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Ranking BC secondary schools : a multilevel analysis approach McKeown, Stephanie Barclay

Abstract

This study is an investigation of the current methods used to rank schools. An example used throughout this current study was the "Report Card on British Columbia's Secondary Schools", published annually by the Fraser Institute. However, the methodology applied for ranking schools concealled relationships within and between schools because it only included aggregate data. The interest for researchers lies not only in the average relationship between schools, but in how this relationship varies across schools. As an alternative approach, multilevel analysis simultaneously model disaggregate and aggregate data, which provides more information to the researcher about within and between school variance. The principal idea underlying the theoretical framework of multilevel analysis is that schools are hierarchical structures. This present study adopted the multilevel assumption and aimed to investigate three research questions. First, how much of the variability in school performance on Grade 12 provincial examinations could be attributable to differences between schools and how much to differences within schools? Secondly, to what extent does the school attended influence the students' academic attainment? Thirdly, are there factors at the student and school levels that account for variability at either level? The findings in this study highlight how the sample of secondary schools in BC differed on examination achievement, and how including student-level information and school context allows researchers to identify the complicated relationships that occur within and between schools. The samples of schools were ranked according to their empirical Bayes estimates with 95% confidence intervals, which demonstrated that it was statistically invalid to compare a majority of schools based on the information collected in the present study. The results from this study established a benefit of using multilevel models and the limitations to using report cards based on a single numerical score for comparing the differences between schools in BC.

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