Publication Date



ACER Research Monograph 65; ISBN 978-1-74286-051-0

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In 2000, ACER commenced the Longitudinal Literacy and Numeracy Surveys for Indigenous Students (ILLANS), which set out to track the development of English literacy and numeracy skills in a group of Indigenous students from school entry through the early years of schooling and beyond, to establish a data-rich picture of educational opportunities for Indigenous students. Phase 1 of ILLANS collected data from Indigenous students at 13 schools across Australia that had been nominated by education systems as examples of good practice in education for Indigenous students. The first three years of the study were reported in the monograph Supporting English Literacy and Numeracy Learning for Indigenous Students in the Early Years (Frigi et al., 2003). Students who participated in the LLANS during their first three years of schooling acted as a comparison group for the Indigenous students who participated in Phase 1 of ILLANS. Phase 2 of ILLANS, which is reported in this monograph, followed students through Years 3–6 of primary school (2003–2006). In Phase 2, non-Indigenous students from the same schools acted as a comparison group for Indigenous students who participated in ILLANS. ILLANS aimed to track the growth in literacy and numeracy achievement of a group of Australian Indigenous students who commenced school in 2000. Phase 2 of ILLANS focused on comparing literacy and numeracy achievement of Indigenous students in the study with non-Indigenous students from the same schools. For Phase 2 of ILLANS, 11 of the original 13 schools from Phase 1 agreed to participate and 14 additional schools across Australia were also recruited. All schools that participated in ILLANS were nominated because they had recognised initiatives and supports for Indigenous students at their school, with many publicly recognised for their efforts. At the end of Phase 2, as children made the transition from Years 2–3, there was widespread mobility in the sample and as a result many children left the study. For this reason, additional children were recruited for the study in Phase 2. Non-Indigenous students at the same schools were recruited to the study in Phase 2, as they were considered a better comparison group for the Indigenous students in this study than the students in the LLANS study used as a comparison group in Phase 1. Achievement data on literacy and numeracy were collected from participating students in Term 2 of each year during Phase 2 of the study. The data collection followed closely that of the LLANS, with the Developmental Assessment Resource for Teachers (DART) used for literacy assessments and assessment tasks developed specifically for the LLANS used to monitor growth in numeracy. In addition to achievement data, data on student background (e.g. home language and absenteeism), teacher-rated student achievement and attentiveness, and student ratings of their school’s climate and themselves as learners, were collected to provide a richer perspective on the experiences of Indigenous students at ILLANS schools. Finally, the project aimed to explore in greater depth the characteristics of schools and teachers thought to promote achievement among Indigenous students by conducting interviews with selected staff in a sample of ILLANS schools. Case studies of five schools participating in Phase 2 of ILLANS were conducted in 2005. Selection of these schools was based on a preliminary analysis of quantitative achievement data to select schools that represented a wide range of achievement for Indigenous students. These case studies focused on exploring factors thought to enhance literacy and numeracy learning among Indigenous students. To focus the interviews, the questions were derived from eight priority areas for Indigenous education agreed to by the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) in 1995. In particular, the interviews focused on the role of parent and community involvement in the school, the effectiveness of professional development for teachers, and the place of a culturally inclusive curriculum in promoting the achievement of Indigenous students. The findings of Phase 2 of ILLANS showed that the average achievement of Indigenous students in the study was lower than that of non-Indigenous students on English literacy and numeracy assessments across the final four years of primary schooling. At the same time, the results also demonstrated significant variability in achievement within the groups. Many Indigenous students achieve as well as or better than the average performance of all students. There is wide variability between schools in average achievement, with very high achievement in literacy and numeracy recorded by Indigenous students at some schools. This finding reflects the importance of isolating critical school-level factors that support Indigenous students to achieve highly at school. Though the data reflects a gap in average achievement, it is clear that there is growth in English literacy and numeracy skills across time and that the rate of development for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students is similar. Nonetheless, the gap in average achievement that is evident at the beginning of Year 3 remains relatively consistent to the final year of primary school.