Teachers play a key role during the pivotal early stages of a child’s life. Having a high-quality teacher can have a large impact on a child’s academic performance, especially for disadvantaged students. But do all Australian children have the same access to such teachers?
We shed new light on this question by examining the prior academic achievement (ATAR) of secondary school teachers in NSW. Prior academic achievement, while far from the sole determinant, is one of the most consistent predictors of teacher quality. We find that:
- Lower-aptitude teachers tend to work in disadvantaged areas where students perform poorly in NAPLAN, while higher-aptitude teachers tend to work in less disadvantaged areas where students perform well in NAPLAN.
- This geographic divide is particularly strong in metropolitan areas of Sydney and could be acting to perpetuate educational inequality.
Our research suggests that to improve the academic performance of students in low socio-economic status and rural areas, the government should consider ways to tackle the unequal access to high-aptitude teachers.