Canberra students are bucking a national trend of improving NAPLAN test results, with scores declining from when assessments began for 40 per cent of exams.
Preliminary results, released on Wednesday, show year three students' scores in most Australian jurisdictions had an "uptick" in writing, reading, spelling, and grammar and punctuation. Students have been quizzed on writing since 2011, and subject to the rest since 2008.
While the ACT's reading results matched the trend, scores fell below the national average for writing, and improvements in grammar and punctuation were more significant for other jurisdictions. Scores for spelling improved since 2008, but dropped from last year to come in at below the national average in 2019.
Year three's numeracy scores dropped more than four points since last year's exams but remained slightly above the mean achieved in 2008. Four other jurisdictions managed to better their results in the 12 months between test sittings.
"We would want to see that kind of improvement sustained over time before we could say that the decline we've seen in recent years has been sufficiently addressed to anybody's satisfaction," Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority chief executive David de Carvalho said.
The ACT was one of two jurisdictions, along with NSW, to see a drop in year five writing scores since the element's introduction. All others saw an improvement, while scores dropped below 2008 levels for year five grammar and punctuation.
Scores for reading improved since the first tests for year five but dropped by 10 points compared with 2018 - the largest decline of all jurisdictions. Spelling saw an improvement on past results, but came in below Australia's average score this year.
For year seven students, mean scores improved slightly for spelling, numeracy and grammar and punctuation compared with 2008, but dropped slightly for reading, and by nearly 19 points for writing since 2011.
"As you get into the more senior years, students are more used to writing essays and assignments on computers and using keyboards so they might prefer the online version," Mr de Carvalho said.
Year nine scores dropped from 2008 levels in all exams except spelling. Despite this, ACT students remained above the national average in all but the one exam, and had the best results in Australia for year five reading, year seven numeracy, reading, and grammar and punctuation, and year nine reading and grammar and punctuation.
In other exams, it ranked among the top jurisdictions.
"These preliminary summary results are very consistent with previous years and once again show the ACT among the top performing jurisdictions," an Education Directorate spokesman said.
"We're committed to continuing to improve the quality of the education our students receive and providing pathways and opportunities for all of our students."
The ACT government had invested in several programs, including $5.4 million for the Empowered Learning Professionals Leadership Plan, to strengthen teachers' capabilities and ensure the best future for territory children.
This year, about half of Australian school students - or 94 per cent of Canberran students - sat NAPLAN in May online as part of a trial intended to transition to complete computer testing in 2020.
The trial has since been extended to 2021 due to connectivity issues, which saw more than 50,000 students out of 600,000 online forced to resit tests in 2019. A total 1.2 million students did NAPLAN.
Out of about 17,000 students who sat NAPLAN in the ACT, only 170 had to resit tests, the government spokesman said. Four were public school students.
Mr de Carvalho said the body was yet to receive jurisdiction-specific data on how many students could not resit tests because of other commitments.
They could have been recorded as absent or withdrawn; accounting for between nearly 11 and 13 per cent of the ACT's year nine students in each exam, and between nearly 5 and 7 per cent for other year groups.
Despite more students than ever before completing NAPLAN online in 2019 - 15 per cent did so in 2018 - the curriculum authority insisted results were comparable with previous years, although they should be considered "with care".
The reasons behind the connectivity issues were yet to be identified. The ACT government spokesperson said the territory's teachers had a full year of online implementation in 2018, and were prepared to act on disruptions.
"This meant that, in general, there was a much lower level of disruption in the ACT - with the exception of the cut fibre cable in the Catholic system which did result in some significant disruptions," the spokesman said.
Page resident Julie Marshall, whose children Tiffany and Sebastion Marshall did NAPLAN for years nine and five respectively this year, said she felt that they were less stressed because it was online.
"It was quicker and easier," Ms Marshall said.
Individual NAPLAN results would be distributed to ACT students in mid-September.