Published: June 30, 2020

Adams, E. K., Hancock, K. J., & Taylor, C. L. (2020). Student achievement against national minimum standards for reading and numeracy in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9: A regression discontinuity analysis. Australian Journal of Social Issues.


Emma Adams, Kirsten Hancock, & Catherine Taylor.


Literacy and numeracy are essential for success in life. In Australia, students’ academic achievement is monitored using the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). One of the aims of NAPLAN is that results will drive student improvement by identifying which students are underperforming against national minimum standards and who require additional learning support. This study investigated the performance trajectories of students who were identified as “below the national minimum standards”, relative to students above the national minimum standards. This study used standardised reading and numeracy test scores for Australian students and regression discontinuity methods to investigate whether students who performed below the national minimum standards showed improved performance in subsequent years compared with similar students above the national minimum standards threshold. On average, achievement gaps between students below the standards and students at or above the standards persisted across year levels. Labelling students below the national minimum standards had no significant effects on later reading or numeracy achievement. The results suggest the NAPLAN national minimum standards labelling is not driving student improvement, highlighting the need for effective early identification and interventions for children who do not meet school year benchmarks for literacy and numeracy.