Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Ireland's "best performing schools" - would be great if someone knew how to measure such things

This sort of thing drives me nuts – "Revealed: Ireland's best-performing schools - including those with 100pc record of sending students to college." The "best performing" schools are those that send the most students to college.

Okay, first of all, why does that make them the "best performing" schools. They may be the "best" at churning out college-bound secondary school students, but is that the only 'performance' that matters? I'd say not. I'd say the best performing schools are those who churn out productive, well-rounded citizens who will be a credit to the nation (and a worthwhile investment of our tax money). I'd say we should try to measure this and then pronounce on which are the "best performing" schools in the country.

But even if we accept that getting kids into college is the only way to measure a school's performance, why should we accept that the outcome – students going on to college from second level – is the best measure. This implies that somehow every school starts off with the same people and the best schools are those that get the highest number of those interchangeable students into college. That's a load of twaddle and everybody knows it.

Some schools simply have smarter, more diligent students entering in first year. They make their way through the 5-6 years of second level education and come out the other end with college placements. Other schools have students who have already found school challenging, who don't come from the sort of background that values education, and/or who aren't of a mind to make much effort at all.

One of those schools with struggling students may well be the "best performing" school in the country if they get a half dozen of their students into 3rd level. How can we know since we have no real statistics on our education outputs normalized for the inputs? For all we know, some school with only one student heading to college could well get 100% of their students into college if they got the same students in the door as Presentation Brothers College in Cork (No. 1 in the Independent's list).

You can stuff your "best performing" nonsense until you explain how you have accounted for the ability and preparation and support from family of the students who enter each school you're measuring.