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March Monthly Research Digest

The March 2018 Digest offers extended editorial commentary on on a paper Stephen Billings and colleagues, entitled 'Gentrification and Failing Schools: The Unintended Consequences of School Choice under NCLB'.

A digital divide? Randomised evidence on the impact of computer-based assessment in PISA

This paper looks at one of the most important alteration: the move to computer-based assessment in 2015. Between 2000 and 2012, PISA was carried out as a regular paper-based assessment. However, in 2015, pupils in the great majority of countries instead took the test on a computer. Since the change to computer-based assessment could affect pupil performance by itself – in ways that differ between countries – it has the potential to reduce comparability of PISA test scores across countries and over time.

Optimising autonomy: a blueprint for education reform

The English school system has ostensibly been moving in the direction of greater autonomy over several decades, but having been apparently taken to a new level in 2010 with the introduction of free schools and broader offer of academy status, doubts have begun to emerge as to whether these most recent reforms have made any real difference to student outcomes. While the theoretical and international evidence base for autonomy reforms is persuasive, and there is evidence of positive impact in pre-2010 Sponsored Academies, recent research from the London School of Economics finds no trace of post-conversion improvement in previously 'Good' or 'Satisfactory'/inadequate Converters and a concerning degree of heterogeneity. At the same time, head-teacher responses to the 2015 PISA survey reveal a widespread perception that there is no difference in the degree of autonomy between academies and maintained schools in respect of either resource or curriculum autonomy. Optimising autonomy considers what may lie behind these findings. Taking into its purview issues of system and policy design in relation to school autonomy - competition and choice, information provision, accountability and oversight, pupil allocation and funding, different institution-level responses to these reforms, issues of governance, leadership, and management effectiveness, curriculum, pedagogy and testing - the report offers in the process a comprehensive theory of change indicating where and how present arrangements may be helping and/or hindering the cause of system-wide improvement.

Who’s to produce and who’s to choose? Assessing the future of the qualifications and assessment market

The question how should the qualifications of students be assessed is one of the most defining and important aspects of any education system. England, Wales, and Northern Ireland have a unique system of qualifications and assessment distinguished by choice and diversity.

Taking a lead: how to access the leadership premium

As plans for whole system structural reform have developed, much of the government’s education reform strategy has come to turn on its being able to capitalise a leadership premium.