Using National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) data in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)

LSAC Technical Paper No. 8

1 Introduction

1.1 The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) is a national study designed to provide an in-depth understanding of children's development in Australia's current social, economic and cultural environment, thereby contributing to the evidence base for future policy and practice development.

The study is conducted in partnership between the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), with advice provided by a consortium of leading researchers from research institutions and universities throughout Australia.

The study commenced in 2004 with the recruitment of two cohorts: one cohort of 5,107 children aged 0-1 year old (the birth or "B cohort") and another of 4,983 children aged 4-5 years old (the kindergarten or "K cohort") and their families across all states and territories of Australia. Interviews comprising different instruments are conducted with families every two years.

1.2 National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)

The National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is designed to assess all Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy, using a national test that has been conducted annually since 2008, on the same days each year.

The NAPLAN assessment process is performed using a national common reporting format by the test administration authorities. The reporting scales are constructed so that given scale scores can be compared across school year levels and over time. For example, a score of 500 in Reading for Year 3 in 2008 means the same as a score of 500 for Year 5 in 2008 and will also mean the same in future testing years. For more details on the NAPLAN assessment process, refer to the reports: 2009 National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs [MCEECDYA], 2009) and Reporting Guide: 2009 National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority [VCAA], 2009).

LSAC does not have an instrument that directly measures children's academic performance after the study child starts school; instead, a class teacher and a parent each rate the children's academic performance. The parent's assessment is based on a relative comparison with the child's classmates, and therefore cannot be considered as an objective measure of the child's academic performance. Academic standards employed by teachers might also vary across teachers and schools. More issues arise as children enter high school. First of all, at that level, parents might be less aware of their children's academic achievements and, secondly, high school students have a number of different teachers and, therefore, any one teacher cannot properly assess a child's entire academic performance.

The NAPLAN score is a standardised measure that allows researchers to compare children's and schools' performances over time; therefore, it is extremely useful to link NAPLAN data to the LSAC database. The national and longitudinal nature of the NAPLAN tests enhances the value of LSAC to policy-makers and academic researchers, so during the LSAC Wave 3 and Wave 4 data collections, parents were asked to give consent to link a study child's NAPLAN data to the LSAC database.

This paper aims to provide guidance to a researcher on the NAPLAN data and how to use these data in LSAC. The paper describes the process of matching and linking NAPLAN data to the LSAC database and the resulting data structure of NAPLAN for LSAC data users. It draws attention to the extent and nature of bias introduced by missing NAPLAN data, benchmarks LSAC NAPLAN scores to national NAPLAN scores, and reports on the degree to which NAPLAN scores are associated with other cognitive and learning outcomes in the LSAC. The paper uses only K cohort data. These data are used only as an example. The same approach and analysis may also be directly applied to B cohort data; however, given that at the time of writing only 20% of B cohort children had sat NAPLAN tests and nearly all K cohort children had sat at least one NAPLAN test, the latter cohort of children was chosen for ease of explanation.

Section 2 presents an overview of how consent was obtained, and the matching and linkage processes. It then examines to what degree the sample of children with linked NAPLAN data is representative of the LSAC Wave 1 sample. Section 3 describes how NAPLAN data are stored in the LSAC data file. Section 4 discusses the correspondence between year level cohort and birth cohort and how to use NAPLAN data in LSAC. Section 5 examines the representativeness of the NAPLAN results in LSAC at the national level and across different socio-demographic groups. The fifth section also explores the extent to which NAPLAN data are correlated with the main cognitive and learning measures used in LSAC. A discussion concludes the paper.

Authors

Galina Daraganova is a Research Fellow - Data Analyst, Ben Edwards is the Executive Manager - Longitudinal Studies and Mark Sipthorp is Data manager with LSAC at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the state and territory education departments who supported the data linkage process, because without their ongoing support NAPLAN could not be linked to the LSAC data. For their useful comments, thanks also go to Dr Daryl Higgins and Professor Alan Hayes at the Australian Institute of Family Studies; the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; the Australian Bureau of Statistics; and reviewers of this paper from the LSAC Data Expert Reference Group.

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, is conducted in partnership between the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with advice provided by a consortium of leading researchers.

For more information

Research Publications Unit
Research and Analysis Branch
Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
PO Box 7576
Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610
Phone: (02) 6244 5458
Fax: (02) 6133 8387
Email

Download printable version of LSAC Technical paper No. 8 (PDF 1.4 MB)

Next: 2 Linkage

Top