Understanding Uncertainty in School League Tables

GB Leckie, H Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
446 Downloads (Pure)


In England, contextual value added (CVA) school performance tables are published annually by the government. These tables present statistical-model-based estimates of the educational effectiveness of schools, together with 95 per cent confidence intervals to communicate their statistical uncertainty. However, this information, particularly the notion of statistical uncertainty, is hard for users to understand. There is a real need to make school performance tables clearer. The media attempt to do this for the public by ranking schools in so-called ‘school league tables’; however, they invariably discard the 95 per cent confidence intervals and, in doing so, encourage the public to over-interpret differences in schools' ranks. In this paper, we explore a simulation method to produce simple graphical summaries of schools' ranks that clearly communicate their associated uncertainty.
Translated title of the contributionUnderstanding uncertainty in school league tables
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207 - 224
Number of pages15
JournalFiscal Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2011


  • contextual value added
  • institutional comparisons
  • multilevel model
  • performance indicators
  • school accountability
  • school choice
  • school effectiveness
  • school league tables
  • school performance tables
  • value added


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