For School Performance, Accountability Matters

How important is school accountability to school performance? According to a new study, the answer is: very. In 2001, Wales abolished the publication of school performance tables, providing a nice shock to the system that allowed economists Simon Burgess, Deborah Wilson, and Jack Worth to compare school performance in Wales with performance in England, which continued to publish the tables. The authors find “significant and robust evidence that this reform markedly reduced school?effectiveness in Wales. There is significant heterogeneity across schools: schools in the top?quartile of the league tables show no effect. We also test whether the reform reduced?school segregation in Wales, and find no systematic significant impact on either sorting by?ability or by socioeconomic status.” (HT: Marginal Revolution)

James V.

Glad there's evidence to support that. Competition is our friend.

"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates."

~Thomas S. Monson, LDS church president.


What is the measure of "performance" that was abolished? It could be argued that not publishing tables of standardized test results, for example, freed the Welsh schools from having to waste their time teaching the test, hopefully resulting in better education as a result.


I am confused as to what this means? Who's performance? Did they get rid of grades? or teacher accountability? or Administrative measures?

I love the new Blog... But a little opinion and depth would be exceptional, which is what I've come to expect from the FoN* world.

*Freak'o'Nomics (if you know a better abrv your using in "1337" speak please let me know)

Greg S

It's nice to know the league tables have some actual use. Unfortunately the league table system in England clearly isnt the way forward; at least not on its own.

Schools are rarely allowed to fail and often it simply means that within the catchment area of a high ranked state school gains a house price premium of up to 20% and the school becomes overpopulated by the middle class while those from a lower socio-economic background are forced into worses schools just adding to the problems
Choice in schools in most of the UK is an illusion, as significantly overlapping catchment areas are relatively rare inside larger towns and cities and pretty much non-existent in smaller towns and rural areas (and as the study mentions in rural England the lack of choice is apparent in the results) the league tables offer less a selection of choices of schools for parents and are more of an indicator to middle class people with tghe money to move. a good indicator of where to move to in an area.

One thing however that also reduces choice and competition that is unique to Wales that the study does not pick up on is the fact Wales is a Bi-lingual nation (its roughly 50% of the population who speak Welsh and more concentrated in the north where English is a distinctly second language in some areas).
Where there is choice of schools it often lies between an English speaking school and a Welsh speaking one. I think an interesting piece of work could be done into school selection and language factors in Wales. I would bet they would somewhat distort the standard reasons for picking certain schools over other standards of quality in Wales.

The whole education system in England and Wales (Scotland operates under a different system) needs serious reform and change.



A sense of mild competition is definitely necessary and healthy for society, it is what moves us positively towards the future.