Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, has written up a paper on Swedish school reforms, which you can download here. I thought it was worth using to quickly flag up two important statistical public policy points.
The context to this is that Sweden has, since the early 1990s, allowed private (including for-profit) institutions to enter the school system – and parallels are often drawn between it and the ongoing reforms of England’s school system. This paper, as Fraser rightly says, comes to the view that increasing the volume of private schools in an area is associated with improved results. Mikael Lindahl and Anders Böhlmark say:
If we transform our estimates to standard deviation (S.D.) units (using the variation across all individuals) we find that a 10 percentage point increase in the share of independent-school students has resulted in 0.07 S.D. higher average educational achievement at the end of compulsory school.
Today, World Diabetes Day, is a good time to look at what countries weigh. Not in economic heft or population numbers, but the actual physical weight of their population.
Specifically, we established countries’ share of the global population and their share of global weight (using data on their average body mass index (BMI) and their average height for the male population over 20 years old). Then we calculated the difference between these two measures.
The weightiest countries are the US, Mexico and Brazil: their share of the total global body mass is bigger than their proportion of the global population. All three countries have an average body mass index of above 25, which corresponds to being overweight. Read more
Nate Silver’s success in predicting the winner of the US election symbolises a generational shift in political analysis, from qualitative to quantitative, rendering an intermediate class of skilled labour obsolete. It is a shift already seen in other fields, such as finance. Read more
With the US presidential election race coming to an end tomorrow (we hope!), it is time to take one last one last look at the RealClearPolitics (RCP) poll average and the Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM) winner-take-all contracts and see where things stand.
We’re including one more data set this time just to give an additional picture – Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model, which has become the source of quite a bit of contention.
One thing to point out about the IEM that we mentioned in the initial post – the contracts represent a probability, as does the much-cited FiveThirtyEight model that we’ll look at later in this post. That means that as it stands in the IEM, Obama is the favourite but far from a sure thing.
The RCP poll average appears neck and neck:
One question I get asked a lot is: “You say that Frewmanackshire is a terrible local authority. How do you know? Do you know what we are working with?” etc etc. It is true that schools with radically different intakes cannot be usefully compared. So I thought I would let you in on how I benchmark schools, and supply you with two jolly new maps.
What I do for secondary schools, is run a simple regression – that is to say, I fit a simple line through all the pupils’ school results in the country after asking it to account for the children’s ethnicity, poverty and prior test results. Unlike other models, the regression contains precisely zero information about the schools – only data about the children. Read more
On Thursday afternoon, journalists were taken into the basement of a Westminster building, fed chicken satay and walked through Ofqual’s report on the recent English GCSE. During the summer, a late shift in grade boundaries shocked schools, leaving many high-flying schools with significantly worse results than they had been expecting.
The most striking outcome of the Ofqual research is that it seems to find evidence of cheating. It is incidental to the main purpose of the review, which was to ask whether the shift in the grade boundaries was correct. But it’s a stunning – and quite clear – finding.
Here is the issue: English GCSE can be taken in such a way that the pupil has done everything except for teacher-marked “controlled assessments” in the final months. If they do that, the teachers know what marks each pupil needs. And teachers give those marks.
In the graph below, Ofqual have worked out how many marks candidates needed from their teachers to get a C. If they got a mark to the right of the red vertical line, the teacher gave them a high enough grade to get the C. The shape of that distribution is, frankly, a sign of something horribly wrong. Teachers are massaging marks.
By Kate Allen and Katie Carnie.
As the FT’s new interactive graphic shows, the UK’s reliance on nuclear energy is a vital part of its energy policy. With many plants due to shut down in the coming years, Hitachi’s deal to buy the Horizon plant is a welcome step. But aside from nuclear, where does the rest of the UK’s power come from?
Historically, Britain was reliant on coal until the North Sea oil fields were opened up. Nuclear then became a major source in the 1980s, and in recent years the use of natural gas has stepped up considerably – again making the most of its considerable territorial reserves.