Early Bird Catches the Worm: The Causal Impact of Pre-school Participation and Teacher Qualifications on Year 3 National NAPLAN Cognitive Tests

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 34/13

Date: October 2013


Diana Warren
John de New


Using data from the Longitudinal Survey of Australian Children (LSAC), this is the first analysis for Australia to evaluate the impact of attendance at pre-school programs on matched Year 3 nation-wide NAPLAN test outcomes in the domains of Numeracy, Reading, Spelling, Writing and Grammar. We additionally disaggregate the impact of specific teacher qualifications on children’s cognitive outcomes. While one year of learning in Year 3 is represented by about 50 NAPLAN points, we find average pre-school domain effects as much as 10-15 points, mainly driven by the upper quantiles of the NAPLAN distribution. To address causality issues, we use Kernel matching, whereby the ATTs and ATUs are of the magnitude 10 to 20 NAPLAN points, which are reduced only modestly to about 15 points with additional controls for observed ability. NAPLAN score impacts on Numeracy, Reading and Spelling domains are the strongest and significant with the highest increases in NAPLAN scores being attained by children whose pre-school teachers had Diploma or Degree level (high) qualifications, identifying for the first time the crucial nature of teacher qualifications in driving nationally representative long-run pre-school treatment outcomes

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  • ATT, causal impact, pre-school, NAPLAN, specialised qualification