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The barking dog that bites: Test score volatility and school rankings in Punjab, Pakistan

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  • Barrera-Osorio, Felipe
  • Ganimian, Alejandro J.

Abstract

This paper is the first to explore the implications of test score volatility for school accountability policies in a lower-middle-income country. Using two new datasets from the province of Punjab, Pakistan, we find that rankings based on school-level averages of students’ test scores fluctuate considerably from one year to the next due to factors unrelated to school quality. First, most variation in test scores is within, not between schools, allowing noise to play a large part in determining school rankings. Second, variation in school test scores is partially attributable to fluctuations in the characteristics of student cohorts. Third, an even larger share is explained by one-time shocks. Fourth, these problems are more pronounced in small schools. As a result, rankings that rely on test score levels or changes often fail to identify top-performing or rapidly-improving schools, since they are influenced by factors beyond schools’ control.

Suggested Citation

  • Barrera-Osorio, Felipe & Ganimian, Alejandro J., 2016. "The barking dog that bites: Test score volatility and school rankings in Punjab, Pakistan," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 31-54.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:injoed:v:49:y:2016:i:c:p:31-54
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2016.01.004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tahir Andrabi & Jishnu Das & Asim Ijaz Khwaja & Tristan Zajonc, 2011. "Do Value-Added Estimates Add Value? Accounting for Learning Dynamics," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 29-54, July.
    2. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2002. "The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 91-114, Fall.
    3. Kenneth Y. Chay & Patrick J. McEwan & Miguel Urquiola, 2005. "The Central Role of Noise in Evaluating Interventions That Use Test Scores to Rank Schools," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1237-1258, September.
    4. Pritchett, Lant & Beatty, Amanda, 2015. "Slow down, you’re going too fast: Matching curricula to student skill levels," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 276-288.
    5. Barrera-Osorio, Felipe & Raju, Dhushyanth, 2017. "Teacher performance pay: Experimental evidence from Pakistan," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 75-91.
    6. Stephen Morris & Hyun Song Shin, 2002. "Social Value of Public Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1521-1534, December.
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    1. Barrera-Osorio, Felipe & Raju, Dhushyanth, 2017. "Teacher performance pay: Experimental evidence from Pakistan," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 75-91.

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