Who’s No. 1? Investigating the Mathematics of Rankings

No. 13 seed Oakland, with Travis Bader and Coach Greg Kampe, makes a tempting pick against No. 4 Texas in the second round.

Jay Pickthorn/Associated PressThe No. 13 N.C.A.A. seed, Oakland, with Travis Bader and Coach Greg Kampe, makes a tempting pick against No. 4, Texas, in the second round.Go to related FiveThirtyEight blog post »|Go to related article »Overview| Rankings and ratings can have considerable, and serious, implications. How do we determine that a student, team, school, teacher or policy is better than another? And what does “better” mean? In this lesson, students explore the use of quantitative ratings by examining how Division I college basketball teams are ranked, and how specific mathematical decisions can have significant consequences.

Materials| Computers with Internet access; Simple Spreadsheet software (optional)

Warm-up| Tell students to pair up and work with their partners to answer the following questions:

How can we determine the top student in school? Would you use a single variable, like grade point average? Or would you create a ranking system based on multiple variables, like G.P.A. and standardized test scores, activity participation and perhaps other factors? How might you begin to create a fair composite ranking system using quantifiable measures?

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Australian Govt. makes teachers accountable by launching website which ranks & compares schools performance

With all Australian school children returning to school tomorrow teachers and principals may have more on their plate on the first day than simply setting up their rooms and getting to know students and parents.

The Federal governments new myschool.edu.au website has caused quite a commotion following it's launch last week as outraging many educators for publicly publishing and ranking all of the NAPLAN ( National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy ) testing data against all schools both private and public across the nation.

Parents have always had the opportunity to view how their child compares to national averages in literacy and numeracy but this is the first time that schools have actually come under scrutiny by the public eye.

Teachers believe the one off testing does not give an accurate account of a students ability and they now feel burdened to better prepare students for a test that may or may not be a part of their curriculum when it is delivered.  They would prefer to see a more accountable testing schedule put into place and do not feel as though they should be pressured into teaching to a single test to make their school appear better to the public eye.

Even more frightening to teachers is the increasing discussion from federal and state politicians regarding paying teachers on student performance results.  This could only be detrimental and lead teachers down the path of teaching to tests instead of helping students achieve their individual academic needs.  It also would greatly disadvantage teachers working in lower socio-economic areas.

The Federal Minister of Education Julia Gillard has repeatedly reassured teachers that myschool.edu.au is not the beginning of a Big Brother approach to education but simply an attempt to make education more transparent to parents and to help identify areas of need in national education.