One major challenge the current Queensland Government faces is the need to reform a school system that historically has had a disproportionate number of low-performing schools. The extent of poor performance among our secondary schools is pretty clear in data presented in the recent Grattan Institute report Turning around schools: it can be done (Table 1 from p.4 is copied and pasted below). Based on NAPLAN results, Grattan estimates Queensland has 44 low-performing schools in reading and numeracy, compared with 43 in NSW, which has a much larger number of schools than Queensland, and 7 in Victoria, which also has more schools than Queensland but obviously has an excellent education system compared with ours.
Grattan has defined a low-performing school as one where the average student NAPLAN results (over 2008 to 2012) are two years below the Average Australian student for that year level. That is, a school would be low-performing if its year 9 students had the reading and numeracy results of year 7 students (or worse). As noted above, there are 44 Queensland secondary schools where this is the case. To help convey just how disproportionate the number of low-performing schools in Queensland is, I’ve charted the percentage of Queensland secondary schools (including combined primary and secondary schools in the denominator as well) that are low-performing in reading, numeracy and both reading and numeracy below.
To some extent, Queensland’s poor performance may be due to a number of schools in remote and regional areas with relatively disadvantaged student populations. Understanding the nature of our low-performing schools should be an urgent task of the Education Department’s. It’s too early to judge the performance of the current Queensland Government on education, and I very much hope they can improve outcomes in Queensland’s low-performing schools.