ACT schools falling behind on league tables
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ACT schools falling behind on league tables

The ACT continues to underperform across high school numeracy, spelling and writing when our middle class advantage is factored into literacy and numeracy results.

According to league tables of ACT school results based on 2014 NAPLAN raw scores, the territory performs well above the national average.

Covernant Christian School Year 10 students Shannon Buckpitt and Ellyn Cilliers have helped their school buck the ACT trend.

Covernant Christian School Year 10 students Shannon Buckpitt and Ellyn Cilliers have helped their school buck the ACT trend.Credit:Jay Cronan

Yet that edge is reduced significantly when ACT schools are compared with those which have similar levels of socio-educational advantage.

In separate tables in which results are scaled on the Index of Socio-Educational Advantage, it is clear far fewer ACT schools are leading the way in literacy and numeracy in the senior years of school – and most, in fact, are lagging behind other similar schools across the nation.

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One exception is Covenant Christian School, a small, low-fee independent school in Tuggeranong.

Covenant has come out as the ACT's top performer in Year 9 across reading, spelling, grammar and has come second to Emmaus Christian school in numeracy.

Principal Martin Keast said the school was small and close-knit – with only 125 students across kindergarten to Year 10.

"I guess our size sets us apart. You come into our school and it is a lot quieter than others. We have our desks lined up facing the teacher, and we use a more direct instruction model. We want our teachers to teach," Mr Keast said.

Mr Keast said the school was trying to get back to things that had been proven to work. "We feel that education has lost the way a bit."

But he also cautioned against any parent placing too much emphasis on any league table or NAPLAN result.

"I would say to any parent you have to go and see the whole school. We are strong on community and nurturing and our caring environment doesn't necessarily translate into high NAPLAN scores. To use a 40 minute test once a year as a sole judge of a school is naive."

When My School went live with the 2014 results on Wednesday, ACARA issued the findings of Colmar Brunton commissioned research into the value of the website tool.

The research confirmed that while parents valued it, school communities were wary of information being misinterpreted.

The report, "Perspectives on the My School Website" found the website was perceived to be aimed at, and primarily used by, parents.

It played a lesser role for principals, partners and other stakeholders who had access to alternative sources of information – often more updated and detailed.

After conducting focus groups with parents and educators, the report said "parents appreciate having a range of information about schools available in a central online location as provided by My School. (It) is a starting point for parents who are in the process of selecting a school for their child or children. It is also used by some parents to monitor the progress of a specific school over time. My School is one of many sources of information considered by parents and is not commonly used as the sole input for decision making."

Meanwhile, "there are some principals, partners and other stakeholders who continue to have strong reservations about the merits of providing this information in a publicly available form due to the perceived potential for misinterpretation by parents."

Public education groups denounced The Canberra Times publication of league tables on Saturday based on raw data from NAPLAN testing.

Emma Macdonald is a senior reporter for The Canberra Times.

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