18 December 2023

ACT schools' NAPLAN results are just above other states, but should they be better?

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Catholic schools in the ACT have outperformed government schools since 2020, thanks to the new ”Catalyst” curriculum. Photo: Catholic Education.

The ACT has performed slightly better than other jurisdictions on a school-by-school basis in this year’s NAPLAN results, as public school teachers reject suggestions their students are faring significantly worse than neighbouring Catholic schools.

Individual school information on the My School website has been updated, with the latest school-level NAPLAN data and profile information for 2023 showing mixed results for local schools given the ACT’s demographic profile.

The information enables like-for-like comparisons taking into account socioeconomic factors, enrolment size and performance against national standards.

At Taylor Primary School in Kambah, for example, students in Year 3 are performing around the average for similar schools in reading, grammar and numeracy and slightly below for writing and spelling. In Year 5, results are on par across the board except for writing, which is assessed as well below students with a similar background.

Some 19 per cent of Taylor Primary students come from the bottom socioeconomic quartile, with a further 25 per cent from the lower-middle quartile.

At nearby St Thomas the Apostle, with almost identical enrolment numbers, only 6 per cent of students come from the lowest socioeconomic group, while 41 per cent of the school is in the upper-middle quartile and 30 per cent is in the top quartile.

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Students in Years 3 and 5 at St Thomas are on par with students from similar backgrounds across all areas of assessment except spelling in Year 3, where they are slightly below.

By contrast, at St Joseph’s Primary School in O’Connor and nearby Lyneham Primary School, about 60 per cent of students are from the highest socioeconomic group.

Both schools are performing well below the average in Year 5 for students with a similar background, and are mostly average in the national comparison with all schools.

Students at Birchgrove Public School or Father John Terry Catholic School at Balmain in Sydney’s inner west, with similarly high socioeconomic backgrounds to the inner north, are achieving at the same levels across the board as those of similar backgrounds and above or well above the national average.

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Critics of the ACT’s education system have long argued that while the Territory’s NAPLAN results are average to high, they should be significantly better given the much larger proportion of tertiary-educated professionals in Canberra by comparison with other jurisdictions.

The national testing system was changed last year to assessment against four levels of proficiency based on previous levels of achievement – ”exceeding”, ”strong”, ”developing” and ”needs additional support”.

The change means it’s more difficult to compare results with the past, but teachers say it will help them – and parents – to validate a student’s performance against classroom performance.

In recent years, the ACT’s Catholic schools have drawn national attention for the Catalyst program, prioritising high-impact “explicit instruction” literacy teaching focusing on direct instruction and regular reviews.

The program, implemented over the past four years, is credited with major improvements in literacy among students enrolled in the Catholic education system across the Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese.

However, teachers reject the “myth” that public schools don’t use direct instruction methods and say that Catholic school students are more likely to come from higher-income families.

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I just checked the NAPLAN results of the schools mentioned in this article and it highlights some missed analysis by the author and what should be the real story.

Lyneham Primary outperformed Taylor Primary in Kambah in every single literacy and numeracy category, in every single test result, in every single year, and every single year level tested. Total results clean sweep by Lyneham.

This article is a twisted tale based solely on the author’s misunderstanding of socioeconomic comparisons across Australian schools instead of being a well researched article on declining school performance in the ACT.

Genevieve should further check out the Namadgi Kambah Superschool results for a real story on underperforming schools in the ACT. Namadgi’s year 3 and 5 results are a sea of red underperformance scores and are even worse when compared to similar low socioeconomic schools in other struggling areas of the country.

William Newby3:51 am 20 Dec 23

Minister Barr will be furious to learn of this, I wonder if he will attempt to strip these Catholic schools of their land and have them remove the crosses?
If only hospitals had similar NAPLAN scorecards by which their competence and performance could have been openly measured.

Problem is Genevieve Jacob’s doesn’t understand the socio economic scoring system and how Canberra SA1’s SEIFA scores don’t align well with the rest of the country.

I can almost guarantee that the O’Connor school is as equally well resourced as the Kambah school, possibly has as good if not better teachers and has better educated parents.

There’s other issues at play, some of them socioeconomic, the other issue is Kambah parents who care about their kids education and understand education requirements do not send their kids to the Kambah Namadgi superschool but instead to the small Taylor primary on the north eastern side of Kambah. There’s a reason that small school is at capacity whilst Andrew Barr’s disastrous superschool is only about a third capacity.

Some misguided cherry picking by Genevieve.

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