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The Australian National University

The Characteristics and Potential Effects of the Schools that Indigenous Australians Attend

Working Paper 119 / 2017
Ben Edwards


This paper uses data from the National Assessment Program, Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) to document the distribution of Indigenous students across Australian schools, as well as some of the potential effects of that distribution on literacy and numeracy outcomes. The results show three main things: the Indigenous population is not evenly distributed across schools, with high rates of school segregation; using a school fixed effects model, it appears that the characteristics of schools matter in explaining change through time in Indigenous outcomes; and the distribution of Indigenous students across different schools explains some, but not all, of the difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in literacy and numeracy. A key policy finding from the analysis is that the school system seems to matter. Growth through time of literacy and numeracy for Indigenous students is lowest in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

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