School league tables lift standards, study finds
By Justine Ferrari, Education Writer
From: The Australian
3 January 2011
Public reporting of school test results lifts student performance, particularly among the poorest and low-scoring schools.
British research comparing school results in England and Wales found the test scores of Welsh students fell substantially after Wales ceased publishing school performance tables about 10 years ago.
The study, by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation at Bristol University, says the decision to end school league tables “reduced average performance and raised educational inequality”.
While the results of students in the top 25 per cent of schools were unaffected, the study says the remainder, particularly the poorest schools with the lowest scores, suffered the biggest drops.
“We find systematic, significant and robust evidence that abolishing school league tables markedly reduced school effectiveness in Wales,” it says.
“Our results suggest that school accountability policies hold promise for raising school performance, particularly for students in disadvantaged schools and neighbourhoods.
The Australian government introduced public reporting of national literacy and numeracy test results last year with the launch of the MySchool website, prompting a campaign by teachers and principals who threatened to boycott the tests. Grattan Institute school education research director Ben Jensen said yesterday the British results were consistent with the experience overseas. “The international evidence is very clear that national testing has a positive impact on students and school performance,” he said.
But federal president of the Australian Education Union Angelo Gavrielatos, who led the campaign against MySchool, said while he was unfamiliar with the Bristol University research, other studies contradicted its findings.
“There’s ample evidence that high-stakes testing and the comparison and ranking of schools leads to deepening inequity and segregation of schooling,” he said.
School performance tables were introduced in Britain in 1992 but abolished by the Welsh Assembly government in 2001 after it was granted power over education policy.
England has continued to publish reports on school performance, which newspapers turn into league tables ranking schools, and the two education systems are otherwise identical, providing the Bristol University researchers with a natural controlled trial.
The study compares student results in the General Certificate of Secondary Education, taken by Year 11 students in different subjects at the end of compulsory education. It describes the impact of the Welsh policy as “sizeable”, with the percentage of students achieving at least five good GSCE passes (a C or higher out of A-G) falling 3.4 per cent per school.
The study also dispels the belief school league tables increase social segregation by encouraging parents to leave low-scoring schools for high-performing schools with more affluent students, saying there was no significant impact on sorting students into schools by ability or socioeconomic status.
Full article here
Original CMPO Blog article here