Small decreases in average reading performance were found in PILNA 2021 compared with PILNA 2018 for both year levels, but it is unclear whether these are significant.
Year four students' average reading performance decreased from 459 in PILNA 2018 (SD = 75) to 444 in PILNA 2021 (SD = 83).
Year six students' average reading performance decreased from 501 in PILNA 2018 (SD = 70) to 492 in PILNA 2021 (SD = 78).
Further analysis is required to establish whether these differences are statistically significant and how large they are.
When comparing the reading performance of year four students across 2015, 2018 and 2021, the scores appear to be relatively consistent, or, at least with no general positive or negative trends. It is noted that comparisons with PILNA 2012 are not possible as scores were analysed differently in that cycle.
Year four students, on average, are not meeting the minimum expected level of performance in reading (level 4). The average reading score for year four students in PILNA 2021 (444) was at the lower cut-off point of reading proficiency level three (Level 3 = 437.5–462.5).
In addition, only 43% of year four students are meeting the minimum expected standard in reading. Average year four reading performance is a lot lower than expected and less than half of year four students are meeting the minimum expected reading performance standards.
Year six students, on average, are meeting the minimum expected level of performance in reading. The average reading score for year six students in PILNA 2021 (492) was near the lower cut-off point of reading proficiency level five (Level 5 = 487.5–512.5). This is the proficiency level they are expected to meet or exceed.
A bit more than half (53%) of year six students are meeting the minimum expected reading performance levels, but a bit less than half are not (47%). This means that the average year six reading performance is at minimum expected levels but nearly half the year six students are not meeting minimum reading performance standards.
Two notable observations were made regarding the distribution of year four and year six reading scores that were otherwise relatively symmetrical. The first is that a large proportion of year four students (34%) scored at either reading proficiency level zero or level one, the lowest two levels. In contrast, a large proportion of year six students (28%) scored at either reading proficiency level seven or level eight, the highest two levels. Further analysis needs to be done here but it appears that the distributions of year four and year six proficiency level scores is not central or symmetrical.
These findings also need to be analysed in the context of the new rotated test booklet design. PILNA 2021 collected more information about lower performing students than previous cycles, therefore, it is possible that performance differences are influenced by an increased accuracy of assessment.