiner puts in.

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  11. Jeff83 (771 comments) says:

    DPF you actually been to a British state school?

    They are shit, and Britian ranks the bottom of Europe for key subjects like Maths. Saying we should follow their footsteps seems in the very least ridiculous.

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