Added value adds insights
Parents of pupils at the Lycee Flora-Tristan in Noisy-le-Grand will be pleased to learn that their school scores higher than the elite Lycee Fenelon in Paris, according to information just published giving the performance of French upper secondaries based on results of the 1996 baccalaureat.
Although both schools have the same pass rate - 83 per cent, compared with 75.8 per cent nationally - Flora-Tristan gained better results than might have been expected, while Fenelon did not do so well as it was calculated it should.
For rather than straight league tables detailing only numbers and percentages of passes for the end-of-school exam, the ministry of education report presents three indicators that remove inequalities between the lycees, allowing comparisons to be made between like and like.
The report takes account of such factors as the ruthless selection practised by the most prestigious lycees, diversity between schools (not all of which offer every option for the baccalaureat), the difference between deprived and privileged areas, pupils' social origins and the age at which they take the baccalaureat - thus reflecting the numbers who have had to repeat a year or more during their school career.
It calculates an "added value" for each establishment which demonstrates whether the individual school has performed better or worse than expected. So Flora-Tristan achieved an added value of plus seven points, while Fenelon's was minus five.
The report, now in its fourth annual edition and published for the first time in 12 volumes according to area, gives details of all France's state lycees and an increased number of private (mostly Catholic) schools under state contract.
According to Claude Thelot, head of the department of evaluation and futurology which produced it, the study has two principal objectives: "to give the schools the tools which will help them improve the effectiveness of their actions, and to spread information as widely as possible about a vital link in the education system."
Meanwhile, parents in some areas of Paris are protesting against plans by the capital's academie (education authority) to tighten up access to coll ges (lower secondaries) of their choice. Instead of parents nominating three preferred schools, in future their children will be allocated a place locally. Although some exceptions might be made for family, educational or geographical reasons, the current relative freedom to choose seems likely to be severely curtailed.
Among families most indignant are those living in the fifth arrondissement who believe they stand a good chance of getting their children into a coll ge well situated for them to continue into a prestigious local lycee.
Jean Cremadeills, director of the Paris academie, told Le Monde that flexible allocation created more problems than it solved. "Let us return to a simple principle," he said. "A coll ge is attended by local inhabitants. At least the rule is clear and the procedure is clean."
Les Dossiers d'Education et Formations No. 82, trois indicateurs de performance des lycees: baccalaureat general, technologique et professionnel 1996. Direction de l'Evaluation et de la Prospective (DEP), 58 Boulevard du Lycee, 92170 Vanves. Price: 60FF (Pounds 6.50) per volume