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How to Measure Success in Education? – Stop Grading start Ranking!

by on September 8, 2012

Michael Gove and David Laws are both thinkers and reformers. One of the problems they now need to think about it in the light of both grade inflation and the current row over GCSE results is  “how to measure success”. As George Osborn and Sir Michael Wilshaw pointed out on the “Andrew Marr Show” last week,  the world is becoming an increasingly competitive and the job of the education system is to give people the education to compete in this environment. As we have pointed out before in “School Rankings” the true measure of success is not an absolute grade on an exam, but a relative grade showing how good you are in comparison to your peers. In this case, how well educated are we in relation to our  peers in the rest of the world?

Due differences in language, culture and education systems it is hard to compare across borders. It is currently pretty much impossible to do without a comprehensive study. A minor tweak away from grading towards ranking would make this exercise easy. As we have previously suggested the first thing to do is to get rid of grade inflation by ranking students with the average grade being the most common and then progressing this with a normal distribution. This allows for a comparison of internal talent through time and across the country without inflation or deflation. Being in the best 5-10% in 1999 would be a similar achievement to being in the best 5-10% in 2005.

To compare internal talent with talent from abroad all that needs to be reviewed is the entrance requirements to institutions abroad. If in 2015 10% of the population reaches the requirement whereas in 2020 20% of the population reaches the requirement education has improved or the requirements to get in have reduced. Grading and achievements should always be relative rather than absolute. This guards against inflation and allows institutions, government and individuals to know how competitive we really are.

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