A Study of Differences between Schools in terms of Intake and Outcomes

The National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy (DES, 2011) calls for greater use to be made ‎of assessment data at both school and system levels.  At school level, it is proposed that the ‎results of standardised tests should be used to monitor aspects of student learning, to inform ‎school self-evaluation processes, and to track the achievement of groups of students at risk ‎of underperformance.  At system level, the Strategy calls for aggregated assessment ‎information to be used to form an overall national picture of performance in literacy and ‎numeracy (see also OECD, 2012).

Internationally, the use of sophisticated statistical techniques such as value-added ‎modelling to compare performance across different schools is common place.  To date, ‎comparatively little attention has been given to using quantitative approaches and large scale ‎assessment data for assessing school effectiveness in the Republic of Ireland.

The current project makes use of existing datasets in order to consider whether or ‎not schools can be said to perform significantly different to expectations, after controlling for ‎student background characteristics.  Datasets explored as part of these analyses include the ‎‎2009 National Assessments, the Programme for International Student Assessment, Junior ‎Certificate examination results and data gathered as part of the DEIS evaluation.

Preliminary findings suggest that existing datasets are of limited use for ‎distinguishing between schools on the basis of performance as the majority of large scale ‎educational assessments currently conducted in Ireland are cross-sectional in nature and ‎therefore do not include measures of achievement over time.  The limitations of cross-‎sectional studies for these types of analyses have previously been identified in the literature ‎‎(see e.g., OECD, 2008).  A further limitation of many existing datasets is that data are ‎available for samples of students only.  Although population data are available in state ‎examination databases, these provide very limited data on student background. ‎