Metrics to measure schools by

In my last post, I argued that we should publish as much information about schools as possible so parents can use it to create their own league tables of what they find valuable.

I also argued that measuring schools by one metric only was problematic because it’s too easy to game one metric. Instead, the government should look at four or five metrics. If a school try too hard to focus on one, it will show up in the others.  The aim would be to get four or five metrics which between them capture most of what we want a school to be doing. Thus, the problem with the 5 A-C measure is that it encourages schools to force pupils through vocational subjects that are worth 2-4 GCSEs, even if those subjects aren’t best suited to that pupil. The problem with the 5 A-C measure and the E-Bacc measure is the C/D borderline problem. They both encourage schools to focus their resources on D-grade students. Moving a pupil from a B grade to an A grade or an E grade to a D-grade is given no weight on these measures.

@MrChas left a very interesting comment on this post suggesting that using four or five indicators could work. From his experience in the private sector, you can try and game one or two metrics, but when you have four or five, then it becomes very difficult. As he rather elegantly puts it:

Once you get to 4 or five measures, as the writer here says, you can ‘cheat’ on maybe one, but then as soon as you do it kicks the others way out of kilter. Like trying to squeeze into jeans a size too small. The fat has to go SOMEWHERE, it just pops up in a different place !

And now, it seems like Nick Gibb wants to do something similar. In The Telegraph, he admits some of the problems with the current league table system, says that he will be publishing more information on schools and comes up with some other metrics he would like to use.

So my question here is: if you had to pick FIVE measures to judge schools by,  what would they be? I will start off with my picks to get the discussion going – I haven’t thought these through in great detail but I do think each of them measures something valuable.

1. Percentage of pupils achieving E-Bacc.

2. Percentage of pupils who are functionally illiterate and innumerate (nationally this is 17% and 22% at 15).  (This would require a separate test, which could be problematic.)

3.Percentage of pupils who are NEET five years after leaving school. (I recognise there are data collection issues with this one).

4. Percentage of entries achieving As and A*s at GCSE.

5. Of pupils who failed to get level 4s in English and Maths at primary school, percentage achieving C or above in English and Maths at GCSE.


6 thoughts on “Metrics to measure schools by

  1. Kristopher Boulton

    What about the ‘levels of progress’ measure? Seems like a good one – how much value has the school added to the pupil over their time there?

    The only flaw I can see with this measure is inflated primary KS2 results.

    1. The Wing to Heaven Post author

      I think the problem with the old value-added measure was that it was fiendishly complicated. Also, it suggested that moving a pupil from a very low level of attainment to quite a low level of attainment was a success. And I think it was based on all GCSEs, which meant it was susceptible to the vocational qualification substitution. I think a general level of progress measure is important, but I am not quite sure what the best way to measure it is.

  2. Kristopher Boulton

    Ah, I guess I was only thinking of it in terms of my own department, as opposed to the school’s overall measure. I don’t know much about how the various results are aggregated into a final score for the school.

    Also a good point about the notion that ‘low level of attainment’ can still be defined as success.

    In that case, could EBacc and A+ measures replace ‘levels of progress’? EBacc for the ‘low attainers’, but ensuring they at least achieve Cs in a breadth of core subjects – A/A* measure for the high achievers, ensuring a dearth of B-A* grades cannot be hidden behind the screen ‘A*-C’.

    1. The Wing to Heaven Post author

      Yes, I think something like that would be good, but I would still be keen on one measure that looked at progress from leaving primary. So on top of the raw EBacc and A+ measures, we’d need a measure that looked at where pupils started from and where they ended up. As well as rewarding schools who do a good job in difficult circumstances, this should also shine a light on coasting schools with lots of pupils who are above-average ability. Currently they can get good raw EBacc results even if they ignore the bottom x percent of their pupils. So a measure like this would stop that from happening.

  3. Syd Egan

    “Percentage of pupils who are NEET five years after leaving school. (I recognise there are data collection issues with this one).”

    This is interesting, because it is the measure which probably best reflects what we (as a society) actually want the education system “as a whole” to do – prevent delinquency. (As opposed to what we *say* we want it to do, which is have people pass exams*!)

    As you suggest, however, it wouldn’t fly, plus the lag is too long – even if you could collect the data, it would reflect what the school was like five years ago, which (as you know) is a JOLLY long time in the ed-biz!

    I am confused as to why we use the “5 GCSEs” thing, rather than ranking by assigning a numeric value to each grade, and adding them all up – 6 points for an A* etc. etc. Do you know why this was done? Was it just because 5 O-Levels was traditionally considered the standard for proceeding to 6th form?

    My point being that just changing to a points-based measure would address several of the failings with the current system, especially if we eliminated the loopholes associated with the vocational qualifications, which have been flagrantly abused by “certain establishments”!!

    * Of course, we all want *our* children to pass exams; but for everyone *else’s* children we don’t really care about that, so long as they don’t become delinquent!

  4. Pingback: Exams and Goodhart’s Law | The Wing to Heaven

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