Selective-entry schools only marginally improve students' ATARs according to new research that questions whether elite state schools boost academic performance.
Students at selective-entry high schools achieve ATARs that are at most two points higher, on average, than similar students elsewhere.
The University of Melbourne research suggests that high-achieving students will do well at any school.
“Our results point to small effects in terms of university entrance ranks,” it said.
Researchers Brendan Houng and Chris Ryan from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research tracked the performance of two groups of students who sat entrance exams for selective-entry state high schools.
One group was offered year 9 spots at the sought-after schools, while the other group missed out or turned down their offer.
All students achieved similar NAPLAN results in years 7 and 9, were highly motivated and were disproportionately from immigrant and advantaged socio-economic backgrounds.
Mr Houng hoped his research would lead to a less narrow focus on academic achievement at selective-entry schools.
"One might easily think that selective schools might be more successful in helping students achieve higher ATARs, simply for the fact that on average, only high-ability students enter these schools," he said.
"But this is a form of sorting that we economists call a 'selection effect'."