Lumley on League Tables

Thomas Lumley at Stats Chat blogs:

work well in sports.  The way the competition is defined means that ‘games won’ really is the dominant factor in ordering teams,  it matters who is at the top, and people don’t try to use the table for inappropriate purposes such as deciding which team to support.  For schools and hospitals, not so much.

The main problems with league tables for schools (as proposed in NZ) or hospitals (as implemented in the UK) are, first, that a ranking requires you to choose a way of collapsing multidimensional information into a rank, and second, that there is usually massive uncertainty in the ranking, which is hard to convey.   There doesn’t have to be one school in NZ that is better than all the others, but there does have to be one school at the top of the table.  …

This isn’t to say that school performance data shouldn’t be used.  Reporting back to schools how they are doing, and how it compares to other similar schools, is valuable.  …

While it’s easy to see why teachers might be suspicious of the government’s intentions, the rationale given by John Key for exploring some form of official league table is sensible.  It’s definitely better not to have a simple ranking, and it might arguably be better not to have a set of official comparative reports, but the data are available under the Official Information Act.  The media may currently be shocked and appalled at the idea of league tables, but does anyone really believe this would stop a plague of incomplete, badly-analyzed, sensationally-reported exposés of “New Zealand’s Worst Schools!!”?

The data that I think would be most valuable is the “value add” over time for each school, moderatd by decile.

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