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League Tables and Their Limitations: Statistical Issues in Comparisons of Institutional Performance

Harvey Goldstein and David J. Spiegelhalter
Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (Statistics in Society)
Vol. 159, No. 3 (1996), pp. 385-443
Published by: Wiley for the Royal Statistical Society
DOI: 10.2307/2983325
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2983325
Page Count: 59
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League Tables and Their Limitations: Statistical Issues in Comparisons of Institutional Performance
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Abstract

In the light of an increasing interest in the accountability of public institutions, this paper sets out the statistical issues involved in making quantitative comparisons between institutions in the areas of health and education. We deal in detail with the need to take account of model-based uncertainty in making comparisons. We discuss the need to establish appropriate measures of institutional `outcomes' and base-line measures and the need to exercise care and sensitivity when interpreting apparent differences. The paper emphasizes that statistical methods exist which can contribute to an understanding of the extent and possible reasons for differences between institutions. It also urges caution by discussing the limitations of such methods.

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