Bad Apple Bullies

Bad Apple Bully school principals and departmental officers can bully Australian teachers into ill health - and out of work!

Something very odd is going on in ACT schools.

A new study suggests that there is a “systemic problem” of student underperformance in the nation’s capital.

The report, commissioned by The Australia Institute, was authored by Australian National University academics Andrew Macintosh and Deb Wilkinson.

Using data obtained from the National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), the detailed 44 page study shows that ACT government schools have been outperformed by “similar” government schools in other states and territories.

While the average results of NAPLAN tests from across the ACT tend to be above those from other Australian jurisdictions, the report argues this is a misleading indicator and does not compare apples with apples.

“The ACT’s high average NAPLAN results have masked underperformance,” it says. “As a whole, high SES (socio-economic status) ACT primary schools have tended to perform below the level of their statistically similar schools groups (SSSG).”

The report compares the NAPLAN performance of 24 high SES primary schools in the ACT between 2008 to 2016 to so-called “similar schools” from other jurisdictions over the same period.

The results show that ACT schools are lagging behind, with government schools faring particularly badly.

“70 per cent of the results from the ACT schools were below the average results from the comparator schools. And in 41 per cent of cases they were significantly or substantially below the average results from the comparator schools,” Professor Macintosh told The Australian. “We have a much higher proportion of kids performing at or below the national minimum standard than you would expect from high socio-economic status schools.”

According to the study, only 29 per cent of the mean NAPLAN results from the ACT schools were above the corresponding mean of similar schools in other jurisdictions with the report saying the underperformance was “mostly attributable to government schools.”

The analysis finds that 46 per cent of the mean NAPLAN results from government schools in the ACT were “significantly or substantially” below the corresponding mean from statistically similar schools groups (SSSG) in other jurisdictions.

“Government school results for low performing students were particularly alarming,” the report says. “The average proportion of students from the sample government schools that performed below the national minimum standard was 80 per cent higher than the SSSG average.”

It also notes that “a large proportion” of the ACT government school results that did perform above the corresponding SSSG mean came from “two schools with gifted streams.”

The hidden crisis in ACT schools, Joe Kelly, The Australian, July 21, 2017. 

ACT students do really well in reading literacy by Australian standards - but not very well by Singaporean standards.

Students from the ACT trailed Singaporean students in reading literacy by eight months, or the equivalent of 19 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) points in the December 2016 results.

The ACT was Australia's best performing jurisdiction.


Australian students rank 17th in the PISA reading international league table.

But the results of ACT students (taken in isolation from the other states) are equal to the reading results of Japan - eighth.


 The class divide is very real, Lauren Martyn-Jones, PP. 68-69, The Courier-Mail, 11 December 2016.

ACT NAPLAN results consistently outrank the national average.

ACT schools came top or equal top in 18 of 20 domains in the mid-2015 NAPLAN testing.

ACT results consistently outrank the national average in all 20 domains.

The ACT has ranked first or equal first in grammar and punctuation, and numeracy across all year levels since 2009.


ACT kids improve already top NAPLAN results, Emma MacDonald, The Canberra Times, 5 August 2015

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