Measuring School Effectiveness: A fairer, broader and more discerning approach.

coloured pencils (1)Whatever one’s position on their value, limitations and effects, school effectiveness measures play an important role in educational practice, systems and research.  League tables, ‘expected progress’ measures, value-added models, threshold targets and OFSTED ratings are all salient and pervasive features of the current educational landscape. Taken individually or collectively, these measures, and many more besides, promise us the same tantalising benefit: an objective, fair and accurate standard by which we can compare and evaluate schools. In my research, I examine this claim and scrutinise the logic and claims of existing performance measures.

The central problem in the measurement of school effectiveness is creating estimates which are comparable across schools and ascertain how effective a school is for a given intake. Current value-added models control for intake characteristics using prior attainment data. Currently, this does not produce estimates which are either stable across several years or are independent of raw attainment scores. Therefore, value-added measures appear to largely reflect differences in intake across schools, fluctuations within intake characteristics for successive cohorts, measurement error and omitted variable bias. There is considerable scope for the production and/or refinement of measures which are fairer, broader and clearer from which more discerning data-usage can be practiced in policy and school decision-making.

My research can be thought of as having three broad components. Firstly, I gather official data from the National Pupil database and another Department for Education study known as ‘Making Good Progress’ (MGP). This is used to construct and compare several school effectiveness models. As well as seeking to verify previous research and further scrutinise existing models, this involves the estimation of a regression discontinuity model with the MGP dataset thereby providing an original research contribution using a relatively new approach to school effectiveness measurement.

Secondly, my research attempts to see whether the existing and nascent (i.e. regression discontinuity analysis) school effectiveness methodology can be extended to estimate school effects on attitudinal outcomes such as enjoyment of school and learning. To explore this, I am planning a primary data collection in secondary schools where I hope to gather attitudinal data along with pupil background data. Again, I hope to estimate a range of models to get some indication of how consistent these estimation techniques are.

Finally, the estimation techniques above and, especially in the case of the attitudinal data, are predicated on number of assumptions which I hope to explore. Even the fundamental notion of school effectiveness, on closer inspection, appears to be more problematic and sometimes contradictory than at first glance.

I think that there is an important debate to be had regarding how school performance measures and statistical techniques are used in the academic, public and political understanding of schools. My view is that educational professionals must become adept in using a broad range of meaningful, current and fair measures to foster ‘intelligent accountability’ and pursue aspects of educational improvement and research. For this to happen, an informed engagement with the problems and potential of performance measures is needed from all with a stake in education.

What is the point of confidence intervals?

CI

A confidence interval (CI) is one of the most widely abused and misunderstood ideas in statistical analysis. It is an attempt to provide an illustration of the uncertainty inherent in any estimate of a population value based on the value obtained from a random sample. This kind of illustration is intended to be used to help users and analysts to judge how good the estimate is. Unfortunately, the logic underlying the way in which CIs are used is flawed, in the same way as the logic of significance testing is, and anyway there is rarely a real-life situation where the assumptions necessary to calculate CIs are met. For those interested, this brief outline explains why. For everyone else, it is safe simply to ignore confidence intervals as irrelevant, overly complex, unrealistic and potentially misleading.

Complete article click here Confidence intervals (2)

 

Overcoming disadvantage in education

 

Overcoming disadvantageOvercoming disadvantage in education

Stephen Gorard & Beng Huat See

The book is available to purchase in print.

http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415536905/

And

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Overcoming-Disadvantage-Education-Stephen-Gorard/dp

Governments, local authorities, school leaders, and teachers all over the world want to improve the educational attainment and participation of all students, and to minimise any systematic differences in outcomes for social and economic groups. A particular concern is for those students from backgrounds that may objectively disadvantage them at school and beyond. However, considerable effort and money is currently being wasted on policies, practices and interventions that have very little hope of success, and that may indeed endanger the progress that is being made otherwise. The poor quality of much education research evidence, coupled with an unwillingness among users of evidence to discriminate appropriately between what we know and do not know, means that opportunities are being missed. At a time of reduced public spending it is important that proposed interventions are both effective and efficient.

Overcoming Disadvantage in Education is unique in the way that it:

  • Shows where the solutions to underachievement and poverty lie
  • combines primary(new), secondary (official) and published (review) evidenced
  • distinguishes between those possible causes of underachievement that are largely fixed for individuals, and those that are modifiable

There are evidence-informed ways forward in handling under-achievement and increasing social justice in education. This book shows which the more likely approaches are, and where further work could yield further benefits.

This book will be a key text for students, developing academic researchers and supervisors in the social sciences, and for those research users charged with improving educational outcomes.

Thought leadership: Cuts to diversity spending are no great loss for universities

probabilityProfessor Stephen Gorard, School of Education, writes about cuts to diversity spending. First published in The Conversation.  (28th June 2013)

In his spending review, Chancellor George Osborne announced cuts to the universities budget, targeted mainly at funding used to encourage students from under-represented groups to apply for university (Click here to read the complete article).

Phase II: Research Design and QM Teaching (ESRC funded project)

il_570xN_281414951In this phase we will primarily focus on ideas for teaching, developing resources and collecting useful examples for teaching research design based QM courses. The workshop will be to demonstrate and develop teaching materials and ideas. We will then test some of these ideas in teaching QM for the 2013/2014 academic year! 

(Click on the link below for complete details)

Flyer Phase II (York)

Phase II: Research Design and QM Teaching (ESRC funded project)

il_570xN_281414951In this phase we will primarily focus on ideas for teaching, developing resources and collecting useful examples for teaching research design based QM courses. The workshop will be to demonstrate and develop teaching materials and ideas. We will then test some of these ideas in teaching QM for the 2013/2014 academic year! 

(For more details please click here)

 

Gove education plan is a curate’s egg few will want to eat

Conservative_Big_SocietyGove education plan is a curate’s egg few will want to eat:

Nothing official has been said, but there have been enoughleaks, previews and hints about Michael Gove’s vision for an overhaul of the GCSE exam system that all sides have a pretty good idea of what he has in mind and we’ve already got dissent coming in from the Labour-led Welsh Assembly government. (Please click here for the complete article)