Wiggs on League Tables

blogs:

A group of academics signed off on a letter against school league tables. The stated logic may work in an academic research setting but is inappropriate to apply to the real world. We should instead publish the measurements, improve the measurements and their context over time and, most importantly, focus energy and resources on understanding the issues and helping the schools at the bottom of the league.

Exactly. If data is not perfect, them people with a genuine interest in giving parents information and choice will focus on how to improve the data, not call for it to be suppressed.

Some of the more detailed responses:

The argument is that schools have high variability between each other and across years. It’s a combination of measurement error based on inconsistent and low samples and the only measuring numeracy and literacy and not more holistic skills.

However to improve something we first need to measure it, and if we can’t measure it accurately then an approximation will do. In business that means using surveys of customers that have clear sampling bias, reacting more to customers who complain and even believing what we read in the papers. We know all of these sources are incomplete and have bias, but we can account for it somewhat, and are much improved by using the input. The online advertising industry is a lovely example, using a system for measurement that is clearly wrong to measure traffic, but while it is wrong, it is wrong for everyone, and it’s only the starting point for a conversation.

It’s far easier to start a conversation about the quality of a school when confronted with a combination of the socieoeconomic data about the catchment area and the National Standards results over time.

Exactly. Parents are not morons. Few are going to just look at a league table and say we’re going to decide solely on that. Information on how schools are doing with national standards will be just one of many inputs.

I understand the natural academic reluctance to never release data that is potentially wrong, and I see that in business sometimes where companies do not want to release an imperfect product. But while they are polishing the bezels yet again competitors are releasing their inferior but higher selling versions. Similarly we should release the data, and call on the power of academics, hundreds of thousands of parents and even students to provide both sunlight as a disinfectant and the right context.

The answer to bad data is good data, not suppressing all data.

While even a small minority, and this is not a small minority, wants access to our data, New Zealand has a policy and obligation to provide it. Arguing against releasing data is quite remarkable for a group of academics. It should be easier to understand school performance than to read about individual student’s private lives on Facebook.

Most academics support the Official Information Act as a wonderful thing. Educational academics seem to regard it as a bad thing.

Comments (28)

Login to comment or vote