No evidence Gonski improves outcomes – study

by Robert Ballantyne21 Jun 2016

A new study says there is no link between increased school funding and improved student outcomes.

The statistical study of 2015 NAPLAN data was undertaken by former University of Wollongong Graduate School of Education head, Ken Gannicott, and published in the latest edition of the Centre for Independent Studies' Policy magazine.

Despite calls, led by Labor and the Australian Education Union (AEU), for the needs-based Gonski funding model to be adopted in full, there is no evidence this would make a meaningful difference, said Gannicott.

“There is no evidence from either primary or secondary schools that higher funding is associated with improved academic outcomes,” Professor Gannicott said.

“No matter whether we use a simple test of the relationship between school funding and NAPLAN scores, or whether we include additional explanatory variables such as the socio-educational background of the school and its students, the result is the same: school performance is negatively related to funding.”

This week, Labor leader, Bill Shorten, told a Catholic schools convention in Perth that needs-based funding was essential for improved performance in classrooms.

"This election is about setting the certainty, once and for all, of funding for schools…setting, once and for all, the end of the end of the education wars. The establishment of needs-based funding is at the core of education debates in this country,” he said.

“Please don't leave this remarkable convention and go back and see the election and what you do in the ballot booth as separate to what you do in the classroom, because how you vote in the ballot box will affect some of what happens in the classroom.”

Labor has promised $37bn over 10 years, including $4.5bn in extra funding in 2018 and 2019, to fully fund the Gonski reforms. However, Gannicott said it was not a question of how much money, but rather a question of how it was spent.

However, Gannicott said future funding decisions should not be decided separately from the evidence supporting the newer approach to education policy.

“If we are serious about raising academic performance in Australian schools, it will require evidence-based policy review about the number of admissions and methods of selection into teacher training faculties, a fresh approach to training teachers in effective methods of instruction, and incentives and rewards for more effective teachers,” he said.

“More of the same is not going to work…The reasons for low performance are complex, but funding is clearly not the major explanation," he said.

AEU federal president, Correna Haythorpe, slammed the study, telling the Australian Financial Review it went against “overwhelming evidence” that school funding made a real difference in classrooms.

“This analysis ignores the improved results that Gonski funding is delivering in schools across Australia which have received Gonski funding directly and are using it to provide more one-to-one help in class for students, extra literacy and numeracy programs and other targeted support,” she said.

“This report goes against overwhelming evidence from across the OECD that better, and more equitable, funding is the key to lifting a school system's overall performance.”
 

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