The Grattan Institute has released its first report, an analysis of student progress measures by Ben Jensen. It argues that ‘value-added’ measures – that is, how much students improve between NAPLAN tests – are a more useful way of assessing a school’s performance than simply looking at its absolute results.
The report meets Grattan’s claims to be ‘objective, evidence-driven and non-aligned’. It is well-researched, uses data, and presents ideas that could easily be adopted by either major political party. While the media played up its differences with the about-to-be-launched My School website, it’s hard to imagine that Julia Gillard would have any fundamental objection to the ideas presented. And that was pretty much how she handled it today:
From what I’ve seen of the reports of the Grattan Institute work, they are saying that this is a good start but they are wanting to see more. Of course we are going to keep building on this website year by year as we get more results from national testing, more results on Year 12 retention, more results on vocational education and training pathways and attendance at school.
[Update 28/1: Barry McGaw, chair of the Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, confirms that value-added measures are on the agenda when the data becomes available.]
Grattan has done well in targeting different markets for the paper. For those who might be put off by the report’s including things like ‘similar to residuals in a standard regression model, these scores sum to zero which means that a school with a value added score of zero …’ there is a YouTube summary.
I have to put my editor’s hat on to make my only real criticism of the first Grattan paper. It contains too many examples of the stage-3 error of footnote numbers inside the punctuation for this to be just a proofreading lapse. The main cause of this error is the influence of the author-date system of referencing, which does go inside the punctuation. While the author-date system is widely used, in my view it should be banished from all work intended for a general audience. It disrupts the argument’s flow with clunkily-expressed information of little interest to most readers.