ACARA facts


Response to NAPLAN media stories by ACARA CEO David de Carvalho

29 November 2022

Media reporting using NAPLAN data to show the “best performing” public and private schools in Australia highlights how misleading media reports can be when it comes to education.

The problem with “league tables” presented in these news stories is that they take no account of the educational advantages that the students who are enrolled in these so-called “top-performing schools” bring with them.

Many of these students have parents who are affluent and well-educated themselves, which is an enormous advantage.

For example, the student populations at both the “top performing” primary and secondary schools in NSW are in the top 1% in terms of socio-educational advantage which takes into account parental education and employment.

To heap credit on the schools they attend, just because they are getting high scores, is to mistake the outcome for the educational input provided by the school. Many of these students would do just as well at other schools.

A more accurate and meaningful approach to assessing the educational input that a school provides is found in the changes to the My School website that ACARA introduced in 2020. This allows for a fairer assessment by comparing the increase in average NAPLAN scores at a school between two tests (e.g., Year 3 and Year 5) with the increase achieved by all other students across the country who had the same starting score and the same level of socio-educational advantage.

It provides authoritative and accurate information that parents can use to assess which schools are really making a difference. I recommend it to your readers.

David de Carvalho, CEO, ACARA (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority)

Professor of Education

Professor of Education

The University of Western Australia

Associate Professor

Associate Professor

University of Colorado Boulder