ACT public schools are performing below similar schools in other states despite expenditure per student being among the highest in the country, according to ACT Auditor-General Dr Maxine Cooper.
In a performance audit report presented to the ACT Legislative Assembly yesterday, Dr Cooper paints a picture of schools which appear to be going well but in reality should be performing much better due to the city’s high socio-educational advantage.
She says that there is a systemic problem in ACT public schools in terms of the analysis and effective use of student performance information.
“Since 2014 reviews of ACT public schools have consistently identified shortcomings in their analysis of student performance information and their use of data to inform educational practice. These shortcomings indicate a systemic problem,” Dr Cooper said.
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“There is a high level of variability in the use of student performance information and management information systems and a wide range of school?based assessment tools used across ACT public schools; for a small jurisdiction such as the ACT this is excessive.
“A better balance between school autonomy and consistency across schools in how performance information is analysed and used is needed.”
NAPLAN results under par
The ACT public school performance audit report states that ACT public schools tend to perform higher than the Australian average on most NAPLAN tests.
“However, this does not provide a full picture of the performance of ACT public schools, as it does not take account of the relatively higher socio-educational advantage of the ACT and it does not measure performance over time,” the report states.
“Students at ACT public schools generally have higher socio?educational advantages, as measured by the Index of Community and Socio?educational Advantage (ICSEA).
“A comparison of ACT public schools with other Australian schools with similar ICSEA values shows that the majority of ACT public schools’ NAPLAN results are lower than similar schools in Australia.”
Initiatives to improve performance
The performance audit found that the Education Directorate had started initiatives to improve governance and administrative arrangements for the use of student performance information in schools.
These have included moves to identify better ways to manage and use student performance information, as well the development of systems and tools to support the collection and analysis of student performance information.
In its response to the performance audit report, the ACT Education Directorate noted that the ACT was not immune to a trend whereby “over the past few years, national and international assessments of student achievement in Australia have shown little improvement, and in some areas have declined, despite an overall per student increase in expenditure.
“Even though we remain a high achieving system our key focus is on student gain across years of schooling,” the Education Directorate said in a statement.
“The Education Directorate is investing in the better use of data by teachers, school leaders and as a system.”
Are you concerned that Canberra public schools aren’t doing as well as they should be? Do individual schools have too much autonomy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.