Call to Scrap Like School Comparisons on My School

The public education group, Save Our Schools, today called for like school comparisons to be scrapped. National Convenor of SOS, Trevor Cobbold, said that ‘like school’ comparisons on My School 2.0 will be biased against low socio-economic status (SES) government and private schools.

“The ‘like school’ comparisons in My School 2.0 will be a shambles. The COAG Reform Council has told the Government that there are “serious problems” with the data.

“This is the Government’s second go in two years to get accurate ‘like school’ comparisons. The first was systematically biased against government schools and the Government had to go back to the drawing board and devise a new method. The new method is systematically biased against low SES government and private schools.

“It should scrap ‘like school’ comparisons until it can get the data right.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the new method is likely to be biased against low SES government and private schools because of large amounts of missing data which appear to be concentrated amongst low SES families.

“The new method of measuring the SES of schools relies on data on parent education and occupation drawn from school enrolment forms. However, over 20% of parents refuse to disclose this information. The response rates are highly variable between schools.

“The national literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN) results suggest that the non-responses are concentrated in the lowest SES groups. The NAPLAN results are reported for various categories of parent education and occupation and also for the non-response group. The average results for students in the non-response group are similar to those reported for students from the lowest parent education and occupation groups.

“This means that the new like school comparisons on My School are likely to be fundamentally flawed and biased against low SES government and private schools. Their results will be compared with higher SES government and private schools.

“Overall, the bias is likely to be stronger against government schools because they enrol the vast majority of low income students.”

Mr. Cobbold called on the Prime Minister and the Education Minister to accept the advice of the COAG Reform Council that the data to be used to construct groups of ‘like schools’ is inadequate and needs to be improved before it can be a viable approach.

“The Prime Minister claimed last week that like school comparisons on My School are “truly powerful”. In making this claim, she has rejected the advice of her own COAG Reform Council.

“In its report on the National Education Agreement last month, the Council said that there are “significant problems with non-response rates” (p.58), that reporting educational outcomes by socio-economic background is one area where data collections “are at their least robust” and that analysis using this data at the State and Territory level “is often limited by poor or missing data” (p.115).

“So, the Government is using data to compare individual schools that is not even adequate for state and territory comparisons. This is a scandalous misuse of flawed data.

“The COAG Reform Council said that the low levels of disclosure of personal data such as parent education attainment and parent occupation need to be greatly increased for this to be a viable approach across the performance reporting framework.

“The Prime Minister should accept this advice and scrap ‘like school’ comparisons until it can get more accurate data”.

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