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The Effectiveness of English Secondary Schools for Pupils of Different Ability Levels


  • Dearden, Lorraine

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies, London)

  • Micklewright, John

    () (University College London)

  • Vignoles, Anna

    () (University of Cambridge)


'League table' information on school effectiveness in England generally relies on either a comparison of the average outcomes of pupils by school, e.g. mean exam scores, or on estimates of the average value added by each school. These approaches assume that the information parents and policy-makers need most to judge school effectiveness is the average achievement level or gain in a particular school. Yet schools can be differentially effective for children with differing levels of prior attainment. We present evidence on the extent of differential effectiveness in English secondary schools, and find that even the most conservative estimate suggests that around one quarter of schools in England are differentially effective for students of differing prior ability levels. This affects an even larger proportion of children as larger schools are more likely to be differentially effective.

Suggested Citation

  • Dearden, Lorraine & Micklewright, John & Vignoles, Anna, 2011. "The Effectiveness of English Secondary Schools for Pupils of Different Ability Levels," IZA Discussion Papers 5839, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5839

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harvey Goldstein & Simon Burgess & Brendon McConnell, 2007. "Modelling the effect of pupil mobility on school differences in educational achievement," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 170(4), pages 941-954.
    2. Joshua D. Angrist & Kevin Lang, 2004. "Does School Integration Generate Peer Effects? Evidence from Boston's Metco Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1613-1634, December.
    3. Esther Duflo & Pascaline Dupas & Michael Kremer, 2011. "Peer Effects, Teacher Incentives, and the Impact of Tracking: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Kenya," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 1739-1774, August.
    4. Victor Lavy & M. Daniele Paserman & Analia Schlosser, 2008. "Inside the Black of Box of Ability Peer Effects: Evidence from Variation in the Proportion of Low Achievers in the Classroom," NBER Working Papers 14415, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Figlio, David N. & Page, Marianne E., 2002. "School Choice and the Distributional Effects of Ability Tracking: Does Separation Increase Inequality?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 497-514, May.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Are schools effective? It depends on how good you are
      by kevin denny in Kevin Denny: Economics more-or-less on 2011-08-01 13:11:46


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    Cited by:

    1. Brendan Houng & Moshe Justman, 2013. "Comparing Least-Squares Value-Added Analysis and Student Growth Percentile Analysis for Evaluating Student Progress and Estimating School Effects," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2013n07, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    2. Moshe Justman & Brendan Houng, 2013. "A Comparison Of Two Methods For Estimating School Effects And Tracking Student Progress From Standardized Test Scores," Working Papers 1316, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Economics.
    3. Smyth, Emer & McCoy, Selina, 2011. "Improving Second-level Education: Using Evidence for Policy Development," Papers EC5, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

    More about this item


    value added; school choice; school effectiveness; England;

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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