Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Data Doctor: Celebrating the C-Word

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Data Doctor: Celebrating the C-Word

Article excerpt

Contextual performance data could be making a comeback - and it's about time, says TES data expert James Pembroke

The 2010 Department for Education performance tables' website describes contextual value added (CVA) as "a measure that results from, as far as possible, adjusting for and therefore eliminating the impact of external factors, such as pupil mobility, ethnic background or deprivation, so that it gets as near as possible to reflecting the 'school effect' " and states that it "gives a much fairer measure of the effectiveness of a school".

But context became a dirty word.

It seems we have bought the line that contextual analysis excused poor performance, that it justified low expectations for disadvantaged pupils. CVA and "closing the gap" were mutually exclusive.

But this isn't about target setting; it's about performance measures that do not disadvantage schools with particular intakes.

A blog post written by Education DataLab's Dave Thomson in April 2015 looked at the issue of supposed underperformance at key stage 4 of pupil premium students in coastal schools. Initially, it appears there is a big disparity between this group's Progress 8 scores in coastal schools and those in other areas.

However, when ethnicity is introduced (the vast majority of pupil premium pupils in coastal areas are white British), the Progress 8 scores are nearly identical.

The data still reveals an issue, but it is not one that is specific to coastal schools; it is an issue relating to white British pupil premium children that is easily masked in urban areas. …

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