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Understanding Uncertainty in School League Tables

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207 - 224
Number of pages15
JournalFiscal Studies
Issue number2
DatePublished - 15 Aug 2011


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.

    Research areas

  • 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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  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the accepted author manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Wiley at DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5890.2011.00133.x. Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 555 KB, PDF document


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