Would parents use league tables?

The NSW Opposition has landed itself in political trouble for cooperating with a Green proposal to ban league tables of school performance.

School league tables are part of a strange obsession with lists and rankings, which in my view are very rarely of much value (eg here, here, and here).

The public education lobby believes school rankings are worse than worthless, since any ranking system must have those who come last, and we can be pretty sure that public schools will be heavily over-represented in the lower ranks.

Implicit in this worry is an assumption that parents will misunderstand what published school performance data means and rely on rankings based on school academic performance, without taking into account the significant socieconomic factors which influence student results. An Essential Research survey, reported at Pollytics blog, starts to explore this assumption.

Given the choice between assessing a school’s performance by the percentage passing tests, and the improvement shown by students (the school’s value adding), 59% thought that the improvement was the better measure, with 30% going for the percentage passing tests.
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