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Reporting of students with disability in NAPLAN

Research 5 minute read

Despite NAPLAN’s original intention to identify students in need of support, the reports lack crucial data about students with disability.

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), which started in 2008, aimed to monitor the learning progress of Australian students, including those with disability. It was introduced to ensure educational fairness and equity. However, research shows that NAPLAN does not effectively support students with disability.

Understanding the exact number of students with disability in Australia is confusing. Different sources provide conflicting numbers. One study suggests that about 24% of students in Australian schools have disability. Another study says the figure is closer to 10%. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that about 7.7% of children under 15 had disability in 2018. This variety of figures makes it hard to get a clear picture.

Despite the unclear statistics, it is clear that students with disability face unique challenges. For instance, in 2018, only 34% of people with disability aged 20 and over had completed Year 12, compared to 66% of those without disability. Also, people with disability have lower employment rates, with only 53.4% employed compared to 84.1% of those without disability.

NAPLAN could be used to measure how well schools support students with disability. But, despite the push for these students to take part, NAPLAN reports lack substantial data about their performance. 

Since 2008, mentions of students with disability in NAPLAN reports focus entirely on exemptions from the tests rather than their academic achievements. Also, data on the participation of students with disability in NAPLAN, including absenteeism rates and accommodations provided to support students with disability, is missing from reports. This gap makes it hard to evaluate the effectiveness of support during the tests. The lack of information shows a focus on what students with disability cannot do, missing a chance to use NAPLAN data to understand and meet their educational needs

Filling these reporting gaps is important to ensure fair educational outcomes for all students, including those with disability. Better reporting practices can help understand the challenges and needs of these students within the education system. Aligning NAPLAN data with other relevant data, like the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD), can help to inform policies to improve educational outcomes for these students.

Additionally, it is crucial to evaluate the accommodations provided to students with disability during NAPLAN. Understanding how well these accommodations work can help improve policies and practices to support these students better.

In conclusion, addressing the reporting deficiencies about students with disability in NAPLAN is key to promoting inclusive education and fair educational outcomes. By focusing on transparency, data integration and thorough evaluation of accommodations, we can create a more inclusive and supportive educational environment for all students. 

This effort aligns with broader initiatives to improve the accessibility and quality of education for individuals with disability, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability. Using NAPLAN data effectively can drive meaningful improvements and foster greater inclusivity in the Australian education system.

Read the full article: 
The invisible cohort: Reporting of students with disability in NAPLAN’, by Katie Richardson and Greta Rollo, Australian Journal of Education, 2024.

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