Indicators

Reading literacy achievement: primary schooling

What We Have Found 

Year 5 students in New Zealand have moderately high reading literacy achievement, on average, compared with their counterparts in other countries, and like most countries, girls generally have higher achievement than boys. There has been no significant change in achievement over three cycles of PIRLS, from 2001 to 2010.

Date Updated: October 2013

Indicator Description

Reading literacy scores for Year 5 students.

Why This Is Important

Using and understanding written language forms is fundamental to learning and essential to being an effective participant in society and the workforce. Written language is a vital medium for communication, accessing information, developing cultural, social and personal identity, national awareness, and for understanding other perspectives. Students encounter a range of written language forms in a variety of settings; in the home, school, and community. Exposure to language forms that use descriptive and emotive language opens up new worlds, real or imaginary, for students to experience and enjoy.

Writing and reading are intrinsically linked. Writing enables students to gather, process, and present information, as well as expressing themselves creatively. When students have opportunities to write for an audience, they can communicate across time and location, enabling wider participation in society and the global community. Moreover, reading and writing are foundational literacy skills critical for students to have in order to meet the demands of all learning areas in the curriculum.

This reading achievement indicator reflects the extent to which students have developed early foundations in reading, a result of both their early childhood education and early schooling.

How We Are Going

This indicator draws on the third cycle of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, 2010/11 (PIRLS-2010/11). PIRLS focuses on two overarching purposes that account for most of the reading undertaken by students at the middle primary level: reading for literary experience and reading to acquire and use information.  Within both reading purposes PIRLS measures four major processes of reading comprehension: retrieving explicitly stated information; making straightforward inferences; interpreting and integrating ideas and information; and examining and evaluating content, language, and textual elements of texts.

New Zealand Year 5 students’ mean reading literacy score (531) was significantly higher than the PIRLS Scale Centrepoint (500). There has been no significant change in Year 5 students' reading literacy performance over the period 2001 to 2010.

The spread of scores between New Zealand’s higher performing students and lower performing students was relatively wide compared with other countries where English was one of the assessment languages. (New Zealand assessed a very small group, 2%, in te reo Māori). There has been little change in this range over the period 2001 to 2010.

New Zealand Year 5 students' mean performance in reading literacy was significantly higher than 17 countries but was significantly lower than 20 countries including Finland, the United States, England, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and Canada.

The international reading benchmarks are four points on the reading scale that describe the types of comprehension skills students demonstrated when reading the PIRLS texts and answering the questions associated with the texts. They are: the Advanced International Benchmark (625), the High International Benchmark (550), the Intermediate International Benchmark (475), and the Low International Benchmark (400). In 2010, 14% of Year 5 students reached the Advanced International Benchmark; 8% did not reach the Low International Benchmark. In terms of the benchmark definitions, these Year 5 students had difficulty with locating and retrieving explicitly-stated detail from the reading texts.

The proportion of students reaching each of the benchmarks has not changed significantly over the three cycles.


Figure 1: Trends in the distribution of Year 5 students' reading literacy achievement 2001-2010
2013-inID-748-fig1



Table 1: Trends in Year 5 students reaching the PIRLS international reading benchmarks,
2001-2010 PIRLS assessment
PIRLS
Assessment Year
Percentage of Year 5 Students at or above the benchmark
Low (400)
Intermediate (475)
High (550)
Advanced (625)
2001
90 (1.0) 74 (1.4)45 (1.6)
14 (1.2)
2005
92 (0.6) 76 (1.0)45 (1.0)13 (0.7)
2010
92 (0.5)75 (0.9)45 (1.1)14 (0.7)
Notes:
  1. Standard errors are presented in parentheses.
  2. “At or above” means the proportion of students reaching the benchmark, including those that achieved at higher benchmarks. 


Relative to their overall reading performance, New Zealand Year 5 students tended to have stronger performance in literary reading. New Zealand Year 5 students tended to show that they had stronger reasoning skills (i.e., interpreting, integrating, and evaluating) and had weaker text-based skills (retrieval and straightforward inferencing).

There has been no significant change in the mean reading achievement of Year 5 boys or Year 5 girls across the three cycles of PIRLS. The mean reading achievement of Year 5 girls was significantly higher than boys and this difference was one of the largest among the countries participating in PIRLS. The average difference has, however, decreased over time from 27 in 2001 to 20 in 2010.

Table 2: Trends in Year 5 students' mean reading literacy scores 2001-2010, by gender
PIRLS Assessment Year
Mean Girls
Mean Boys
Mean New Zealand
2001
542 (4.7) 516 (4.2)529 (3.6)
2005
544 (2.2) 520 (2.9)532 (2.0)
2010
541 (2.2)521 (2.7)
531 (1.9)
Note:
  1. Standard errors are presented in parentheses.


Table 3: Trends in Year 5 students' mean reading literacy scores 2001–2010, by school decile band PIRLS assessment year
PIRLS Assessment Year
Mean Low: 1-3
Mean Medium: 4-7
Mean High: 8-10
Mean New Zealand
2001
483 (4.7)537 (6.0)564 (5.5)529 (3.6)
2005
485 (4.9)538 (3.7)560 (2.9)532 (2.0)
2010
480 (2.2)535 (2.9)567 (2.9)531 (1.9)
Notes:
  1. Standard errors appear in parentheses.
  2. The New Zealand means includes data for the small proportion of Year 5 students in independent schools.


The mean reading literacy achievement of Year 5 students in 2010 in higher decile schools (8–10) was higher (567) than those Year 5 students in either lower (1–3) or mid-range (4–7) decile schools. There was no significant change in the mean reading achievement for students according to their schools’ decile band from 2001 to 2010.


Table 4: Trends in the Percentage of Year 5 students reaching the PIRLS international reading benchmarks 2001-2010, by school decile band
School Decile
Band
PIRLS Assessment Year
Percentage of Year 5 students reaching PIRLS international benchmark
Low (400)
Intermediate (475)
High (550)
Advanced (625)
Deciles 1-3
2001
 80 (2.4)56 (2.2)25 (2.1)
5 (1.2)
2005
82 (1.6)57 (2.4)
24 (2.2)5 (0.9)
2010
81 (1.2)54 (1.6) 22 (1.7)5 (1.0)
Deciles 4-7
2001
93 (1.3)77 (2.4)48 (2.8)15 (2.2)
2005
95 (0.8)79 (1.8)46 (2.1)13 (1.1)
2010
93 (1.0)78 (1.6)46 (1.8)12 (1.4)
Deciles 8-10
2001
96 (1.0)87 (1.9)60 (2.9)22 (2.0)
2005
97 (0.5)
87 (1.2)58 (1.6)19 (1.3)
2010
98 (0.4)88 (1.1)
61 (1.6)
22 (1.7)
All New Zealand
2001
90 (1.0)74 (1.4)
45 (1.6)
14 (1.2)
2005
92 (0.6)76 (1.0)45 (1.0)13 (0.7)
2010
92 (0.5)75 (0.9)45 (1.1)
14 (0.7)
Notes:
  1. Standard errors appear in parentheses.
  2. The New Zealand proportions include data for the small proportion of Year 5 students in independent schools.


While there were both low and high-achieving students in schools in all decile bands, there tended to be proportionately more students in higher decile schools than lower decile schools achieving at or above the higher reading benchmarks. Just over one in five students, 22%, in lower decile schools scored at or above the High International Benchmark (i.e., scored 550 or higher) compared with 46% of students in mid-range decile schools and 61% in higher decile schools. 

The converse to this is that there tended to be proportionately fewer lower-achieving students in higher decile schools groupings than in lower decile schools.

Just over one in ten students, 12%, from higher decile schools did not reach the Intermediate International Benchmark compared with 22% of Year 5 students from mid-range decile schools and 46% from lower decile schools.

There was no significant change in the proportions of Year 5 students reaching the benchmarks for any of the decile bands from 2001 to 2010.

There was no change in the mean reading literacy scores for Year 5 students in each of the ethnic groupings* between 2001 and 2010. 


Table 5: Trends in Year 5 students' mean reading literacy, by ethnicity (2001-2010)
PIRLS Assessment Year
Mean European
/Pākehā
Mean Māori
Mean Pasifika
Mean Asian
Mean New Zealand
2001
552 (3.4)481 (5.5)481 (7.2)540 (9.9)529 (3.6)
2005
552 (2.4)483 (3.6)479 (6.7)550 (5.3)532 (2.0)
2010
558 (2.3)488 (3.6)473 (5.0)542 (4.1)531 (1.9)
Notes:
  1. Standard errors appear in parentheses.
  2. *Prioritised ethnicity.
  3. The New Zealand mean includes information for the small proportion of students in the ‘Other ethnic groups’ category.

References

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