ACT News


Understanding the NAPLAN test scores: A parents' guide

The Canberra Times is publishing the literacy and numeracy scores of every ACT school included in the test results, along with how they compare to the national average.

NSW laws mean we are not allowed to publish details of schools in that state.

The scores come from the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy, or NAPLAN, and are broken down by year and by subject, showing that schools perform better in some areas than others. However, readers should treat rankings with caution as the top score does not necessarily mean that school has provided the best education.

Each student comes to school with different abilities and authorities have tried to measure this through the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage, or ICSEA. Readers should compare a school's NAPLAN rankings with its ICSEA index. The index, which has been refined this year to present a more accurate measure of educational advantage, uses information about parents, including their jobs and education, to consider the relative advantage of their child, and to calculate a school's overall advantage.


The higher the index, the better the school should be expected to perform. For example, Canberra Grammar has come in with the top ICSEA score of 1212, which, when broken down, shows 85 per cent of students are in the top quarter of educational advantage.

This compares with a national average of just 25 per cent of students being in the top quartile of advantage. Therefore, it should be expected that these students should perform well above the national average.

Conversely, Jervis Bay, a school which is operated by the ACT government, has an ICSEA score of 681 and has 80 per cent of its students in the bottom quartile of advantage. While Jervis Bay's results could reasonably be expected to come at the bottom of the pack, it performs better than other schools with the same lack of advantage, and has improved student results over time. It could be argued that Jervis Bay Primary provides a bigger impact on the outcomes of its students than Canberra Grammar School.

The Canberra Times will reveal tomorrow which ACT schools are punching above their weight by performing significantly better than similar schools.

Meanwhile, more information on how each school performed in comparison to the 60 most-similar schools in the country is available on the My School website -

Almost 10,000 schools can be found on the website by their name, suburb, town or postcode. Each school has its own set of pages including basic data about the school, such as the range of years taught, number of students, attendance rates, number of teachers and percentage of indigenous students and of those who speak English as a second language.

The school's NAPLAN results for years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are broken down into five categories: reading; writing; spelling; grammar and punctuation and numeracy. These are the results that have been reproduced in The Canberra Times.

Each score is effectively an estimate of students' performance in each area.

The full website also provides the margin of error for each score with a 90 per cent confidence level. There are two boxes below each main score. The first, labelled SIM, shows the average score of similar schools - that is, schools with similar ICSEA ratings - and it also includes a margin of error. The ALL box details how the school compares with national averages. Parents can compare these numbers to see how their child's class compares to similar schools and to the national average. The class's margin of error is used to determine whether a school is statistically close to or different than, the national average. This section comes with a colour code: red means the school is below average, green means it performs above average and white means it is roughly average.

The new addition to this year's website is a mapping feature to show other schools in the local area.

Financial data is also available on each school, including net recurrent income, which shows how much money is spent by - or on behalf of - the school in the year, and where that money came from. Parents can also see the net recurrent income per student, which is effectively how much money is spent for each child at the school.