English: Reading 2014 Overview

Publication Details

In 2014 the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) assessed student achievement at Year 4 and Year 8 in two areas of The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) – English: reading and social studies. This report presents an overview of the results from the English: reading study. It will be supported by a number of additional reports that examine results for priority learner groups, explore contextual data more deeply and provide technical information related to different components of the study.

Author(s): Education Assessment Research Unit and New Zealand Council for Educational Research

Date Published: July 2016

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Executive Summary

NMSSA assessed achievement in English: reading using a combination of group- and individually-administered tasks, collectively called the Knowledge and Application of Reading in English (KARE) assessment. A nationally representative sample of about 2,200 students at each year level completed the group-administered aspect of the assessment and about 800 of these students at each year level completed the individual aspect. Performance on the KARE assessment was reported on a single scale covering both year levels. The scale was aligned to the levels of the NZC through a curriculum alignment process that defined minimum scale scores (cut-scores) associated with achieving, on balance, the objectives' outlines at curriculum levels 2, 3 and 4.

Other data related to students', teachers' and principals' views of teaching and learning in English: reading were also collected via questionnaires and student interviews. For this report, we draw on two sections of the student questionnaire: attitudes to reading, and opportunities to learn in reading.

Key findings

Overall achievement

Fifty-eight percent of Year 4 students scored above the minimum score on the KARE scale associated with achieving curriculum level 2 objectives. Fifty-nine percent of Year 8 students scored above the minimum score associated with achieving curriculum level 4 objectives. The curriculum expectation at Year 4 is that students will have, on balance, achieved level 2 objectives by the end of the school year. In Year 8, they will have, on balance, achieved level 4 objectives by the end of the school year. NMSSA assessment was carried out in Term 3. Therefore, we could expect a greater proportion of students at each year level to have met or exceeded the minimum score on the KARE scale for the appropriate curriculum level by the end of the year.

Variation in achievement by student-level and school-level variables

Year 8 students scored, on average, about 29 scale score units higher than Year 4 students. The difference is equivalent to an effect size of about 1.4 and indicates that New Zealand students make, on average, about 7 scale score units of 'progress' per year between Year 4 and Year 8. The difference in the average scores for Year 4 and Year 8 students represents a similar effect size to that recorded on group-administered assessments in several other NMSSA studies (e.g., science and English: writing).

Girls scored higher than boys on the KARE assessment by an average of about 7 scale score units at both year levels. This gender pattern was also evident within ethnic groups.

School decile was strongly associated with student achievement at both Year 4 and Year 8. Students from low decile schools (deciles 1, 2 and 3) scored lower, on average, than those who attended high decile schools (deciles 8, 9 and 10) by about 15 scale score units. At both year levels the difference in average scores between the high and low decile groups was equivalent to the amount of 'progress' expected over about 2 years of schooling. Māori and Pasifika students, who were more likely than other students to attend mid and low decile schools, scored lower on average than NZ European and Asian students. A regression analysis indicated that score differences related to ethnicity could be detected after decile was taken into account. 

When scale score differences between Year 4 and Year 8 are taken as a proxy for progress, there is relative consistency in Year 4 to Year 8 'progress' across gender, ethnic and decile groupings. There is some indication that Asian students have made less 'progress' on average between Year 4 and Year 8 than non-Asian students.

The NMSSA includes students with special education needs in the assessment programme. Participating schools identified students' special education needs using three categories: High Special Education Needs, Moderate Special Education Needs and On Referral. At both year levels, the average score for the combined group of students with special education needs was about 20 scale score units lower than for students with no special education needs. The difference between the average scores at Year 4 and Year 8 for students with special education needs was the same as that for students with no special education needs.

Attitudes and opportunities to learn

An 'Attitude to Reading' scale was developed based on students' responses to a series of survey questions about their reading. Overall, students were generally positive about reading, with students in Year 4 scoring more highly on average on the scale than students in Year 8. A greater proportion of boys than girls expressed negative views about reading at both year levels.

The study provides some evidence that attitudes to reading are associated with achievement. Students with a positive view of their own ability as readers, and of reading in general, tended to score more highly on the KARE assessment than those who expressed a negative view of reading.

Students in Year 8 were asked how much time they spent reading in their own time (when not at school). A trend towards higher scores on the KARE assessment for students who did more reading in their own time was identified. Boys were more likely than girls, Māori students more likely than non-Māori students and students with special education needs more likely than students with no special education needs, to indicate that they did little or no reading in their own time.

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