Massaging value-added statistics

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
It is unfortunate that the Government's haste to include a value added element in secondary school league tables will ensure it goes off "half-cocked".

The concept of measuring value added by averaging the progress of individual pupils between key stages is, with some reservations, a good one. One reservation is that the measure of the school's success should be the progress made between key stage 2 and GCSE, not key stage 3 and GCSE. The latter simply penalises schools that put significant effort into raising standards in key stage 3. The national curriculum levels are too rough a measure for this purpose anyway, although the marks achieved on the tests could provide a reasonable basis for measuring progress.

Far more serious, though, is the ludicrous way in which value added is to be calculated for the league tables to be published this autumn. The school's average key stage 3 level is to be calculated by excluding any pupils who did not sit the tests. But the average GCSE score is to be calculated including all the pupils on the school's roll, even those who were not even at the school in Year 9. The result will be, of course, to inflate artificially the key stage 3 results of schools where a significant number of pupils did not sit the key stage 3 tests. Their GCSEresults will then seem to have added less value.

It does not take a genius to work out that the schools most affected will serve socially disadvantaged areas with a mobile population and a high number of pupils with special needs.

Presumably the results will then be used once again to "prove" that these schools are doing a poor job.

A Toubkin. Thornleigh Lodge. Thornleigh Drive. Burton Carnforth, Lancs

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