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By Gorard Stephen Smith Emma

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Schools, heads and teachers are being routinely rewarded or punished on the basis of this kind of invalid evidence. Teachers are spending their time looking at things like departmental value-added figures and distorting their attention to focus on particular areas or types of pupils. School effectiveness results have been used to determine funding allocations and to threaten schools with closure (Bald 2006, Mansell 2006). The national school inspection system in England, run by OFSTED, starts with a CVA, and the results of that analysis partly pre-determine the results of the inspection (Gorard 2008c).

Put more simply, VA calculations are flawed from the outset by not being independent enough of the raw-scores from which they are generated. They are no more a fair test of school performance than raw-scores are. The damage caused by school effectiveness Does any of this matter? Yes. Schools, heads and teachers are being routinely rewarded or punished on the basis of this kind of invalid evidence. Teachers are spending their time looking at things like departmental value-added figures and distorting their attention to focus on particular areas or types of pupils.

We would expect CVA results to be volatile and inconsistent over years and between key stages in the same schools. This is what we generally find (Hoyle and Robinson 2003, Kelly and Monczunski 2007, Tymms and Dean 2004). Of course, in any group of schools under consideration, some schools will have apparently consistent positive or negative CVA over a period of time. This, in itself, means nothing. Again imagine what we would expect if the ‘effect’ were actually all propagated error. Since CVA is zero-sum by design, around half of all schools in any one year must have positive scores and half negative.

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