Student Achievement Publications
This report of the Minister of Education on the compulsory schools sector in New Zealand pertains to 2007 (also known as the Schools Sector Report). Other editions are available on the New Zealand Schools publication home page.
Author(s): Ministry of Education
Date Published: September 2008
Chapter 1: Student Achievement
This chapter provides a picture of student achievement in New Zealand schools. Achievement at school contributes to students' likelihood of successful participation in tertiary education and/or future employment, as well as contributing to students' well-being and their ability to participate effectively in society.
This chapter looks at information on student achievement that became available in 2007 and early 2008. The chapter is divided into two sections. The first section looks at specific areas of achievement and covers findings from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the Literacy Professional Development Project (LPDP), the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Numeracy Development Project (NDP) and the National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP). The second section looks at overall schooling achievement outcomes. It analyses National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) progress by the 2005 Year 11 cohort, the highest levels of achievement reached by school leavers and the resulting transitions to tertiary education.
Achievement in specific areas
Literacy and Reading
PIRLS, LPDP and PISA report on literacy achievement by New Zealand students.
PIRLS results in 20051 show a slight (but not a statistically significant) improvement in the average reading scores of Year 5 students since 2001. Our students continue to score widely; the difference between highest and lowest achievers is wider than in most high-performing countries and has not improved since 2001.
Learning and achievement can improve with effective professional development. Schools with students in Years 1–6 and/or Years 7–8 can receive in-depth, school-wide professional development in literacy through the LPDP, and focus on either reading comprehension or writing.
There are two recurring themes of improvement in LPDP data between 2004 and 2007:2
- after taking into account expected growth and maturation, students' gains in reading and writing achievement were equivalent to twice what could be expected without the intervention
- students who were at risk of underachieving progressed more quickly. Collectively, their rates of improvement were four times the expected gains for each cohort as a whole.
Nevertheless, analysis of sub-groups of students3 reveals some students remain at risk. For example, in PIRLS, 8 percent of the cohort (Year 5 students tested in 2005) did not reach the Low International Benchmark for reading. Evidence suggests the system is not yet providing the necessary support for these students.
Results on reading literacy are available for the 15-year-olds who participated in PISA 2006.5 The achievement of New Zealand students did not change significantly between 2000 and 2006. Only three countries (Korea, Finland and Hong Kong–China) achieved results significantly better than New Zealand. Another two countries (Canada and Ireland) had results similar to New Zealand, while the other 50 participating countries had results lower than New Zealand.
Numeracy and Mathematics
The NDP, NEMP and PISA all report on numeracy achievement by New Zealand students.
The NDP was set up to improve mathematics teaching and learning at primary and secondary levels and has been under way for seven years in primary schools and three years in secondary schools.
Analysis of performance by Years 5–9 students6 in the project found a noticeable improvement in Years 5–8 at each year level. Improvement by Year 9 students was less marked compared with other year groups.
The findings of the Longitudinal Study indicate that students in NDP schools continue to improve each year, with the end-of-year performance of Year 6 longitudinal students improving over the course of the study.7 Year 6 students who had been in the same NDP school since Year 1 achieved slightly higher than other Year 6 students in their schools and significantly better than Year 6 students in non-NDP schools. The percentage of Year 6 students in longitudinal schools reaching at least stage 6 increased from 2002 to 2006 by at least 22 percentage points for each of the strategy domains (additive, multiplicative and proportional). The number of students at NDP schools classified 'at risk' decreased over time. By 2006, the percentage of students still at risk decreased in all domains, with the largest decrease of 28 percentage points in the proportional domain.
The NEMP report on graphs, tables and maps8 focuses on extracting and interpreting information from a wide variety of graphs, tables and maps. Year 4 results were generally unchanged between 2003 and 2007, and there was a small decline for Year 8. Although little difference was seen between the performance of males and females, European/Pākehā tended to perform better than Māori and Pasifika students.
Results on mathematical literacy are available for 15-year-olds who participated in PISA 2006.9 The achievement of New Zealand students did not change significantly between 2003 and 2006. Only five countries (Chinese Taipei, Finland, Hong Kong–China, Korea and Netherlands) achieved results significantly better than New Zealand. Another seven countries (including Canada and Australia) had results similar to New Zealand, while 44 other participating countries had results significantly lower than New Zealand.
Science and Scientific Literacy
There are two sources for new information on science-related achievement: NEMP 200710 looks at students in Years 4 and 8; and PISA 2006 reports on 15-year-olds.
The NEMP science report focuses on achievement related to the living world, the physical world, the material world and planet Earth and beyond. Achievement between 2003 and 2007 is either similar or shows small declines for both Year 4 and Year 8 students. In particular, Year 4 achievement data showed small declines in the physical world and the material world areas that were continuations of small declines seen in the same areas between 1999 and 2003.
In 2006, PISA focused on scientific literacy11 for the first time. In terms of mean scores, few countries did better than New Zealand. Only two countries (Finland and Hong Kong–China) performed better than New Zealand in scientific literacy. Another eight countries performed at a similar level to New Zealand, including Australia and Canada.
Compared with other high-performing countries, New Zealand continued to have one of the biggest spreads of scores between the highest and lowest achievers. This can be attributed to the strong performance of our highest achievers as much as to the performance of the lower achievers.
PISA looked at most of the science areas covered by NEMP. Results echoed NEMP, with New Zealand students' knowledge of physical systems weaker relative to their knowledge of the living world and Earth and space systems. New Zealand mean results overall were strong compared with other countries'. The best results were for earth and space systems, where only three other countries performed better than New Zealand.
The third NEMP report of 2007 focuses on visual arts,12 in particular achievement in making art and responding to art. Although visual arts is one of the most popular subject areas, performance does not always match student enthusiasm. Year 4 and Year 8 performance improved slightly between 2003 and 2007. Males and females differed little. European/Pākehā performed slightly better than Māori but this gap reduced at Year 8.
ACHIEVEMENT AT THE SENIOR SECONDARY LEVEL
A successful school system results in school leavers who are motivated, self-directed, lifelong learners. The sections that follow discuss the achievement levels of students at the senior secondary level. They begin with a discussion of NCEA achievements between 2005 and 2007 of a cohort of students as they advance through their schooling. The qualifications of school leavers (including qualifications outside the National Qualifications Framework [NQF]) are analysed. Finally, the transition of students to tertiary education is tracked.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement
The flexibility of the NQF and NCEA allows students to build up credits over time towards a qualification. Students who do not gain a qualification in one year retain any credits they have gained and can add to them in subsequent years. The information available on NQF study allows us to follow the achievements of groups of students over time.
In this section, the progress of three groups of students tracked over two to three years is reported in order to show:
- the pathways that students take through NCEA
- the highest levels of qualification that students typically reach by following each pathway.
This section focuses on the 2005 cohort (in which the Year 11 students of 2005 are tracked through to 2007).13 Some comparisons are made with earlier groups of students: the 2002 cohort (in which the Year 11 students of 2002 were tracked through to 2004); the 2003 cohort (in which the Year 11 students of 2003 were tracked through to 2005); and the 2004 cohort (in which the Year 11 students of 2004 were tracked through to 2006).
Students can take different pathways to achieving qualifications. Through these pathways, the majority of students achieve at least one qualification on the NQF, many achieve two and almost one-third achieve three (see Table 1.1).
In Table 1.1, the pathways that students followed are made up of the following:
- qualification (dark colour) – the student gained a national certificate (usually NCEA) in the year14
- credits (light colour) – the student gained credits bRut did not complete a national certificate in the year
- no participation (no colour) – the student did not gain credits or a qualification in Year 12 or Year 13.
Table 1.1: Pathways to Achievement Taken by the 2005 Cohort
|Path 3||Qualification||Qualification||No participation|
|Path 6||Qualification||No participation||Qualification|
|Path 7||Credits||Qualification||No participation|
|Path 8||Qualification||No participation||No participation|
|Path 10||Qualification||Credits||No participation|
|Path 13||Credits||No participation||Qualification|
|Path 14||Qualification||No participation||Credits|
|Path 15||Credits||No participation||No participation|
|Path 16||Credits||Credits||No participation|
|Path 18||Credits||No participation||Credits|
Figure 1.1: Highest Qualification Achieved by the 2005 Cohort by the End of 2007
Nearly a third (32 percent) of the 2005 cohort achieved three qualifications by the end of Year 13 (see Figure 1.1). This is an increase of six percentage points over the 2002 cohort, 26 percent of whom achieved three qualifications.
A further 26 percent of the 2005 cohort achieved two qualifications by the end of Year 13. Students take various pathways in achieving these qualifications. Most gain their two qualifications in their first two years of senior secondary study (paths 2 and 3 in Table 1.1). Some of the students who do not return to NCEA may be studying towards international examinations in Year 13.
Most of the students with two qualifications by the end of Year 13 had a Level 2 qualification as their highest qualification. A minority had a Level 3 qualification as their highest qualification (see Figure 1.1).
Just over one-fifth of the 2005 cohort had achieved a single qualification by the end of Year 13. The most common pathways to this were to gain the qualification in either the first or second year of senior secondary study and then not return (Table 1.1). However, a small number of students (2 percent) did gain their first qualification on the NQF after three years of study.
Most of the students with one qualification had gained a Level 1 qualification (15 percent). Most of the rest had a Level 2 qualification (6 percent), with a handful gaining a Level 3 qualification.
Just over one-fifth (21 percent) of the students in the 2005 cohort did not achieve a qualification on the NQF by the end of Year 13. Most of this group left study after their first senior secondary year. A minority returned for a second year before leaving.
A quarter of the group who did not achieve a qualification met the literacy and numeracy requirements for NCEA Level 1. Most students met the requirements by the end of Year 11, with a minority meeting the requirements by the end of Year 12. A small number took even longer to meet these requirements, only doing so by the end of Year 13.
Female students were more likely to gain three qualifications by the end of Year 13 than their male counterparts (38 percent compared with 26 percent – see Figure 1.2).
Figure 1.2: Highest Qualification Achieved by the 2005 Cohort by the End of 2007, by Gender
Only 14 percent of Māori students in the cohort gained three qualifications compared with 36 percent of non-Māori students (see Figure 1.3). This is a small improvement compared with the 2004 cohort. Māori students remain more likely to gain no qualifications than non-Māori students (37 percent compared with 12 percent).
Only 15 percent of Pasifika students gained three qualifications compared with 34 percent of non-Pasifika students (see Figure 1.4). This is a small improvement on the 2004 Pasifika cohort rate (12 percent). Pasifika students were more likely (29 percent) than non-Pasifika students (26 percent) to gain two qualifications by the end of Year 13. Pasifika students were more likely to take three years to gain the two qualifications (see path 4 on Table 1.1).
Figure 1.3: Highest Qualification Achieved by the 2005 Cohort by the End of 2007, by Māori and Non-Māori Students
Figure 1.4: Highest Qualification Achieved by the 2005 Cohort by the End of 2007, by Pasifika and Non-Pasifika Students
Impact of Te Kōtahitanga on NCEA Level 1 Achievement
Te Kōtahitanga, a professional development project for teachers referred to on page 44, began in 2001 and focuses on students in Years 9 and 10. It has contributed insights into the effective teaching practices that work well for and with Māori learners and into high-quality professional development overall.
Research15 on the 12 schools involved in Te Kōtahitanga since 2001 shows NCEA Level 1 achievement rates increased from 49 percent in 2005 to 60 percent in 2006 and 62 percent in 2007 for all students in Year 11 taught by Te Kōtahitanga teachers for all their secondary schooling.
International students can be divided into two sub-groups – international fee-paying students (IFP) and fee-exempt students (for example, exchange students and dependents of diplomats). Currently IFP students are the only group of international students for whom NCEA achievement data can be analysed. These students make up a relatively small proportion of students in senior secondary study. IFP students come to New Zealand with a range of goals: some are seeking a high-quality education while some want to experience a different lifestyle and culture for a year. Most come from a non-English-speaking background and do not have advanced English language skills while undertaking senior secondary study.16
The proportion of Year 12 and 13 IFP students who have gained an NCEA qualification at a typical level or higher has decreased since 2005, and the proportion who have met the university entrance requirements by the end of Year 13 has also decreased over the last three years (see Table 1.2).
Table 1.2: Typical Level17 or Higher NCEA Qualifications Gained by IFP Students, 2005–2007
|International Fee-paying Students||2005||2006||2007|
|Student Roll||Gained a Typical Level or Higher NCEA %||Student Roll||Gained a Typical Level or Higher NCEA %||Student Roll||Gained a Typical Level or Higher NCEA %|
SCHOOL LEAVERS IN 2007
School leaver data provides a way of measuring the cumulative performances of students. It shows the overall success of schools in ensuring that students are adequately equipped to participate in society, the labour market and further education. This data includes students who are gaining qualifications through NCEA and also international examinations.
The overall picture for 2007 school leavers (Table 1.3) supports a positive trend, as evidence shows that attainment levels continue to improve.
Key indicators suggest that the different type of assessment and resulting flexibility offered by NCEA is having a positive impact, with a greater proportion of leavers attaining NCEA Level 3 or a university entrance standard and fewer leaving with no attainment since NCEA's introduction.
Table 1.3: Highest Attainment of School Leavers, 2007
|Highest Attainment of School Leavers|
European/ Pākehā %
All School Leavers %
University entrance standard, Level 3 qualification or higher|
|Halfway to a Level 3 qualification|
|Level 2 qualification|
|Halfway to a Level 2 qualification19|
|Level 1 qualification|
|Halfway to a Level 1 qualification20|
|Less than halfway to a Level 1 qualification|
|Little or no formal attainment|
Table 1.4: School Leavers with Less than a Level 1 Qualification, 2007
Less Than a Level 1 Qualification %
|School decile group||1–3|
School Leavers with Little or No Formal Attainment21
The proportion of school leavers with little or no formal attainment in 2007 halved from 2006 (see Figure 1.5). This result caps five years of steady improvement in reducing the proportion of school leavers in this group (from 15 percent in 2003 to 5 percent in 2007).
The proportions of Māori and Pasifika students leaving with little or no formal attainment have also improved considerably. In 2003, 30 percent of Māori and 21 percent of Pasifika school leavers had little or no formal attainment. In 2007, this reduced to 10 percent of Māori and 6 percent of Pasifika school leavers.
School Leavers with Less than NCEA Level 1
School-level qualifications provide an indicator of a level of literacy and skill. School leavers without qualifications are, on average, more likely to have difficulty finding sustained and skilled employment than those who leave school with qualifications. Some of these school leavers are likely to continue their education through tertiary education providers in preference to pursuing secondary school qualifications. However, a number will attempt to become part of the workforce; these individuals may experience difficulties both in gaining employment and in sustaining this over the long term. Measuring school leavers with no qualifications as a percentage of total school leavers in a year helps identify the job-readiness of the future labour force.
The number of students leaving without a qualification reduced to 18 percent in 2007 (Table 1.4), compared with 25 percent of 2006 school leavers and 27 percent of 2005 school leavers.
Māori and Pasifika students continue to be over-represented among the students leaving school without qualifications. In 2007, 35 percent of Māori school leavers had attained less than a Level 1 qualification, compared with 44 percent in 2006. There was a similar change for Pasifika students: 26 percent of 2007 Pasifika school leavers attained less than a Level 1 qualification, compared with 32 percent in 2006.
School Leavers with NCEA Level 2 or a Higher Qualification
Sixty-six percent of school leavers in 2007 had an NCEA Level 2 or higher qualification, compared with 60 percent in 2006 and 57 percent in 2005.
Māori school leavers are still not achieving as well as other ethnic groups, but they experienced the biggest relative change between 2006 and 2007. In 2007, 44 percent of Māori school leavers had attained a Level 2 qualification or higher, compared with 37 percent in 2006.
Attainment also improved among Pasifika school leavers. In 2007, 56 percent of Pasifika school leavers attained a Level 2 qualification or higher, compared with 50 percent in 2006.
A formal school qualification is a measure of the extent to which young adults have completed a basic prerequisite for higher education and training, and many entry-level jobs. As the Staying at School section sets out on page 30, educational qualifications are linked to labour force status and incomes. People with no qualifications have relatively high unemployment rates and lower average incomes. School leavers without Level 2 NCEA have limited educational and job prospects.
Figure 1.5: School Leavers with Little or No Formal Attainment by Ethnic Group, 1993-2007
Figure 1.6: School Leavers with a University Entrance Standard or a Higher Qualification by Ethnic Group, 1993-2007
School Leavers Achieving a University Entrance Standard or a Higher Qualification
Students who achieve a university entrance standard or an equivalent level of attainment22 can enter directly into degree-level tertiary study.
In 2007, 39 percent of school leavers achieved an entrance qualification, compared with 29 percent in 2003 (Figure 1.6). Female students achieved at higher rates than males, with 45 percent attaining at least a university entrance qualification, compared with 33 percent of male students.
TRANSITIONS TO TERTIARY EDUCATION
A study looking at transitions to tertiary education by students who studied on the NQF focused on the links between achievement at school and achievement in tertiary education.23 The combination of expected percentile,24 tertiary field of study and study load were the most predictive factors for whether students would pass all of their first-year degree courses. Level 3 results were more predictive of first-year degree student pass rates than Level 1 or Level 2 results. Students who left school with NCEA Level 3 and university entrance were more likely to pass all of their courses than those with university entrance but no NCEA Level 3.
Initiatives focused in the areas of literacy and numeracy are making a difference in those schools that are involved. However, analysis of sub-groups of students reveals some students remain at risk. Evidence suggests that work is required to ensure the necessary support for these students and this is currently under consideration.
Since the introduction of NCEA more students have left school with qualifications. After close to 20 years with little or no change, the proportion of students leaving with little or no formal attainment has dropped from 18 percent to 5 percent. Thirty-nine percent of school leavers in 2007 attained a university entrance standard or a Level 3 qualification.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
Education and Learning
- Reading literacy achievement: primary schooling
- Reading literacy achievement: senior secondary schooling
- Mathematics achievement: primary schooling
- Mathematics achievement: middle schooling
- Mathematics literacy achievement: senior secondary schooling
- Science achievement: primary schooling
- Science achievement: middle schooling
- Science literacy achievement: senior secondary schooling
- Percentage of Māori population proficient in te reo Māori
- School leavers with NCEA Level 2 or above
- School leavers with a university entrance standard
- Educational attainment in the adult population
- School leavers entering tertiary education
- Unemployment rate by highest qualification
- Graduate income premium
- Impact of education on income
- Mullis, I., Martin, M., Kennedy, A. and Foy, P. (2007). PIRLS 2006 International Report: IEA's Progress in International Reading Literacy Study in Primary Schools in 40 Countries. Chestnut Hill, MA: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, Lynch School of Education, Boston College.
- Learning Media (2008). Literacy Professional Development Project: Evidence of Improved Student Outcomes. Wellington: Learning Media.
- Chamberlain, M. (2007). Reading Literacy in New Zealand: An Overview of New Zealand's Results from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2005/2006. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- McDowall, S., Boyd, S., Hodgen, E. and van Vliet, T. (2005). Reading Recovery in New Zealand: Uptake, Implementation and Outcomes, Especially in Relation to Māori and Pasiika Students. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
- Telford, M. and Caygill, R. (2007). PISA 2006: How Ready are our 15-year-olds for Tomorrow's World? Wellington: Ministry of Education
- Young-Loveridge, J. (2008). 'What Does the Picture Show?' in Findings from the New Zealand Numeracy Development Projects 2007. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Tagg, A. and Thomas, G. (2007). 'Do They Continue to Improve? Tracking the Progress of a Cohort of Longitudinal Students' in Findings from the New Zealand Numeracy Development Projects 2006. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Smith, J., Crooks, T. and Flockton, L. (2008). National Education Monitoring Project Graphs, Tables and Maps Assessment Results 2007. Dunedin: Educational Assessment Research Unit.
- Telford, M. and Caygill, R. (2007). PISA 2006: How Ready are our 15-year-olds for Tomorrow's World? Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Crooks, T., Smith, J. and Flockton, L. (2008). National Education Monitoring Project Science Assessment Results 2007. Dunedin: Educational Assessment Research Unit.
- As scientiic literacy was the focus of PISA 2006 the area underwent considerable expansion and change. As a result, past science learning outcomes cannot be compared with PISA 2006 assessments.
- Smith, J., Crooks, T. and Flockton, L. (2008). National Education Monitoring Project Visual Arts Assessment Results 2007. Dunedin: Educational Assessment Research Unit.
- Ninety percent of Year 11 students participated in NCEA in 2005, 90 percent in 2004, 87 percent in 2003 and 85 percent in 2002. Participation is deined as gaining at least one credit.
- Students who skip lower-level qualiications in favour of higher-level qualiications are automatically awarded the lower-level qualiication(s) when they gain the higher-level qualiication(s). Here only one qualiication per year is counted (the highest level awarded in the year).
- Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H. and Fung, I. (2007). Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES). Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Ministry of Education (2008). Experiences of International Students in New Zealand: Report 2007, on the Results of the National Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- The typical level for Year 11 students is Level 1, for Year 12 students it is Level 2 and for Year 13 students it is Level 3.
- Includes leavers achieving a university entrance standard, which is deined as: those students with 42–59 credits NCEA Level 3 and satisfying university entrance criteria; or a national certiicate at Level 3 or above including an NCEA Level 3 qualiication; or an overseas award at Year 13 (for example, Cambridge International, Accelerated Christian Education) or New Zealand Scholarship.
- Includes leavers with Year 12 Cambridge International, International Baccalaureate, Accelerated Christian Education or any other overseas award.
- Includes leavers with Year 11 Cambridge International, International Baccalaureate, Accelerated Christian Education or any other overseas award.
- From 2005 this includes students with 0–13 credits at Level 1, 2 or 3. Between 2002 and 2004, this included students with 0–13 credits at Level 1 only. Prior to 2002, this included students who had not attained at least one School Certiicate pass or who had fewer than 12 credits at NCEA Level 1.
- Students are required to meet the university entrance standard, as established by the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee.
- Scott, D. (2008). How Does Achievement at School Affect Achievement in Tertiary Education? Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Expected percentile is a measure of academic performance which is based upon a student's performance in individual achievement standards. For more detail, refer to Scott, D. (2008). How Does Achievement at School Affect Achievement in Tertiary Education? Wellington: Ministry of Education.
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