New Data on the Education Divide Between Rich and Poor

A new paper published last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that students in higher income families do better in NAPLAN than students from lower income families. It says that a strong relationship is apparent between household income and children’s NAPLAN results across reading, writing and numeracy.

There is a consistent trend for children from households with better socioeconomic circumstances to perform better in NAPLAN, confirming that socioeconomic status and parental characteristics are a significant factor in student performance.

The paper analyses newly integrated data on the socioeconomic context of school achievement in Tasmania and the outcomes for Tasmanian Year 12 graduates and early school leavers. The information is based on the integration of Tasmanian school enrolments and National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) data, provided by the Department of Education Tasmania, and Census of Population and Housing data.

In Tasmanian households with an income under $400 a week, more than one in ten children scored below the national minimum standard for numeracy compared with only one in forty children in households with a weekly income of $2500 or more. A similar pattern is apparent for reading and writing.

The paper also found that Tasmanian students with lower NAPLAN results are less likely to continue on to Year 12. While 39% of Tasmanian students left school before enrolling in Year 12, this rate varied depending on their 2008 Year 9 NAPLAN reading score. Students with lower NAPLAN reading scores were less likely to enrol in Year 12. Only 5% of students with the highest reading results left school before enrolling in Year 12, compared with 57% of those who scored below the national minimum standard.

Students from the most disadvantaged areas were more likely than those from the most advantaged areas to leave school before Year 12 across all except the lowest band of NAPLAN scores. For example, of the students with scores in Band 6 (the national minimum standard) for reading in Year 9, less than half (43%) of students from the most advantaged areas left before Year 12 compared with 58% of students from the most disadvantaged areas.

The paper also analysed outcomes for a range of other population sub-groups in Tasmania.

Students from families where no parent was employed at the time of the Census were far more likely to score below the national minimum standard for numeracy, reading and writing. For example, 18% of students in couple families where neither parent was employed and 15% of students in one parent families where their parent was not employed did not meet the national minimum standard for reading.

In contrast, couple families where both parents were employed had the lowest proportion of students scoring below the national minimum standard, with 5% not meeting the national minimum standard for reading, 4% not meeting the national minimum standard for numeracy and 11% not meeting the national minimum standard for writing.

Consistent with the indicators of socioeconomic status, children of homeowners tended to do better on NAPLAN than renters, particularly those in public housing. Less than 5% of children whose home was owned, either outright or with a mortgage, scored below the NAPLAN national minimum standard for numeracy. Students in a household renting from the state housing authority fared the worst, with 17% of these scoring below the national minimum standard for numeracy.

Children in larger families were more likely to score below the national minimum standard for reading, writing and numeracy. For example, more than twice the proportion of children in families with six or more children did not meet the national minimum standard for reading, compared with those in families with one child (20% compared with 9%).

While the majority of children live in a dwelling with broadband internet access, children in households with no internet connection fared more poorly on numeracy, reading and writing. Eighteen percent of children in households with no internet connection scored below the national minimum standard for reading compared with 7% of those who did have the internet at home.

The new paper is the first in a series of releases that will publish the results from the Measuring Educational Outcomes over the Life-course project being conducted by the ABS. The aim of the project is to link datasets and produce analyses that assess the impact of personal, family, social and economic characteristics on school achievement over time.

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