OECD review on evaluation and assessment frameworks for improving school outcomes Publications
In 2010 New Zealand participated in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes. The purpose of the review was to explore how systems of evaluation and assessment can be used to improve outcomes in primary and secondary schooling.
Author(s): Ministry of Education
Date Published: April 2011
A centralised system framework with high levels of local responsibility
Although New Zealand has less than one million students in compulsory schooling, the system supports a wide range of options. The system includes English-medium and Māori-medium schooling provision.
Four key government agencies have specific responsibilities related to education evaluation and assessment: the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the New Zealand Teachers Council. Each agency has both accountability and improvement functions and plays an important role in supporting the quality of provision across the school system.7
The State Sector accountability framework Managing for Outcomes is a key mechanism for coordinating the strategic direction of the education agencies. Under this framework, agencies are required to follow annual cycles of reporting on strategic education priorities and actual performance.
New Zealand’s education system is characterised by a high level of devolution. Responsibility for the governance, administration and management of individual schools rests with an elected Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees employs all school staff, manages property, controls school finances and sets the policies that govern the school. The Board of Trustees and school leaders are expected to make decisions based on:
- the aspirations of parents and community;
- regulations such as the National Education Guidelines (NEGs) and National Administration Guidelines (NAGs);
- evidence compiled from a range of data-gathering processes;
- information available through research and practice that indicates ‘what works’;
- professional judgement as to how to prioritise and plan from this information.
The self-managing school model supports flexibility, responsiveness to local communities and innovative practice but this also places significant expectations and demands on principals and school leaders.
The development of assessment policy in New Zealand has consistently focused on improving learning. The New Zealand Curriculum for English-medium settings and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa for Māori-medium settings set out the valued achievement outcomes for New Zealand students, as well as their entitlement in terms of depth and breadth of learning opportunities in compulsory schooling. The curriculum states that the primary purpose of assessment is to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching. The curriculum allows for a high degree of flexibility, specifying expected learning outcomes rather than prescribing curriculum content.
Expectations for student achievement and progress in compulsory schooling have been established through curriculum achievement levels and key competencies (Years 1-13). A stronger focus has been placed on foundation learning in literacy and numeracy in recent years.
In 2010, the Government introduced National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics for use in English-medium schools and Ngā Whanaketanga Rūmaki Māori (mathematics, reading, writing and oral Māori language) for use in Māori-medium settings. These new standards, supported by existing literacy and numeracy progressions and English language learning progressions, clarify expectations for student achievement and progress in Years 1-8. The standards consist of descriptors, illustrations and examples of student work and assessment tasks linked to school Year levels.
Schools are required to report to parents on student progress and achievement against the standards at least twice a year. Students who are achieving ‘well below’ a standard, or are improving at a rate that is considerably less than expected, should receive support additional to the classroom programme.
Unlike some jurisdictions, New Zealand has not introduced national testing in primary schooling. Instead, teachers draw on a range of evidence of student learning in order to reach an overall professional judgement about student progress and achievement against the National Standards. The same process is used for making summative professional judgements about achievement and progress in relation to wider curriculum achievement objectives, key competencies and learning progressions.
The Ministry of Education does not mandate the use of particular assessment tools. However, a number of assessment tools are available to teachers to use in Years 1-10, including norm-referenced tools. An ongoing programme to align common assessment tools to National Standards has been established. This programme will assist in the determination of overall teacher judgements, and the moderation of judgements between teachers. Because of the relative newness of the Māori-medium sector, there is a need for further development of appropriate assessment tools and resources to support teaching and learning in, and through, the Māori language.
Broad parental support for plain language reporting of student progress and achievement exists. Within the wider education sector, concerns have been expressed that the implementation of the standards may promote an undue emphasis on achievement at the expense of progress and compromise the implementation of the new curriculum.
The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the main national qualification for secondary students. Students in Years 11, 12 and 13 enter for NCEA at Levels 1, 2 and 3. Some standards are internally assessed while others are externally assessed (primarily by end-of-year examinations). Assessment for these national qualifications is standards-based. Students are assessed against published standards that specify knowledge and skills. Each standard is assigned a credit value and a level on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.
The current programme of improvements to NCEA and the Standards Review are designed to enhance the quality and credibility of the qualification.
Use of assessment information to evaluate performance, drive school improvement and improve teaching practice
New Zealand has good quality information available to evaluate the performance of the school system as a whole. The Education Indicators Framework provides a strong basis for monitoring trends in overall student outcomes and tracking the achievement and progress of population sub-groups. Information sources contributing to system-level evaluation and assessment include national education monitoring data, international assessment studies, administrative data and surveys, evaluation and research findings, qualifications data, and Education Review Office (ERO) national reviews.
The results of system-level evaluation are used to inform education agencies’ strategic planning, policy and research priorities. Agencies also publish system-level data and disseminate information on best practice to a wide range of stakeholders, including individual schools.
In recent years there has been a growing focus on the analysis and use of assessment data within schools to drive self review and lift student achievement. For example, recent changes to teacher registration standards, or Registered Teacher Criteria, developed by the New Zealand Teachers Council, place a much stronger focus on student learning outcomes, including teachers’ analysis and use of student assessment information.
Within the education sector, views on the extent to which teacher appraisal should be used for high stakes judgements or to inform professional development decisions are mixed. The recent report of an independent Education Workforce Advisory Group has recommended greater flexibility for principals to use resources such as salary units to reward teacher skill and capability. The Government will consider the advisory group report and the outcomes of a public consultation process.
As responsibility for implementing performance management and appraisal procedures is devolved to schools, there is potential for wide variation in the quality of practice. School management of professional learning and development programmes also varies across schools, depending in large part on the quality of the principal’s leadership.
Building the capability of teachers, school leaders and Boards of Trustees to engage in effective self review to improve student learning is a current priority for the Ministry of Education and ERO. School self reviews contribute to external (ERO) reviews, which are most commonly conducted on a three-yearly cycle. ERO has also begun to use the quality of self review as one of the criteria for determining the frequency of review visits.
External assessment of the quality of education in New Zealand schools is undertaken by ERO. ERO focuses on school processes and how these contribute to school effectiveness. This approach includes evaluating the quality of schools’ assessment policies and practices and making recommendations for improvement. ERO also looks at teacher appraisal and professional development plans within the context of school-wide planning and decision-making.
The results of external ERO reviews are provided to the Board of Trustees. There is an expectation that the Board, in collaboration with the school’s leadership team, will address any recommendations through their planning and self-review procedures. ERO may also recommend intervention by the Ministry of Education, usually because student welfare or learning is at risk. The public nature of ERO reports means that schools take the findings seriously. ERO also collates information gathered in individual school reviews to provide system-wide reports and policy advice to the Minister or Ministry of Education on issues of national interest.
Boards of Trustees report each year to the Ministry of Education and their communities on progress against the student achievement targets set in their school charters. The nature, quality and format of student assessment information contained in annual reports and school charters vary across schools because of the self-managing environment. At a system level, this limits the Ministry of Education’s ability to use assessment information contained in annual reports, alongside ERO reviews, to identify schools where student progress or achievement may be at risk, or to better target advice, support and interventions in line with government priorities.
The Government has introduced changes to school planning and reporting requirements linked to the introduction of National Standards. From 2012 Boards of Trustees with students in Years 1-8 will be required to include in their annual reports information about: school strengths and identified areas for improvement; the basis for identifying areas for improvement; and planned actions for lifting achievement. The annual report must also include the numbers and proportions of students at, above, below or well below the standards, as well as how students are progressing against the standards.
The reporting of school-level National Standards information is currently a contested area within the education sector. Concerns relate to the misuse of student achievement data as a proxy for school and teacher quality and the potential for unfair school comparisons or ranking of primary schools. Further work is being carried out with the education sector in 2010 to resolve these challenges.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) administers NCEA for senior secondary students (Years 11-13). School-level results from NCEA assessments in Years 11-13 are available to schools to use in their self-review processes. Qualifications results from NCEA assessment are also published at a school level on the NZQA website. At a system level, the analysis of patterns of performance in NCEA is used in the evaluation of the performance of the education system and to inform policy and programme delivery.
- As Crown Entities, each governed by a Board of Trustees, schools also have a responsibility for evaluation and assessment.
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