Report Shows Stanhope Govt. Fails on Education

Save Our Schools said today that the report on student performance in the ACT by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) is a devastating indictment of the performance of the Stanhope Government in education.

SOS spokesperson Trevor Cobbold, said that the report shows that there are large inequities in education outcomes in the ACT and declining student achievement in key areas.

“The ACER report, covering public and private schools, shows very large achievement gaps in reading, mathematics and science between students from high and low socio-economic status (SES) families in the ACT. Low SES students are 2 to 3 years of schooling behind high SES students.

“These achievement gaps are the largest in Australia, except for the Northern Territory.

“The ACT has high average results across public and private schools which are comparable with the best in the country. However, the report also shows declines in student achievement in some areas and no improvement in others from 2000 and 2006.

The report states that:

  • Average reading scores in the ACT declined between 2000 and 2006 by 17 points;
  • Average scores in reading amongst the top performing students declined by between 23 and 37 points;
  • Average scores in mathematics amongst the top performing students declined by 23-24 points between 2003 and 2006;
  • There were large declines in the proportion of students at the top levels of achievement in reading and mathematics; and
  • The proportion of students at the bottom levels of achievement in reading has increased since 2000.

“The absolute decline in reading achievement is equivalent to 6 months of schooling and the declines at the top levels of achievement are even larger.

“Clearly, something has gone wrong in ACT education during the period of the Stanhope Government. Student achievement has declined under its watch and large inequities in education remain.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the ACER report was commissioned by the Minister for Education in response to an SOS report published in the Canberra Times at the beginning of February.

“The ACER report fully confirms the analysis published by Save Our Schools on the large achievement gap between students from high and low SES families. For example, in relation to science achievement the report states:

“The [socio-economic] gradient for the Northern Territory is the steepest, with the Australian Capital Territory almost as steep…. [p.28]

“Even the Minister’s claim that low SES students in the ACT are doing better than their counterparts elsewhere is questionable. The graphs published in the report show that the socio-economic gradient for the ACT meets that of other states in reading, mathematics and science at the low SES end. This indicates that low SES students in the ACT are doing no better than low SES students in some other states.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the ACER report shows that the ACT Government should revise its education strategy.

“Improving equity in education and reversing the decline in student performance are fundamental issues facing ACT education. The ‘bricks and mortar’ approach of the Stanhope Government is clearly inadequate. It needs to revise its strategy. In particular, we need a massive targeted program to lift student outcomes amongst the disadvantaged in our community.”

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