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Estimating gender ratios of poor reading using large-scale assessments.
Abstract:
Extensive research indicates that there are more boys than girls who are struggling readers, although considerable variation in gender ratios has been reported as a result of a lack of consensus in defining and measuring poor reading. The purpose of this study was to establish stable and consistent gender ratios for poor reading using a single definition and measure Australia-wide. The National Assessment Program--Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is the first large-scale assessment to assess all students across Australia on the same measure, at the same time. By defining poor reading as scoring in the lowest band, gender ratios computed for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 ranged from 1.44 to 1.68. Gender ratios decreased when a less stringent definition was applied. Gender ratios for poor performance in writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy are also reported.

Keywords

reading tests reading failure reading disability gender differences national norms reading comprehension

Article Type:
Report
Subject:
Literacy (Australia)
Literacy (Analysis)
Female-male relations (Analysis)
Authors:
Limbrick, Lisa
Wheldall, Kevin
Madelaine, Alison
Pub Date:
08/01/2010
Publication:
Name: Australian Journal of Education Publisher: Australian Council for Educational Research Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Australian Council for Educational Research ISSN: 0004-9441
Issue:
Date: August, 2010 Source Volume: 54 Source Issue: 2
Geographic:
Geographic Scope: Australia Geographic Code: 8AUST Australia
Accession Number:
234935331
Full Text:
Introduction

Gender differences for poor reading are not a new phenomenon but date back more than 100 years. As early as 1910 it was found that up to 85 per cent of children struggling with reading were boys (Pickle, 1998), although the cause remained unknown. In more recent times, researchers have identified a number of potential explanations for a greater prevalence of boys who are poor readers, including neurobiological (Clements et al., 2006; Shaywitz et al., 1995), genetic (Hawke, Wadsworth & DeFries, 2005), environmental (Olson, 2002) and motivational (Martin, 2004). Despite the wealth of existing research on gender ratio differences in poor reading, accurately gauging the degree to which there are more boys than girls who are struggling readers continues to be a matter of debate. Moreover, variations in the prevalence of poor reading per se continue in the absence of a universally accepted definition of what it means to be a poor reader (Pererra-Larrd, Deane & Bunnell, 1999; Siegel & Smythe, 2005; Wheldall & Limbrick, 2010).

Limbrick, Wheldall and Madelaine (2008) recently reviewed a number of studies reporting gender ratios for poor reading, and found considerable differences among studies in terminology, methodology, severity of selection, and samples. Other researchers have reported similar inconsistencies, and subsequently reported gender ratios for poor reading based on large population samples (Flannery et al., 2000; Katusic et al., 2001; Rutter et al., 2004).While the use of population, or large representative samples, effectively reduces sample bias, differences in reported gender ratios have still arisen across these studies in terms of measurement and severity of selection. Additionally, studies using populations are often subject to specific inclusion and exclusion criteria that are not only unique to that study but also reduce the actual sample. Even when studies use populations or large representative samples, then, without a clear and stable definition of poor reading, it is difficult to ascertain the relative prevalence of boys and girls who are poor readers, except to say that the majority of research studies suggest that there are generally more boys.

Are there really more boys than girls who are poor readers?

Despite the plethora of research indicating a greater prevalence of boys who are poor readers, there is evidence to the contrary. Several researchers have reported non-significant or very small gender differences for poor reading (Prior, Sanson, Smart & Oberklaid, 1995; Siegel & Smythe, 2005). In a large meta-analysis of studies reporting gender differences on psychological variables, Hyde (2005) proposed the 'gender similarities hypothesis', where there are more similarities than differences in the abilities of boys and girls. Hyde found that effect sizes in studies reporting on gender differences for reading and reading-related skills were relatively small.

Other researchers have also suggested that there is little difference between the proportion of boys and girls who are poor readers, but gender ratios can be inflated by confounding variables, such as behaviour and attention. Shaywitz, Shawywitz, Fletcher and Escobar (1990), for example, were among the first to identify the role of attentional factors in sample selection. They compared the number of students classified as having a reading disability by a research-identified method (discrepancy formula) versus a school-identified method (recommendation by teachers and eligibility for special education services), and found that there were almost four times as many boys identified as having a reading disability using the school-identified criterion.They concluded that more boys were identified as poor readers due to referral bias, where behavioural and attentional problems are often factored in, and are more commonly seen in boys. Conversely, in the research-identified sample, there were no significant gender differences in poor reading. Others have also found that inattentive or troublesome behaviour can lead to higher referral rates for boys (Beaman, Wheldall & Kemp, 2006), thereby increasing gender ratios for poor reading.

Another reason for a greater proportion of boys being identified as poor readers is related to differences in the distribution of reading scores for boys and girls. Boys have a greater variability in reading scores than girls (Hawke et al., 2009), and as a result more boys score in the tail of the distribution. Consequently, more boys are identified as poor readers. Machin and Pekkarinen (2008) recently demonstrated this phenomenon on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a large-scale assessment administered to secondary students across 41 countries. Boys had greater variance in scores than girls for reading, resulting in a greater preponderance of boys in the bottom 5 per cent. Similarly, Share and Silva (2003) found that when separate distributions were used for boys and girls, as opposed to a combined distribution for all students, gender ratios decreased from 1.79:1 to 1.02:1. Evidence also suggests that variability in boys' scores is not limited to reading but is evident in other areas. Machin and Pekkarinen (2008) found that there was a greater variance in boys' scores for mathematics, which led to a greater proportion of boys scoring in the top 5 per cent. Boys also show greater variability on psychological variables such as verbal (sequential reasoning), quantitative (inductive reasoning with quantitative concepts), and non-verbal (inductive reasoning) (Lohman & Lakin, 2009).

Large-scale assessments

Given the sizeable inconsistencies between studies reporting gender ratios for poor reading, particularly in the definition, measurement, severity of selection and sample, one approach to estimate the proportion of boys who are poor readers may be to examine performance on a large-scale assessment by gender. Although the use of large-scale assessments is a topic of controversy (see, for example, Mills, 2008), there are considerable advantages. For example, there is the opportunity to assess a large population sample on a single measure, using a consistent severity of selection criterion. The assessment is administered at exactly the same time for all students in common grades, and participation rates are usually very high. Additionally, although no assessment is completely unbiased (Soodak, 2000), test bias is often reduced in large-scale assessments because they are typically norm-referenced and objective (Sloane & Kelly, 2003). Authentic or teacher-made assessments, on the other hand, are often more difficult to design, administer and mark, and often fail reliability standards (Sloane & Kelly, 2003). If large-scale assessments with high reliability and reduced bias are administered to large population samples, then they may be a valid method of identifying gender ratios for poor reading.

There have been several international studies reporting gender differences for poor reading using large-scale assessments. Recently, Lynn and Mikk (2009) found that girls consistently outperformed boys on the PISA. In the years 2000, 2003 and 2006, girls obtained higher average reading scores than boys, with an effect size of 0.42. Machin and Pekkarinen (2008) reported similar findings on the PISA for 2003, but further concluded that variance in boys' reading scores accounted for the greater proportion of boys identified in the bottom 5 per cent.

In Australia, large-scale assessments for reading have traditionally been state-or Territory-based. In New South Wales, for instance, the Basic Skills Test (BST) was a state-wide assessment for all state school students in Years 3 and 5. A recent study by Wheldall and Limbrick (2010) analysed reading performance on the New South Wales BST from 1997 to 2006, with a sample of more than 1 million students. Severity of selection was firstly defined by scoring in the lowest BST band for the reading component, and by this definition average gender ratios for poor reading were 1.66:1 for Year 3 and 2.26:1 for Year 5. A less-stringent severity of selection measure (the lowest two BST bands combined) revealed gender ratios of 1.44:1 and 1.99:1 for Years 3 and 5 respectively. By using a single large-scale assessment on an entire population sample, over a 10-year period, Wheldall and Limbrick concluded that gender ratios were not as variable, inconsistent or large as previously reported. Gender ratios were stable over time, varying only with grade and severity of selection. They also found a slightly greater variance in boys' scores.

Large-scale assessments and reading comprehension

Although large-scale assessments often vary in how 'reading' is defined and measured (Johnson, 1996), assessments such as the BST, for instance, are effectively measures of reading comprehension (Wheldall & Limbrick, 2010). (It should be acknowledged that not all tests of reading comprehension are measuring the same skills: Bowyer-Crane & Snowling, 2005; Keenan, Betjemann & Olson, 2008.) Cutting and Scarborough (2006) compared the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), the Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT) and the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test--Revised, and concluded that variances in sentence and passage length, language, word frequencies, and test format led to variances in the skills measured. Similarly, researchers have also indicated that cloze tests measure word recognition (Nation & Snowling, 1997), and that there is a stronger link between cloze tests and decoding, than for multiple-choice tests (Francis et al., 2005). In a recent study, Keenan, Betjemann and Olson (2008) compared the Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT), the Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI), the Woodcock-Johnson Passage Comprehension subtest (WJPC), and the Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT) reading comprehension subtest. They reported only modest correlations among these tests, indicating that these tests, which are all reading comprehension measures, were not directly comparable. The PIAT and WJPC, for instance, focused more on decoding than other measures. Additionally, reading comprehension tests measure different skills, depending on the developmental level of the reader.

Identifying poor readers by performance on large-scale assessments

As discussed by Wheldall and Limbrick (2010), the use of large-scale assessments provides an opportunity for a consistent definition and measure of poor reading. In past years, studies have indicated that the incidence of reading disability varies anywhere from 4 per cent to 6 per cent (Sofie & Riccio, 2002) to 38 per cent (Aaron et al., 2008). Wheldall and Limbrick, analysing student performance on the BST over a 10-year period, found a prevalence rate of 14 per cent for Year 3 students and 1.43 per cent to 7.65 per cent for Year 5 students.

The BST was limited to students in New South Wales but in 2008, along with similar measures used in other annual state and Territory-based literacy and numeracy benchmark assessments, it was replaced by a single large-scale assessment across Australia: the National Assessment Program-Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) (Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs--MCEETYA--2008a). The NAPLAN was first administered in May 2008 to all government and non-government students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. All students in these grades, across the nation, were assessed in reading, writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy.

The introduction of the NAPLAN marks the first instance where all Australian students in common grades are assessed on the same measure, at the same time (May of every year) (MCEETYA, 2008a). Previous studies have varied in reported gender ratios due to a lack of consensus in defining and measuring poor reading, as well as variations in the grades assessed. The introduction of the NAPLAN, therefore, provides the first opportunity to gauge gender ratios of poor reading using a single definition and measure nationwide, across four grades.

Wheldall and Limbrick (2010) analysed the performance of Years 3 and 5 students on the reading component of the BST, defining poor reading as either a score in the lowest reading band or a score in the lowest two reading bands. Using two definitions takes into account the essentially arbitrary definition of reading disability (Siegel & Smythe, 2005). The purpose of this study is to extend the findings reported by Wheldall and Limbrick (2010) to report gender ratios of poor reading for a nationwide population, using two definitions of poor reading (a score in the lowest reading band or a score in the lowest two reading bands) (discussed below). This study will analyse student performance on the NAPLAN in 2008 specifically for reading but will also consider the other components of NAPLAN, including spelling, writing, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy. This paper considers the following research questions:

* Is there any difference in the incidence of reading problems between boys and girls?

* Are there similar differences between boys and girls in spelling, writing, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy?

* Are there differences between boys and girls (in all five components: reading, spelling, writing, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy) across the various Australian states and territories?

* Are these differences consistent over grades (Years 3, 5, 7 and 9)?

Method

Participants

More than 1 million students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, attending government and non-government schools across Australia, participated in the NAPLAN in May 2008.

The data analysed in this study are derived from the secondary data presented in the document entitled 2008 National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy: Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy, publicly released by the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA, 2008a). While the total number of students participating in the NAPLAN was reported for each year across states and Territories, the number of students scoring in each band, by gender, was not reported; only percentages were provided. A request for the actual numbers was met with the reply that the release of data had been deferred indefinitely until all policies and procedures for data release had been finalised. Consequently, some of the calculations in this study are based on the percentages reported by the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, and not on raw data.

For reading, there was a total of 262,372 Year 3 students Australia-wide (85,682 in New South Wales, 62,230 in Victoria, 55,770 in Queensland, 26,635 in Western Australia, 18,717 in South Australia, 6,377 in Tasmania, 4,174 in the ACT, and 2,787 in the Northern Territory). Similar numbers were reported for writing (262,010), spelling (262,612), grammar and punctuation (262,612), and numeracy (261,597).

In Year 5, there were a total of 262,872 students who participated in reading (85,775 in New South Wales, 62,954 in Victoria, 55,459 in Queensland, 26,630 in Western Australia, 18,664 in South Australia, 6,158 in Tasmania, 4,341 in the ACT, and 2,891 in the Northern Territory). Similar numbers were reported for writing (262,600), spelling (263,126), grammar and punctuation (263,126), and numeracy (262,268).

In Year 7, there were a total of 265,627 students who participated in reading (85,350 in New South Wales, 63,760 in Victoria, 56,296 in Queensland, 27,379 in Western Australia, 19,222 in South Australia, 6,422 in Tasmania, 4,527 in the ACT, and 2,671 in the Northern Territory). Similar numbers were reported for writing (265,507), spelling (266,083), grammar and punctuation (266,083), and numeracy

(265,275).

In Year 9, there were a total of 262,549 students who participated in reading (84,520 in New South Wales, 62,853 in Victoria, 56,133 in Queensland, 27,392 in Western Australia, 18,647 in South Australia, 6,179 in Tasmania, 4,439 in the ACT, and 2,386 in the Northern Territory). Similar numbers were reported for writing (262,841), spelling (263,297), grammar and punctuation (263,297), and numeracy (262,122).

Measure

The NAPLAN is a large-scale assessment first implemented in 2008 as a replacement for individual state and territory literacy and numeracy benchmark assessments, including the BST. Components of reading, writing, language conventions (including spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy were administered to all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, across Australia. The NAPLAN was developed in consultation with all Australian states and territories, to ensure that it covered the curriculum (MCEETYA, 2008a).

The NAPLAN results are reported across five scales (reading, writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy), for each of the four grades (Years 3, 5, 7, and 9). Scores for each scale (reading, writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy) are each reported on a continuous scale of 0 to 1000, which is divided into 10 bands (Year 3 reports bands 1 to 6, where Band 1 is the lowest and Band 6 is the highest; Year 5 reports bands 3 to 8;Year 7 reports bands 4 to 9; and Year 9 reports bands 5 to 10). The scale is designed so that student performance can be measured longitudinally as students move up through the grades. The lowest band for each year level is considered as not meeting the national standard (see MCEETYA, 2008c).

The reading scale is a test of reading comprehension, comprising both multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions. Students in each year level are presented with two texts (for example, a story, poem, letter or an advertisement) and are required to answer five questions per text. Year 3 students were presented with all multiple-choice questions (10 in total);Year 5, 7 and 9 students were presented with a combination of multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions (between 8 and 10 questions in total).All texts presented were similar to those used in Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 classrooms, and questions varied in difficulty to demonstrate student understanding of the texts (MCEETYA, 2008d). The complexity of reading skills measured were appropriate for each year level, ranging from the ability to find information in texts; connecting ideas; making decisions on a character's thoughts and actions; and recognising the main idea of the text (MCEETYA, 2008e), to interpreting the primary message in the text; reflecting on character motivations and writing strategies; and interpreting symbolic language (MCEETYA, 2008e).

The writing scale required students to write in response to a presented text, to arrange ideas and demonstrate proficiency in vocabulary and sentence structure (MCEETYA, 2008e). Writing skills assessed varied between year levels but included demonstrating story structure and the development of ideas, and competently using language conventions.

Language conventions (spelling, and grammar and punctuation) required students to recognise and amend spelling mistakes, and answer multiple-choice questions. Language convention skills varied between year levels (for in-depth sample questions and reporting for all year levels, see MCEETYA, 2008e).

Numeracy required students to apply mathematical knowledge to a range of questions and included number, measurement, time and shapes, varying according to Year (MCEETYA, 2008e).

For the purpose of this study, poor reading was first defined as scoring in the lowest band. For Year 3, this is defined as Band 1; for Year 5, it is defined as Band 3; for Year 7, it is defined as Band 4 and, for Year 9, it is defined as Band 5. A second definition of poor reading was defined as scoring in the lowest two bands. For Year 3, this meant combined bands 1 and 2; for Year 5, combined bands 3 and 4; for Year 7, combined bands 4 and 5; and for Year 9, combined bands 5 and 6. Poor performance in writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy were also defined by scoring in the lowest band or the lowest two bands. The small percentages of students who were exempted from participating in the NAPLAN, and were classified as not meeting the minimum national standard separately from students scoring in the lowest band, were not included in this study. Australia-wide, average participation rates for the NAPLAN in 2008 ranged between 93.5 per cent and 96.9 per cent.

Results

Gender differences in means

Means and standard deviations for reading, by location and gender, are presented in Table 1. This secondary data was produced by MCEETYA (2008a). Standard deviations were provided for overall reading means, but not for reading means by gender. Due to the density of the information provided, means and standard deviations are provided for reading only. For means and standard deviations for writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy, refer to Appendices 1 to 4.

To ascertain whether the means for boys and girls for reading, writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy, were significantly different, we first had to make several statistical decisions, given the nature of the data reported by MCEETYA (2008a). First, the MCEETYA (2008) report provided the actual total number of students by state and scale, but not actual numbers by gender. We therefore had to calculate approximate numbers of boys and girls in each year level. We assumed a prevalence of 1.05 boys for every 1 girl, consistent with birth rates published by the appropriate state authorities. Given the extremely large overall sample sizes involved, any minor inaccuracies in determining sub-sample size are unlikely to have any effect on final outcomes. Second, while standard deviations were reported for all students per year level, they were not reported separately for boys and girls. For this reason, the calculations in this study are based on the overall standard deviations reported by MCEETYA (2008a).

In all year levels, boys had significantly lower means for reading than girls. Girls obtained higher mean scores in reading than boys in Year 3 (t = 45.7, p < 0.0001),Year 5 (t = 41.2, p < 0.0001),Year 7 (t = 35.9, p < 0.0001), and Year 9 (t = 22.9,p < 0.0001).While reading means varied among states and territories, the reading means for boys were significantly lower than the reading means for girls throughout Australia.

Australia-wide, boys had significantly lower means than girls for writing in Year 3 (t = 99.2, p < 0.0001),Year 5 (t = 101.5, p < 0.0001),Year 7 (t = 107.4, p < 0.0001) and Year 9 (t = 113.2, p < 0.0001). For spelling, average means were also significantly lower for boys than for girls in all year levels: Year 3 (t = 61.6, p < 0.0001),Year 5 (t = 66.6,p < 0.0001),Year 7 (t = 72.7,p < 0.0001) and Year 9 (t = 74.87,p < 0.0001).

Average punctuation and grammar means were again significantly lower for boys than for girls, across Year 3 (t = 65.5,p < 0.0001),Year 5 (t = 76.3,p < 0.0001), Year 7 (t = 84.7,p < 0.0001), and Year 9 (t = 75.3,p < 0.0001).Variability among states and territories was again evident. Highest mean scores were observed in New South Wales, and Victoria for writing; New South Wales for spelling; Victoria and the ACT for punctuation and grammar and numeracy. The lowest mean scores were observed in the Northern Territory on all components.

For numeracy, the average Australian means were in favour of boys. For all year levels boys had significantly higher means than girls: Year 3 (t = 27.2, p < 0.0001),Year 5 (t = 43.5, p < 0.0001), Year 7 (t = 52.7, p < 0.0001), and Year 9 (t = 32.4,p < 0.0001).

Effect sizes

Because the sample sizes are extremely large in this study, and therefore even slight differences between boys and girls may be statistically significant, effect sizes were calculated for gender differences for each scale, by year level (see Table 2). Effect size is a determination of the power or strength of the relationship between two variables, and is typically considered small (up to .3), medium (approximately .5) or large (more than .8). For reading, effect sizes for gender were generally small. Across Australia, reading effect sizes decreased with the year level of schooling and were, on average, .18 (Year 3), .16 (Year 5), .14 (Year 7), and .09 (Year 9). Differences in reading between boys and girls appear to be negligible, and reduce over time. Effect sizes for reading also varied among states and Territories, with the largest effect sizes observed in Western Australia (Years 3,7 and 9), the ACT (Year 5), and Queensland (also Years 7 and 9). The lowest effect sizes were observed in Tasmania (Years 3, 5 and 9) and jointly the ACT and Northern Territory (Year 7).

For writing, effect sizes for gender bordered on moderate in some instances and increased with year level: .39 (Year 3), .40 (Year 5), .42 (Year 7), and .44 (Year 9). There was some variability between states and territories. The Northern Territory had the lowest effect sizes for all year levels (ranging from .26 to .34), whereas Tasmania had the largest effect sizes for all year levels (ranging from .44 to .50).The effect sizes for writing were the highest reported in this study.

Average effect sizes for spelling were small and increased slightly with year level, ranging from .24 to .29. Similarly, grammar and punctuation average effect sizes were also small, ranging from .26 to .33, indicating that gender differences in spelling and grammar and punctuation are, like reading, negligible. Effect sizes varied among states and territories.

Numeracy also had small effect sizes for all year levels, but in favour of boys. Average effect sizes increased from Year 3 (.11) to Year 7 (.20), but decreased in Year 9 (.13).

Percentage of boys and girls in the lowest two bands

Across Australia, the percentages of students scoring in the lowest band were 6.1 per cent (Year 3), 7.5 per cent (Year 5), 4.6 per cent (Year 7) and 5.9 per cent (Year 9). When the lowest two bands were combined, the percentages of students were 18.1 per cent (Year 3), 21.0 per cent (Year 5), 18.7 per cent (Year 7), and 23.5 per cent (Year 9).

Table 3 presents the percentages of boys and girls scoring in each band for reading. In all year levels, there were more boys than girls scoring in the lowest band. Across all states and territories, consistently more boys than girls scored in the lowest band.

For writing, spelling, and punctuation and grammar, there were also consistently more boys than girls who scored in the lowest bands, and this was evident in all states and territories. For numeracy, in the majority of instances there were more girls than boys in the lowest band, with the exception of Year 3 (New South Wales, Western Australia, ACT), Year 5 (Tasmania), Year 7 (Tasmania, ACT) and Year 9 (ACT). But these differences in the percentages of boys and girls were, overall, minimal.

Gender ratios of poor readers

To ascertain the prevalence of boys and girls identified as poor readers, gender ratios were calculated for all scales, by year level. To take into account the arbitrary nature of poor reading, two definitions of poor reading (severity of selection) were applied:

* scoring in the lowest band for each year level

* scoring in the lowest two bands for each year level.

Gender ratios for poor reading are presented in Table 4.

There was little variation in gender ratios for reading across year levels. Using the first definition of poor reading (scoring in the lowest band), the average gender ratios for poor reading were 1.57:1 (Year 3), 1.44:1 (Year 5), 1.68:1 (Year 7), and 1.48:1 (Year 9).The ACT consistently had the highest gender ratios across all year levels (ranging from 1.71:1 to 2.67:1). The lowest gender ratios were reported in the Northern Territory for all year levels (ranging from 1.08:1 to 1.16:1).

The second definition of poor reading was scoring in the lowest two bands for reading. By this definition, average gender ratios were 1.44:1 (Year 3), 1.32:1 (Year 5), 1.47:1 (Year 7), and 1.30:1 (Year 9). Gender ratios are lower when using a less stringent definition.

For writing, the average gender ratios for the lowest band were considerably higher than for reading (ranging from 2.35:1 to 2.63:1). The largest gender ratios were reported in the ACT across all year levels (ranging from 3.24:1 to 6.75:1), while the lowest were observed in the Northern Territory (ranging from 1.29:1 to 1.43:1). By the second definition (lowest two bands), writing gender ratios ranged from 1.99:1 to 2.24:1. Similar to reading, gender ratios for poor writing were consistently lower when using a broader definition.

Average gender ratios for poor spelling and grammar and punctuation were 1.92:1 and 1.97:1 respectively. Gender ratios decreased to 1.68:1 and 1.7:1 respectively when defined by the two lowest bands. Gender ratios varied among states and territories: the largest ratios were observed in ACT, while the smallest were observed in the Northern Territory.

Gender ratios for poor numeracy indicated that there were more girls than boys in the lowest bands. For Band 1 alone, gender ratios ranged from 0.83:1 to 0.97:1, and for bands 1 and 2 combined gender ratios ranged from 0.84:1 to 0.96:1. For Years 3, 5 and 7 the gender ratios were only slightly lower for the combined two bands, compared to the lowest band. For Year 9, there was no difference at all.

Differences in poor numeracy gender ratios were also evident across states and Territories. For Year 3, while Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory showed more girls than boys, New South Wales, Western Australia and the ACT showed more boys than girls. For Years 5 and 7, only Tasmania had more boys than girls, and in Year 9 there were consistently more girls than boys.

Conversely, excepting numeracy, gender ratios in the top bands, for all year levels and scales, were in favour of girls. For reading, the gender ratio of superior reading was 1.23:1 (Year 3), 1.27:1 (Year 5), 1.13:1 (Year 7), and 1.04:1 (Year 9). For superior writing, gender ratios were 1.72:1 (Year 3), 1.93:1 (Year 5), 1.92:1 (Year 7), and 2.02:1 (Year 9). For superior spelling, gender ratios were 1.33:1 (Year 3), 1.35:1 (Year 5), 1.37:1 (Year 7), and 1.48:1 (Year 9). For superior punctuation and grammar performance, again in favour of girls, gender ratios were 1.39:1 (Year 3), 1.56:1 (Year 5), 1.59:1 (Year 7), and 1.53:1 (Year 9). But for numeracy, there were more boys than girls in the top band. Average gender ratios (in favour of boys) were 1.39:1 (Year 3), 1.62:1 (Year 5), 1.65:1 (Year 7), and 1.43:1 (Year 9).

Discussion

The purpose of this study was to identify gender ratios for poor reading by performance on a new large-scale assessment, the NAPLAN, which is the first Australian assessment to test all students in common grades, on the same measure at the same time (MCEETYA, 2008a). Defining poor reading by performance on the NAPLAN is therefore the first opportunity in Australia where a single definition of poor reading could be agreed upon, nationwide. The same definition of poor performance was also applied to spelling, writing, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy. This study also sought to identify whether there were any gender differences across states and territories in all components of the NAPLAN, and across year levels of schooling.

Gender ratios for poor readers

In this study, poor reading on the NAPLAN was defined by two severities of selection: a score in the lowest band; and a score in either of the lowest two bands. Using the first definition, average gender ratios for poor reading, across Australia, were 1.57:1 (Year 3), 1.44:1 (Year 5), 1.68:1 (Year 7) and 1.48:1 (Year 9). By the second definition of poor reading, gender ratios were 1.44:1 (Year 3), 1.32:1 (Year 5), 1.47:1 (Year 7), and 1.30:1 (Year 9). These gender ratios are consistent with a large body of evidence indicating that there are more boys than girls who are poor readers (Liederman, Kantrowitz & Flannery, 2005;Miles, Haslum & Wheeler, 1998; Rutter et al., 2004; Stevenson, 1992).Although previous studies have varied significantly in defining, measuring and interpreting poor reading, and as a result gender ratios have also varied significantly (Limbrick, Wheldall & Madelaine, 2008), by using a large-scale reading assessment and applying two definitions of poor reading, the findings in this study support previous research that suggests that differences between boys and girls in reading are not particularly large (Prior et al., 1995; Siegel & Smythe, 2005). According to Hyde's (2005) gender similarities hypothesis, boys and girls are more alike than not in reading and reading-related abilities. In a large meta-analysis, Hyde reported very small effect sizes in gender differences for studies examining reading comprehension and vocabulary. Lohman and Lakin (2009) also recently found that, despite significant gender differences in mean scores, only small effect sizes were observed. In this study small effect sizes for gender differences in reading were also reported, adding weight to the body of evidence suggesting mean gender differences for reading are negligible.

The findings in this study are also consistent with previous studies using large-scale assessments. For example, girls have been shown to consistently outperform boys in reading performance on the PISA (Lynn & Mikk, 2009; Machin & Pekkarinen, 2008). In Australia,Wheldall and Limbrick (2010) reported gender ratios for poor reading by performance on the BST, administered to New South Wales students attending state schools. By defining poor reading as scoring in the lowest bands on the BST, gender ratios were 1.66:1 (Band 1) and 1.44:1 (combined bands 1 and 2) for Year 3, and 2.26:1 (Band 1) and 1.99:1 (combined bands 1 and 2) for Year 5. By comparison, gender ratios of poor reading on the NAPLAN, for New South Wales students, were 1.82:1 (Band 1) and 1.60:1 (combined bands 1 and 2) for Year 3, and 1.57:1 (Band 1) and 1.40:1 (combined bands 1 and 2) for Year 5, which are only slightly higher than the national average. As indicated by Wheldall and Limbrick (2010), there are more boys than girls who are poor readers, but these gender differences are not great.

The findings in this study also demonstrate that gender ratios vary with severity of selection. Across all year levels, states and territories, gender ratios for reading were higher for the lowest band than for the combined lowest two bands, suggesting that there are more boys in the very tail of the distribution. This also supports Wheldall and Limbrick's (2010) study, where gender ratios for poor reading varied with severity of selection on the BST. Others have also reported that gender ratios vary with severity of selection, and that there are more boys than girls in the tail of the distribution (Flannery et al., 2000; Stevenson, 1992).

The percentage of students scoring in the lowest two bands for reading is also consistent with previous research. In this study, 4.6 per cent to 7.5 per cent of students scored in the lowest band, representing the very tail of the distribution. Using the less stringent definition of poor reading (lowest two bands) accounted for 18.1 per cent to 23.5 per cent of students. While there have been mixed findings as to what percentage of students actually constitute 'poor readers', ranging anywhere from 4 per cent (Sofie & Riccio, 2002) to 38 per cent (Aaron et al., 2008), it has been generally accepted that there is a small percentage of students (4-6 per cent) who are truly struggling readers (Sofie & Riccio, 2002). In terms of performance on the NAPLAN, the lowest band might reasonably constitute that small percentage of students who are experiencing particularly severe difficulties in learning to read.

The findings reported in this build on the findings reported by Wheldall and Limbrick (2010): that is, there are more boys than girls who are poor readers, but the degree to which there are more boys is not large. This conclusion not only relates to New South Wales students but extends to the entire Australian population. Although there are more boys than girls who are poor readers, when using a single definition and measure of poor reading, gender ratios are not as large or as inconsistent as previously reported. This conclusion is strengthened by the fact that more than one million students participated in the NAPLAN in 2008, and as indicated by Wheldall and Limbrick, more than one million students participated in the BST across a 10-year period.Taken together, these studies add further weight to existing research indicating that there is overall little difference between boys and girls in reading and that gender ratios for poor reading are much lower than originally believed (Prior et al., 1995; Siegel & Smythe, 2005; Smart et al., 2001).

Although the findings in this study are consistent with previous research, it is also worth noting that the gender differences reported could possibly be a result of other factors. For example, research suggests that a greater variance in boys' scores, compared to girls, can lead to a higher proportion of boys in the tail of the distribution (Hawke,Wadsworth & DeFries, 2009). Research by Wheldall and Limbrick (2010) and Machin and Pekkarinen (2008), both of which examine the results of large-scale assessments, supports these findings. While it is clear in this study that there are more boys in the lowest reading bands, and that the proportion of boys increases with severity of selection, without the standard deviations for both boys and girls it is difficult to ascertain whether the results in this study are in fact due to more variability in boys' scores.

A second potential reason for a greater preponderance of boys scoring in the lowest bands may be attentional. Findings reported by Shaywitz, Shaywitz, Fletcher and Escobar (1990) suggest that boys may have performed more poorly due to lower attention levels at the time of assessment in a group testing context. Similar to other studies reporting gender ratios for poor reading using large-scale assessments, data on attentional factors were not collected.

Additionally, it has been argued that the greater preponderance of boys identified as poor readers is not due to differences in reading, but rather due to referral bias. For instance, Shaywitz, Shaywitz, Fletcher & Escobar (1990) found that boys were up to four times more prevalent than girls in samples referred by schools compared to samples that were research-identified. Others have reached similar conclusions (Smart et al., 2001). But in this study the findings are based on a population with high participation rates, and therefore are not confounded by referral bias.

Gender differences in writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy

Gender differences in writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy were also evident. For writing, spelling, and grammar and punctuation, girls significantly outperformed boys. Girls consistently obtained higher means than boys Australia-wide. For numeracy, boys obtained significantly higher means than girls. These findings are complementary to previous research indicating that girls tend to perform better in writing and language conventions (Dodd et al., 2003; Halpern & LaMay, 2000) whereas boys tend to perform better in mathematics (Machin & Pekkarinen, 2008; Marks, 2008).

Gender ratios for poor spelling and grammar and punctuation were very small, and similar to those for poor reading but the gender ratios for writing were notably higher than for the other scales, evident across all year levels. In Year 3, for example, the national gender ratio for poor writing was 4:1, compared with reading (1.57:1), spelling (1.85:1), and punctuation and grammar (1.74:1). Indeed, the highest gender ratio reported in this study was for writing in Year 3: the ACT had a gender ratio of 6.75:1; New South Wales was 4:1; and for Victoria it was 4.25:1. These gender ratios for poor writing appear to decrease with age: while there was an average gender ratio of 4:1 for Year 3 students, the gender ratio for Year 9 students declined to 2.47:1. Despite this decline, however, even in Year 9 the gender ratios for poor writing were higher than for the other scales.

Writing also had the largest effect sizes in this study. While there were significant differences between the means for boys and girls on all scales, only the effect sizes for writing were close to medium. Effect sizes for reading, spelling, and punctuation and grammar were very small, but for writing the difference between boys and girls was more substantial. These findings suggest that while more boys than girls struggle with poor reading, writing is also a skill with which boys, at least in Year 3, experience particular difficulties.

Gender ratios for poor writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy were defined by two severities of selection. Like poor reading, gender ratios also varied by severity of selection in poor writing, spelling, and punctuation and grammar. Defining poor performance by scoring in the lowest band consistently yielded higher gender ratios than defining poor performance by scoring in the combined lowest two bands. Similar to reading, it appears that there are more boys in the very tail of the distribution for other aspects of literacy. Again, these findings are not dissimilar to previous research. With regard to poor writing, for example, Berninger and colleagues (2008) explored the co-morbidity of reading and writing disabilities, and found that writing disabilities, particularly for boys, are liable to be more severe than reading disabilities. Similarly, in poor spelling, some studies have found that poor phonological decoding abilities are not only correlated with poor reading, but also with poor spelling (Friend & Olson, 2008). Others have found that a disability in reading also affects spelling (Hudson, High & Al Otaiba, 2007; Smart et al., 2001).The fact that there are more boys than girls in the tail of the distribution for both reading and spelling in this study, and that gender ratios for both reading and spelling decreased when using a broader definition of poor performance, would seem to support this link.These findings also suggest that poor reading is not an isolated event, but rather has implications for other aspects of literacy.

Conversely, boys had, on average, slightly higher numeracy means than girls, and gender ratios for poor numeracy were very small in favour of boys. There was little difference in gender ratios for either severity of selection for Years 3, 5 and 7, and in Year 9 there was no gender difference at all when combining the two lowest bands. In the upper end of the distribution, there were more boys than girls, which support previous findings that boys demonstrate superior mathematics skills to girls (Machin & Pekkainen, 2009; Marks, 2008). Previous studies have also found that, similar to reading scores, boys have a greater variance in mathematics scores than girls (Machin & Pekkainen, 2009). It is possible, then, that the greater proportion of boys scoring in the top band in this study may be due to greater variance in scores. As indicated earlier, this is difficult to ascertain without standard deviations for boys and girls.

Gender ratios across Australian states and territories

Across states and territories, there were consistently more boys than girls who scored in the lowest two bands for reading, writing, spelling, and grammar and punctuation, and gender ratios consistently varied with severity of selection. Throughout the country, there were more boys in the lowest band than in the lowest two bands combined. For numeracy, there were on average more girls than boys in the lowest two bands, but differences were minimal.

Gender ratios for poor performance varied considerably across states and territories. For poor reading, the largest gender ratios were observed in the ACT, while the smallest gender ratios were observed in the Northern Territory. Similar patterns were also evident for writing and spelling. For poor grammar and punctuation, while the largest gender ratios were observed in the ACT, the smallest gender ratios were observed in both the Northern Territory and Tasmania. For poor numeracy, gender ratios varied considerably between states and territories. Highest ratios were observed in Western Australia, Tasmania, and the ACT, whereas the lowest ratios were observed in Victoria and South Australia, depending on year level of schooling.

There were also noticeable differences across states and territories in the percentages of students scoring in the lowest bands. For example, an overall average 7.4 per cent of boys and 4.7 per cent of girls scored in the lowest band for reading in Year 3, compared to 38.2 per cent of boys and 33.0 per cent of girls scored in the lowest band in the Northern Territory. Similar results for the Northern Territory were also in evidence for Years 5, 7 and 9 in reading. The highest proportion of poor readers was observed in the Northern Territory, even though the smallest gender ratios were also observed in the Northern Territory.

There are several reasons to account for this pattern. First, it may be that gender ratios are smaller in the Northern Territory because there are a higher percentage of students scoring in the lowest band. Previous research indicates that there are more boys than girls in the very tail of the reading distribution (Hawke et al., 2009; Lohman & Lakin, 2009). As evidenced in this study, gender ratios for poor reading decrease as the definition of poor reading becomes less stringent. This would indicate that a tail of the distribution which accounts for approximately 35 per cent of students would result in lower gender ratios for poor reading in the Northern Territory, compared to a small tail which accounts for approximately 5 per cent of students in the other states and the ACT.

Second, given that approximately 35 per cent of children in the Northern Territory scored in the lowest reading band, and that there are almost as many girls identified as poor readers as boys, poor reading may result from factors other than gender. Given the fact that gender ratios in this study are more moderate than previously reported, and that effect sizes for gender differences in reading are very small, it does not appear that gender is a strong predictor of reading. Indeed, a number of studies have previously reported that gender is not a strong predictor of poor reading (Limbrick, Wheldall, & Madelaine, in press; Strand, Deary & Smith, 2006), but rather accounts for only a small percentage of variance in reading performance (Fluss et al., 2009; Strand, Deary & Smith, 2006). On the other hand, studies have shown that factors such as socioeconomic status can account for up to 24 per cent of variance in reading performance (Fluss et al., 2009). Burt, Holm and Dodd (1999) found that socioeconomic status significantly correlated with performance on reading tasks, whereas gender did not. Consequently, it may be possible that the higher proportion of students observed scoring in the lowest reading bands in the Northern Territory are due to reasons related to socioeconomic status.

One aspect of socioeconomic status is differences in geographical location of students. For instance, although the ACT and the Northern Territory both contain very small populations compared to New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, the distributions of students in metropolitan and remote areas differ considerably.

In the MCEETYA report (2008a), student location was broken down into four locations: metro, provincial, remote, and very remote. In all instances, the percentages of students scoring in the lowest bands were higher in very remote locations, compared to results for metro, provincial, and remote locations. In the ACT, the majority of students were located in metro areas with no remote or very remote students. In the Northern Territory, the majority of students are located in provincial, remote and very remote areas, with very few in metro areas. These findings indicate that students in metro areas outperform students in remote areas. In the Northern Territory, for instance, the reading means for provincial (366.5) and for remote (329.6) were substantially larger than for very remote (195.9).

Additionally, studies consistently demonstrate that minority groups, such as Indigenous Australians, are severely disadvantaged in terms of educational and socioeconomic factors (Bradley et al., 2007). Many Indigenous Australians live in remote and very remote areas and therefore do not have access to well-resourced schools, as well as having English as a second language (Bradley et al., 2007). Other factors include attendance rates (for example, difficulties due to living in remote areas) and a lack of skilled teaching being available (Prior, 2009). As indicated by Prior (2009), a substantial number of Indigenous students do not reach national literacy standards on assessments such as the NAPLAN because of these disadvantages.

The findings in this study appear consistent with this. As indicated above, approximately 35 per cent of students in the Northern Territory were identified as poor readers by scoring in the lowest band. Although the student population in the Northern Territory is the smallest across the country, it had the highest percentage of Indigenous students. For instance, in the Northern Territory approximately 36 per cent of Year 3 students who participated in Year 3 reading were Indigenous. By comparison, in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, the number of Indigenous students ranged from 0.01 per cent to 0.07 per cent of the population.

For many Indigenous Australians, English is not the first language, nor is it the language spoken at home. As a result, language is another factor which should be taken into consideration when analysing performance on large-scale assessments such as the NAPLAN. For instance, in the Northern Territory, 61.9 per cent of Year 3 students who scored in the lowest reading band indicated that English was not their first language. This is considerably higher than for other states and the ACT, as well as higher than the Australian average of 6.6 per cent.

The impact of sociodemographic factors on academic performance has repeatedly been documented (Baker, Goesling & Letendre, 2002; Coutinho, Oswald & Best, 2002); differences arise according to socioeconomic status, geographical location, ethnicity and having English as a second language (Coutinho, Oswald & Best, 2002). Additionally, previous research has shown that regardless of whether an assessment is large-scale or small-scale, these factors are consistently shown to have an effect (Baker, Goesling & Letendre, 2002; Bradley & Corwyn, 2002). The advantage of the NAPLAN is that it is a standardised assessment, administered Australia-wide. Although gender ratios for poor reading therefore have the same meaning across the country, they should be analysed with reference to such factors that are known to affect performance.

Finally, while there were consistently more boys than girls identified as poor readers, there were consistently more girls than boys identified as superior readers, across all states and Territories. Gender ratios in the top performing bands were consistently in favour of girls: 0.81:1 (Year 3), 0.79:1 (Year 5), 0.89:1 (Year 7) and 0.96:1 (Year 9). Girls were also shown to have performed better than boys in writing, spelling, and punctuation and grammar. This result adds weight to the findings reported in Wheldall and Limbrick (2010), suggesting that while more boys are identified as poor readers, more girls are identified as superior readers.

Gender differences across years of schooling

For reading, writing, spelling, and grammar and punctuation, girls obtained significantly higher means than boys, and this was evident in all year levels. Across Years 3, 5, 7, and 9, girls outperformed boys. Effect sizes for these components of the NAPLAN varied little by the year level of schooling. Greater variation in effect sizes was observed among states and territories, than among year levels of schooling. For numeracy, boys consistently obtained higher means than girls, evident across all year levels but effect sizes were very small, ranging from .11 to .20 across Years 3 to 9.

Gender ratios for poor reading varied little between year levels of schooling, ranging from 1.44:1 to 1.68:1. Gender ratios fluctuated with the year level of schooling, but did not steadily increase or decrease over time. For writing, spelling, and grammar and punctuation, gender ratios for the lowest band appeared to steadily increase from Year 3 to Year 7, but decreased in Year 9.

It is worth noting that the average percentage of students scoring in the lowest reading band fluctuated across the year levels of schooling: 6.1 per cent (Year 3), 7.5 per cent (Year 5), 4.6 per cent (Year 7) and 5.9 per cent (Year 9). For New South Wales alone, the percentage of students was 4.0 per cent (Year 3), 5.7 per cent (Year 5), 4.0 per cent (Year 7), and 5.1 per cent (Year 9).The increase in New South Wales students from Year 3 to Year 5 is not consistent with Wheldall and Limbrick's (2010) findings, where there were considerably fewer students scoring in the lowest band in Year 5, compared to Year 3. By performance on the BST, there were approximately 14 per cent ofYear 3 students scoring in the lowest band, but only 1.43 per cent in Year 5.Wheldall and Limbrick reasoned that because the BST was a continuous scale for Years 3 and 5, it was anticipated that there would be fewer Year 5 students scoring in the lowest band.Year 5 students would be two years older than Year 3 students, and would have made some reading progress. Others have also found that the percentage of students who are poor readers can decline with age (Badian, 1999; Smart et al., 2001;Wright, Fields & Newman, 1996).Although the BST and the NAPLAN are not identical, they are very similar in format and content. It is still possible, however, that differences in the percentage of students scoring in the lowest bands for Years 3 and 5 may be a result of differences in test format and content, or timing and administration, between the BST and the NAPLAN. Given that 2008 marks the first year for the NAPLAN, future research on subsequent years is warranted to establish consistency in the percentage of students scoring in the lowest band across all year levels, as well as gender ratios for poor reading.

Implications of the findings

Like Wheldall and Limbrick (2010), the findings in this study demonstrate that while there are more boys than girls who are poor readers, the preponderance of boys is not as great as previously reported (Liederman, Kantrowitz & Flannery, 2005). Additionally, the small effect sizes indicate that mean gender differences are negligible. As previous studies have shown, gender is not a strong or consistent predictor of reading, but rather, there are almost as many girls who also struggle with reading. Although the reasons for poor reading are beyond the scope of this article, other studies have demonstrated that factors such as low socioeconomic status (Burt, Holm & Dodd, 1999), poor phonological awareness (Savage & Carless, 2004), troublesome behaviour (Smart et al., 2001), and even lack of motivation (Mucherah & Yoder, 2008), can affect reading outcomes, irrespective of gender. While such factors account for a considerable variance in reading ability (for instance, phonological awareness can account for approximately 50 per cent of variance in reading--see Fluss et al., 2009), gender has not been consistently shown to account for large variances in reading outcomes (Savage & Carless, 2004; Strand, Dreary & Smith, 2006).The findings in this study appear to be consistent with this. It may be reasonable, then, that interventions for struggling readers identified by performance on the NAPLAN should focus on tackling reading difficulties regardless of gender. Although this study found that gender ratios for poor reading are not large, there nevertheless exists a large body of research indicating a preponderance of boys who are poor readers (Liederman, Kantowitz & Flannery, 2005). As indicated by some researchers (Shaywitz, Shaywitz, Fletcher & Escobar, 1990; Smart et al., 2001;Willcutt & Pennington, 2000), it is plausible that such a preponderance is not the result of gender differences in reading, but rather that more boys have been identified as poor readers because they are more likely to display external troublesome behaviour. Girls, on the other hand, are less likely to display external problem behaviour and are more difficult to identify (Levy et al., 2005), and are therefore less likely to receive intervention. But identification of poor readers by performance on the NAPLAN, however, presents a nationwide opportunity to identify all struggling readers, regardless of gender, and unimpeded by referral bias or sample selection. As indicated by Wheldall and Limbrick (2010), if gender ratios for poor reading are lower than is commonly believed, there should be a greater focus on identifying struggling girls as well as boys.

Limitations

One of the major limitations of this study was the unavailability of raw data required to perform more complex statistical computations. The results in this study are based on statistical assumptions on a secondary data set where standard deviations for boys and girls, for example, were not provided. It could not be ascertained, therefore, whether there was a greater proportion of boys scoring in the lowest bands because of a greater variance in boys' scores. Future researchers may be able to access the required data to establish whether there are any differences in the distribution of reading scores for an entire population sample in Australia, particularly in light of previous research indicating boys demonstrate greater variance in scores than girls.

Despite the fact that there are more boys than girls identified as poor readers by performance on the NAPLAN, this identification is by a single score on a NAPLAN band. Although the NAPLAN is longitudinal, where all four year levels are graded on a single scale to allow student progress to be monitored across time (MCEETYA, 2008a), it does not differentiate whether boys struggle with particular aspects of reading (for example, decoding, sight words, etc). Future studies might consider examining the specific skills required for reading by gender, and whether these differences vary with grade.

Conclusion

Variations in the gender ratios for poor reading throughout the literature have arisen due to a lack of consensus in defining and measuring poor reading. The introduction of the NAPLAN marks the first large-scale assessment administered Australia-wide (MCEETYA, 2008a), and with it marks the first opportunity to gauge gender ratios of poor reading across the country using a single, standardised measure of reading, with a consistent definition of poor reading. By analysing student performance on the NAPLAN, the findings in this study demonstrate that there are more boys than girls who are identified as poor readers. But the effect sizes for mean differences reported in this study are comparatively small, indicating that the overall mean differences between boys and girls for reading are minimal. Gender ratios for poor reading were also shown to vary with severity of selection. Similar gender differences were reported for spelling, and punctuation and grammar, indicating the possibility that the underlying skills required for reading may also affect other components of literacy. The largest gender ratios and effect sizes reported in this study were for writing, indicating that this may be an area of particular difficulty for boys. While no clear pattern emerged with respect to gender ratios across grades, there were considerable differences in gender ratios between states and territories.

Previous studies using population samples have been subject to specific inclusion and exclusion criteria, which can substantially reduce the sample. Large-scale assessments, on the other hand, are administered to all students in common grades, with the exception of a very small minority of students with severe disabilities. Participation rates for large-scale assessments, therefore, are extremely high. This study demonstrates that the introduction of the NAPLAN has provided an opportunity to establish a stable and consistent definition of poor reading across the country and to determine accurate estimates of the gender ratio for reading problems in Australia.

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Lisa Limbrick

Kevin Wheldall

Alison Madelaine

Macquarie University Special Education Centre

Lisa Limbrick is undertaking a PhD in Special Education at the Macquarie University Special Education Centre, Macquarie University. Email: lisa.limbrick@speced.sed.mq.edu.au

Kevin Wheldall is Professor of Education and Director of Macquarie University Special Education Centre, Macquarie University.

Alison Madelaine is Lecturer at Macquarie University Special Education Centre, Macquarie University.
Appendix 1 Writing means, standard deviations * and sample sizes

                  NSW      VIC      QLD       WA       SA      TAS

Year 3   Boys    414.9    412.1    377.3    383.6    401.9    401.7
         Girls   440.8    439.7    407.1    413.2    429.0    430.2
         All     427.6    425.8    391.8    398.1    415.1    415.7
                 (66.4)   (65.7)   (77.1)   (69.6)   (65.4)   (64.1)
         N       85 684   62 071   55 671   26 668   18 607   6 380
Year 5   Boys    482.0    487.4    454.0    457.3    467.4    461.8
         Girls   509.4    518.1    484.4    487.2    494.3    493.5
         All     495.4    502.4    468.9    471.7    480.8    477.3
                 (69.1)   (71.4)   (75.3)   (72.6)   (67.8)   (69.8)
         N       85 765   62 825   55 400   26 645   18 605   6 149
Year 7   Boys    520.8    532.3    506.6    507.1    522.8    502.1
         Girls   550.6    567.8    539.4    538.9    553.6    540.2
         All     535.3    549.7    522.7    522.5    538.1    520.6
                 (74.1)   (77.1)   (78.8)   (76.1)   (72.1)   (76.3)
         N       85 497   63 648   56 271   27 367   19 165   6 391
Year 9   Boys    551.8    570.8    536.3    542.4    553.2    538.4
         Girls   587.5    607.7    575.4    580.2    588.7    577.6
         All     569.4    588.9    555.3    560.8    571.2    557.2
                 (79.6)   (83.4)   (85.9)   (83.0)   (78.9)   (83.8)
         N       84 696   63 009   56 218   27 400   18 560   6 163

                  ACT       NT        All

Year 3   Boys    409.9     323.7     400.6
         Girls   436.6     351.5     428.4
         All     423.2     337.4     414.2
                 (64.1)   (108.7)   (71.6)
         N       4 168     2 761    262 010
Year 5   Boys    477.4     396.0     472.2
         Girls   504.1     427.6     501.4
         All     490.7     410.9     486.5
                 (64.4)   (114.5)   (73.6)
         N       4 339     2 872    262 600
Year 7   Boys    518.0     439.4     517.8
         Girls   551.4     473.0     550.3
         All     534.3     455.0     533.7
                 (70.7)   (126.7)   (77.9)
         N       4 521     2 647    265 507
Year 9   Boys    550.4     485.9     551.2
         Girls   591.1     528.9     588.4
         All     571.0     506.9     569.4
                 (81.8)   (127.1)   (84.1)
         N       4 449     2 346    262 841

The information reported in this table is derived from the MCEETYA
Report (2008a).

* Standard deviations were only reported for overall students, and not
by gender.

Appendix 2 Spelling means, standard deviations* and sample sizes

                  NSW      VIC      QLD       WA       SA      TAS

Year 3   Boys    410.1    407.2    357.0    370.3    385.7    388.6
         Girls   428.8    423.6    376.8    393.8    408.2    401.3
         All     419.2    415.3    366.7    381.8    396.7    394.9
                 (75.4)   (70.5)   (76.2)   (81.3)   (76.9)   (78.7)
         N       85 778   62 209   55 861   26 697   18 734   6 385
Year 5   Boys    490.0    485.1    451.9    461.3    470.7    465.9
         Girls   509.2    502.3    472.3    481.9    488.3    477.9
         All     499.4    493.5    462.0    471.3    479.5    471.7
                 (72.7)   (64.8)   (68.9)   (72.5)   (69.9)   (70.8)
         N       85 868   62 952   55 535   26 697   18 677   6 173
Year 7   Boys    540.3    533.2    517.0    517.1    529.6    521.1
         Girls   560.4    551.8    539.4    538.3    549.8    534.0
         All     550.1    542.3    528.0    527.4    539.7    527.4
                 (72.1)   (65.9)   (71.1)   (72.0)   (68.8)   (70.5)
         N       85 600   63 790   56 389   27 459   19 225   6 424
Year 9   Boys    576.0    570.9    556.1    555.3    565.6    562.8
         Girls   597.5    590.1    580.1    578.4    584.9    570.7
         All     586.6    580.3    567.8    566.5    575.4    566.6
                 (71.7)   (69.7)   (72.6)   (73.3)   (71.4)   (74.3)
         N       84 757   63 071   56 292   27 448   18 707   6 185

                  ACT       NT        All

Year 3   Boys    396.0     287.7     390.1
         Girls   417.9     312.2     409.3
         All     406.9     299.8     399.5
                 (75.3)   (125.6)   (79.8)
         N       4 175     2 773    262 612
Year 5   Boys    478.8     387.1     474.5
         Girls   497.0     412.5     493.4
         All     487.8     399.1     483.8
                 (68.7)   (115.7)   (72.7)
         N       4 343     2 881    263 126
Year 7   Boys    535.4     446.7     528.8
         Girls   553.7     468.5     549.1
         All     544.3     456.8     538.7
                 (66.9)   (113.2)   (71.9)
         N       4 544     2 652    266 083
Year 9   Boys    575.5     498.3     566.5
         Girls   597.6     522.2     587.8
         All     586.7     510.0     576.9
                 (66.6)   (112.9)   (72.9)
         N       4 480     2 357    263 297

NB. The information reported in this table is derived from the MCEETYA
Report (2008a).

* Standard deviations were only reported for overall students, and not
by gender.

Appendix 3 Punctuation and grammar means, standard deviations * and
sample sizes

                  NSW      VIC      QLD       WA       SA      TAS

Year 3   Boys    406.7    417.4    359.9    369.4    385.8    396.0
         Girls   428.1    439.7    381.5    397.5    408.2    409.6
         All     417.2    428.4    370.4    383.2    396.7    402.7
                 (80.8)   (76.9)   (86.9)   (91.4)   (79.9)   (88.5)
         N       85 778   62 209   55 861   26 697   18 734   6 385
Year 5   Boys    492.8    501.8    465.1    470.5    477.7    486.8
         Girls   517.4    525.7    488.5    496.9    498.9    500.2
         All     504.9    513.4    476.6    483.2    488.3    493.4
                 (79.5)   (71.8)   (78.9)   (83.5)   (73.5)   (80.8)
         N       85 868   62 952   55 535   26 697   18 677   6 173
Year 7   Boys    524.8    525.5    506.6    503.1    517.6    520.2
         Girls   548.9    550.4    530.0    527.3    540.2    534.4
         All     536.6    537.7    518.0    514.9    528.8    527.1
                 (72.3)   (68.2)   (68.7)   (74.0)   (69.9)   (72.1)
         N       85 600   63 790   56 389   27 459   19 225   6 424
Year 9   Boys    565.3    565.4    552.7    545.4    555.3    552.9
         Girls   587.3    584.4    574.2    567.1    573.9    561.9
         All     576.1    574.7    563.2    555.9    564.7    557.2
                 (71.4)   (65.6)   (71.0)   (67.7)   (65.8)   (65.5)
         N       84 757   63 071   56 292   27 448   18 707   6 185

                  ACT       NT        All

Year 3   Boys    408.2     279.6     392.2
         Girls   431.2     302.7     414.6
         All     419.6     291.0     403.2
                 (83.1)   (150.1)   (87.5)
         N       4 175     2 773    262 612
Year 5   Boys    499.5     386.8     484.4
         Girls   527.1     414.8     508.4
         All     513.2     400.0     496.2
                 (72.5)   (142.0)   (80.6)
         N       4 343     2 881    263 126
Year 7   Boys    535.7     433.0     517.3
         Girls   557.9     457.8     541.2
         All     546.6     444.5     529.0
                 (73.1)   (126.1)   (72.7)
         N       4 544     2 652    266 083
Year 9   Boys    575.7     490.4     558.9
         Girls   601.5     509.3     579.6
         All     588.7     499.6     569.1
                 (69.0)   (113.8)   (70.4)
         N       4 480     2 357    263 297

NB. The information reported in this table is derived from the MCEETYA
Report (2008a).

* Standard deviations were only reported for overall students, and not
by gender.

Appendix 4 Numeracy means, standard deviations * and sample sizes

                  NSW      VIC      QLD       WA       SA      TAS

Year 3   Boys    412.6    421.9    371.3    383.5    392.8    401.3
         Girls   405.0    411.7    364.4    380.1    384.6    398.5
         All     408.9    416.9    367.9    381.9    388.8    399.9
                 (70.6)   (63.8)   (67.0)   (66.4)   (64.9)   (67.7)
         N       85 364   62 133   55 507   26 591   18 698   6 356
Year 5   Boys    493.4    496.2    463.6    465.7    467.6    466.1
         Girls   482.0    482.8    452.7    455.3    453.2    463.0
         All     487.8    489.7    458.2    460.7    460.4    464.6
                 (72.4)   (65.8)   (62.7)   (63.4)   (60.7)   (62.9)
         N       85 496   62 906   55 284   26 594   18 654   6 126
Year 7   Boys    558.7    560.8    545.5    541.1    544.3    535.7
         Girls   543.6    543.4    532.1    525.8    528.1    531.8
         All     551.3    552.3    539.0    533.7    536.2    533.8
                 (78.3)   (69.4)   (70.4)   (68.7)   (67.7)   (67.5)
         N       85 110   63 880   56 191   27 293   19 171   6 401
Year 9   Boys    595.1    596.3    574.3    575.3    577.9    570.3
         Girls   587.7    584.8    566.9    565.9    564.6    565.4
         All     591.4    590.7    570.7    570.7    571.1    568.0
                 (75.1)   (66.6)   (66.2)   (66.6)   (62.8)   (65.1)
         N       84 129   63 021   55 952   27 371   18 652   6 176

                  ACT       NT       All

Year 3   Boys    416.0    342.2     400.6
         Girls   407.0    334.5     393.1
         All     411.5    338.4     396.9
                 (66.8)   (86.3)   (70.4)
         N       4 148    2 800    261 597
Year 5   Boys    490.5    420.6     481.6
         Girls   477.0    411.4     469.9
         All     483.8    416.3     475.9
                 (64.1)   (81.0)   (68.8)
         N       4 313    2 895    262 268
Year 7   Boys    565.9    491.3     552.3
         Girls   546.1    484.5     537.3
         All     556.2    488.1     545.0
                 (71.0)   (84.0)   (73.2)
         N       4 523    2 706    265 275
Year 9   Boys    598.5    537.5     586.5
         Girls   591.4    527.5     577.6
         All     594.9    532.6     582.2
                 (68.0)   (83.5)   (70.2)
         N       4 452    2 369    262 122

NB. The information reported in this table is derived from the MCEETYA
Report (2008a).

* Standard deviations were only reported for overall students, and not
by gender.


Table 1 Reading means, standard deviations* and sample sizes, by state
and Territory

                 NSW      VIC      QLD      WA       SA       TAS

Year 3  Boys    405.2    413.9    363.1    377.0    392.2    396.0
        Girls   419.7    426.0    379.5    396.8    409.2    406.5
         All    412.3    419.9    371.1    386.7    400.5    401.2
        (SD)   (80.1)   (74.9)   (84.9)   (87.7)   (80.5)   (84.2)
          N    85 682   62 230   55 770   26 635   18 717    6 377

Year 5  Boys    488.3    491.3    459.6    467.2    472.5    473.4
        Girls   501.3    502.3    472.7    480.5    483.2    479.5
         All    494.7    496.7    466.1    473.6    477.9    476.4
        (SD)   (74.9)   (69.3)   (77.5)   (77.2)   (71.3)   (75.8)
          N    85 775   62 954   55 459   26 630   18 664    6 158

Year 7  Boys    538.1    538.6    522.9    521.9    528.8    530.5
        Girls   547.1    547.6    533.5    532.4    538.2    538.1
         All    542.5    543.0    528.1    527.0    533.5    534.2
        (SD)   (69.0)   (63.1)   (67.1)   (67.0)   (65.2)   (68.5)
          N    85 350   63 760   56 296   27 379   19 222    6 422

Year 9  Boys    579.9    582.7    564.5    566.2    572.9    577.6
        Girls   586.5    586.5    572.2    573.7    576.8    580.2
         All    583.1    584.6    568.2    569.8    574.9    578.8
        (SD)   (66.9)   (62.6)   (68.0)   (65.6)   (64.1)   (67.9)
          N    84 520   62 853   56 133   27 392   18 647    6 179

                 ACT      NT       All

Year 3  Boys    414.1    297.4    393.1
        Girls   428.0    316.0    408.2
         All    421.0    306.6    400.5
        (SD)   (81.5)   (134.1)   (84.5)
          N     4 174    2 787   262 372

Year 5  Boys    495.5    397.6    478.4
        Girls   511.2    413.6    490.7
         All    503.3    405.1    484.4
        (SD)   (72.2)   (123.3)   (76.5)
          N     4 341    2 891   262 872

Year 7  Boys    554.6    463.6    531.9
        Girls   561.9    473.9    541.4
         All    558.2    468.4    536.5
        (SD)   (70.2)   (107.7)   (68.2)
          N     4 527    2 671   265 627

Year 9  Boys    597.0    521.9    575.0
        Girls   606.6    526.7    581.0
         All    601.9    524.2    578.0
        (SD)   (68.4)   (101.8)   (67.0)
          N     4 439    2 386   262 549

The information reported in this table is derived from the MCEETYA
Report (2008a).

* Standard deviations were only reported for overall students, and not
by gender.

Table 2 NAPLAN effect sizes for boys and girls on all scales

                     Reading   Writing   Spelling   G&P    Numeracy

Year 3   NSW         0.18      0.39      0.25       0.26   0.11
         VIC         0.16      0.42      0.23       0.29   0.16
         QLD         0.19      0.39      0.26       0.25   0.10
         WA          0.23      0.43      0.29       0.31   0.05
         SA          0.21      0.41      0.29       0.28   0.13
         TAS         0.12      0.44      0.16       0.15   0.04
         ACT         0.17      0.42      0.29       0.28   0.13
         NT          0.14      0.26      0.20       0.15   0.09
         Australia   0.18      0.39      0.24       0.26   0.11

Year 5   NSW         0.17      0.40      0.26       0.31   0.16
         VIC         0.16      0.43      0.27       0.33   0.20
         QLD         0.17      0.40      0.30       0.30   0.17
         WA          0.17      0.41      0.28       0.32   0.16
         SA          0.15      0.40      0.25       0.29   0.24
         TAS         0.08      0.45      0.17       0.17   0.05
         ACT         0.22      0.41      0.26       0.38   0.21
         NT          0.13      0.28      0.22       0.20   0.11
         Australia   0.16      0.40      0.26       0.30   0.17

Year 7   NSW         0.13      0.40      0.28       0.33   0.19
         VIC         0.14      0.46      0.28       0.37   0.25
         QLD         0.16      0.42      0.32       0.34   0.19
         WA          0.16      0.42      0.29       0.33   0.22
         SA          0.14      0.43      0.29       0.32   0.24
         TAS         0.11      0.50      0.18       0.20   0.06
         ACT         0.10      0.47      0.27       0.30   0.28
         NT          0.10      0.27      0.02       0.20   0.08
         Australia   0.14      0.42      0.28       0.33   0.20

Year 9   NSW         0.10      0.45      0.30       0.31   0.10
         VIC         0.06      0.44      0.28       0.29   0.17
         QLD         0.11      0.46      0.33       0.30   0.11
         WA          0.11      0.46      0.32       0.32   0.14
         SA          0.06      0.45      0.27       0.28   0.21
         TAS         0.04      0.47      0.11       0.14   0.08
         ACT         0.14      0.50      0.33       0.37   0.10
         NT          0.05      0.34      0.21       0.17   0.12
         Australia   0.09      0.44      0.29       0.29   0.13

Table 3 Percentages of students per reading band, by year level and
gender

               Band 1 & below      Band 2         Band 3

               Boys   Girls     Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls

Year 3   NSW    5.1     2.8     11.8     8.5   17.8    15.9
         VIC    2.7     1.4      9.2     6.7   17.6    15.3
         QLD   13.1     8.8     19.4    16.2   20.6    20.5
         WA    11.7     7.4     16.0    12.8   18.9    17.8
         SA     6.6     4.3     13.9    10.2   18.4    16.6
         TAS    6.8     5.6     14.5    11.4   18.0    17.0
         ACT    4.9     2.2     10.2     7.2   14.1    14.5
         NT    38.2    33.0     15.1    15.0   13.7    14.6
         ALL    7.4     4.7     13.5    10.4   18.4    16.9

                  Band 4         Band 5      Band 6 & above

               Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls

Year 3   NSW   23.1    24.3   21.9    24.9   19.1    22.8
         VIC   23.5    24.4   23.8    26.3   19.7    24.1
         QLD   20.4    23.5   15.2    18.9    8.7    10.9
         WA    21.3    22.7   18.5    21.6   12.3    17.1
         SA    23.2    24.2   19.9    23.4   14.2    19.0
         TAS   21.7    23.2   20.7    22.3   17.0    19.9
         ACT   21.5    22.9   23.7    25.8   22.6    26.2
         NT    13.0    15.0   10.2    12.1    8.1     8.8
         ALL   22.3    23.8   20.3    23.3   15.9    19.6

               Band 3 & below      Band 4         Band 5

               Boys   Girls     Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls

Year 5   NSW    6.9     4.4     13.4    10.8   23.6    22.1
         VIC    4.7     3.0     12.4     9.9   24.5    22.8
         QLD   13.6     9.3     18.2    16.2   25.0    25.7
         WA    11.9     8.2     16.3    14.3   25.0    24.2
         SA     8.5     6.4     16.0    13.5   26.5    25.4
         TAS   10.4     8.3     15.9    15.2   24.4    24.4
         ACT    4.8     2.8     11.8     8.2   22.5    20.4
         NT    38.4    33.4     14.1    13.0   16.9    17.6
         ALL    8.8     6.1     14.7    12.3   24.4    23.5

                  Band 6         Band 7      Band 8 & above

               Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls

Year 5   NSW   25.8    27.1   18.6    21.5   10.7    13.4
         VIC   26.8    28.5   19.1    22.2    9.4    11.8
         QLD   23.2    25.4   12.8    15.7    5.1     6.6
         WA    24.8    26.7   14.9    18.0    6.2     7.9
         SA    25.0    28.1   15.0    17.0    5.7     7.7
         TAS   25.2    25.5   15.8    17.3    7.4     8.3
         ACT   27.4    28.5   20.5    22.7   11.3    16.2
         NT    16.2    18.8    9.1    10.9    3.9     4.8
         ALL   25.2    27.0   16.7    19.6    8.2    10.4

               Band 4 & below      Band 5         Band 6

               Boys   Girls     Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls

Year 7   NSW    5.1     2.8     14.9    12.0   26.4    26.3
         VIC    3.4     1.7     13.8    10.5   28.2    27.5
         QLD    6.8     4.1     17.9    14.3   29.0    29.4
         WA     7.9     4.7     17.7    14.2   28.9    29.6
         SA     5.4     3.7     16.5    13.0   28.8    27.9
         TAS    6.1     4.5     16.2    14.1   28.1    27.4
         ACT    4.0     1.5     11.4     8.3   21.8    23.0
         NT    33.3    29.6     16.6    15.3   19.5    21.7
         ALL    5.7     3.4     15.7    12.5   27.7    27.6

                  Band 7         Band 8      Band 9 & above

               Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls

Year 7   NSW   26.3    29.3   17.3    18.9    9.2    10.3
         VIC   28.0    31.0   17.2    19.7    7.4     8.3
         QLD   25.6    28.9   13.5    16.0    5.2     6.0
         WA    25.3    28.9   14.2    16.1    5.0     5.6
         SA    25.8    30.0   15.3    16.9    5.7     6.9
         TAS   26.1    28.2   15.3    16.9    7.2     8.4
         ACT   25.6    29.4   21.7    22.2   14.6    14.7
         NT    15.8    17.6    9.7     9.7    3.9     4.7
         ALL   26.3    29.5   16.0    17.9    7.2     8.1

               Band 5 & below       Band 6         Band 7

               Boys   Girls      Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls

Year 9   NSW    6.3     3.8      18.3    15.9   27.4    28.8
         VIC    4.2     2.9      16.6    14.8   29.3    30.5
         QLD    9.8     6.4      20.8    18.5   28.7    31.1
         WA     9.1     6.0      20.6    18.5   29.3    31.2
         SA     6.9     5.3      18.7    16.9   28.8    31.3
         TAS    6.6     6.1      18.0    17.6   29.2    28.0
         ACT    4.3     1.8      13.5    11.1   24.0    23.5
         NT    29.2    27.0      17.9    17.5   21.4    22.4
         ALL    7.1     4.8      18.6    16.5   28.4    30.0

                  Band 8         Band 9      Band 10 & above

               Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls   Boys   Girls

Year 9   NSW   25.4    27.8   15.2    16.3    6.7     6.9
         VIC   26.5    28.8   15.3    15.8    5.8     5.8
         QLD   23.3    25.9   11.9    13.0    3.9     4.0
         WA    24.2    26.7   12.3    13.1    3.7     4.0
         SA    25.6    27.0   12.9    13.5    4.4     4.3
         TAS   25.0    25.7   14.6    15.7    6.0     6.2
         ACT   27.7    29.0   19.3    21.9   10.9    12.4
         NT    16.6    19.3    9.5     9.6    3.2     2.6
         ALL   25.1    27.3   14.1    15.0    5.4     5.6

The percentages in this table are reported in the MCEETYA Report on
NAPLAN, pages 7, 57, 107 and 157.

Table 4 Gender ratios of poor performance on NAPLAN scales by two
definitions, by year level and state and territory

                   Reading            Writing            Spelling

               Lowest   Lowest    Lowest   Lowest    Lowest   Lowest
               Band     2 Bands   Band     2 Bands   Band     2 Bands

Year 3   NSW   1.82     1.60      4.00     3.20      2.63     2.15
         VIC   1.93     1.65      4.25     3.38      2.25     1.91
         QLD   1.49     1.34      2.20     2.03      1.73     1.50
         WA    1.58     1.42      2.29     2.16      1.85     1.60
         SA    1.53     1.45      2.45     2.41      1.92     1.70
         TAS   1.21     1.24      3.75     3.14      1.39     1.29
         ACT   2.23     1.82      6.75     4.59      2.73     2.15
         NT    1.16     1.08      1.29     1.22      1.22     1.13
         All   1.57     1.44      2.35     2.24      1.85     1.64

Year 5   NSW   1.57     1.40      2.95     2.41      2.41     1.99
         VIC   1.57     1.41      3.18     2.60      2.40     1.98
         QLD   1.46     1.29      2.32     1.96      2.05     1.68
         WA    1.45     1.30      2.35     2.00      1.97     1.66
         SA    1.33     1.26      2.26     2.01      1.84     1.61
         TAS   1.25     1.15      3.00     2.43      1.33     1.30
         ACT   1.71     1.58      3.24     2.57      2.65     2.03
         NT    1.15     1.12      1.31     1.28      1.24     1.18
         All   1.44     1.32      2.44     2.10      2.02     1.73

Year 7   NSW   1.82     1.53      2.90     2.30      2.32     1.92
         VIC   2.00     1.66      3.45     2.74      2.32     2.00
         QLD   1.66     1.46      2.48     2.07      2.14     1.83
         WA    1.68     1.46      2.37     2.00      1.93     1.70
         SA    1.46     1.36      2.39     2.11      2.03     1.81
         TAS   1.36     1.25      3.23     2.42      1.47     1.36
         ACT   2.67     2.02      3.78     2.86      2.82     2.24
         NT    1.13     1.10      1.30     1.29      1.22     1.19
         All   1.68     1.47      2.63     2.19      2.07     1.81

Year 9   NSW   1.66     1.40      2.60     2.07      2.15     1.79
         VIC   1.45     1.28      2.90     2.29      1.96     1.67
         QLD   1.53     1.33      2.34     1.87      1.92     1.67
         WA    1.52     1.32      2.34     1.88      1.94     1.62
         SA    1.30     1.20      2.46     2.03      1.73     1.50
         TAS   1.08     1.05      2.30     1.85      1.08     1.12
         ACT   2.39     1.80      3.41     2.49      2.50     2.00
         NT    1.08     1.05      1.43     1.32      1.30     1.21
         All   1.48     1.30      2.47     1.99      1.74     1.56

                 Grammar &
                 punctuation         Numeracy

               Lowest   Lowest    Lowest   Lowest
               Band     2 Bands   Band     2 Bands

Year 3   NSW   2.25     1.88      1.05     1.03
         VIC   1.93     1.87      0.64     0.73
         QLD   1.61     1.43      0.97     0.94
         WA    1.73     1.52      1.09     1.06
         SA    1.81     1.61      0.91     0.91
         TAS   1.28     1.23      0.92     0.99
         ACT   2.77     2.16      1.07     1.07
         NT    1.16     1.10      1.00     0.97
         All   1.74     1.58      0.97     0.96

Year 5   NSW   2.09     1.83      0.87     0.87
         VIC   2.44     2.10      0.69     0.76
         QLD   1.86     1.61      0.83     0.85
         WA    1.87     1.64      0.88     0.88
         SA    1.78     1.59      0.68     0.74
         TAS   1.35     1.28      1.07     1.03
         ACT   2.69     2.42      0.97     0.85
         NT    1.19     1.20      0.93     0.93
         All   1.89     1.69      0.83     0.84

Year 7   NSW   2.53     2.05      0.86     0.86
         VIC   2.88     2.29      0.68     0.74
         QLD   2.22     1.85      0.83     0.85
         WA    2.01     1.69      0.87     0.86
         SA    2.02     1.75      0.67     0.75
         TAS   1.45     1.35      1.28     1.15
         ACT   3.26     2.45      1.11     0.95
         NT    1.22     1.17      0.99     0.97
         All   2.23     1.88      0.84     0.85

Year 9   NSW   2.27     1.81      0.92     0.93
         VIC   2.20     1.79      0.74     0.79
         QLD   2.00     1.65      0.95     0.93
         WA    2.01     1.62      0.92     0.90
         SA    1.90     1.59      0.74     0.78
         TAS   1.10     1.14      0.93     0.94
         ACT   3.39     2.47      1.03     0.97
         NT    1.20     1.22      0.94     0.93
         All   2.02     1.67      0.89     0.89
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