The Victorian Government has just published a registry of the state's schools over the internet, allowing everyone to know how well a certain school is faring against others over a given set of parameters. You can access that registry here.
I have a problem with such superficial comparisons between schools. First because I'm not sure the right parameters are being measured and that whatever's measured is measured properly. Second, and more importantly, such comparisons will only make the worse schools even worse as those that have the ability to avoid them will strive harder to do so.
Quibbles aside, a registry such as this provides what is, by far, the best resource we have on our hands to determine how good the schools in the given areas where we are currently considering buying a house are. You can say it's an effective real estate guide. As I have explained before, the quality of available state schooling is of utmost importance to us when picking a potential future home. Thus far we had to rely on crude parameters such as word of mouth, quality of internet website and external looks when judging schools, but as much as I find the new registry problematic, it is obvious it is significantly more reliable than the measures we've used till now.
So, what did I find when I looked at the registry? The first observation is that the areas we've been looking at so far all sport schools that are either average or above average. The second observation is much more interesting: some of the schools that thus far I used to regard as the worst, to the effect of prejudicing against an entire area, have turned out to actually be the best performers.
And what are the lessons here? Simple: Observations made using unsubstantiated data should not be used for making crucial decisions. But the much more interesting observation is this: word of mouth should not be taken too far; the people spreading the words of mouth are obviously people that spread that word of mouth because they feel the need to assure themselves they have made the right decision.