English: Reading 2014 Contextual Report

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 examines a selection of contextual data collected as part of the study of English: reading.

Author(s): Educational Assessment Research Unit and New Zealand Council for Educational Research. Report for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: July 2016

Executive Summary

This report examines a selection of contextual data collected as part of the study of English: reading. These data include responses to: the About You section of the student questionnaire and the My Reading student interview; questions in the teacher questionnaire related to English: reading; and questions in the principal questionnaire related to general school characteristics and the school's English: reading programme.

The purpose of the report is to provide background information relevant to the English: reading study. Special attention is paid to relationships between the contextual data and achievement on the English: reading achievement measure used in the study – the Knowledge and Application of Reading (KARE) assessment. The report supplements English: Reading 2014 – Overview and the priority learner group reports in English: reading for Māori, Pasifika and students with special education needs.

The report is written descriptively to outline the types of responses typical of the students, teachers and principals that made up the sample. It is important to note that two of these groups, the teachers and principals, are not necessarily representative of the corresponding groups in the general population. In addition, the students, teachers and principals are reporting their perceptions based on the meaning they make of the questions and their ability to recall information in order to make a response. Taken together, this means care should be applied when interpreting and generalising from the findings. Overall, however, the findings do provide indications and patterns that are useful when seeking to understand reading as part of the English learning area.

The Knowledge and Application of Reading in English (KARE) assessment

The KARE assessment was made up of a mixture of pen-and-paper and oral tasks. The tasks focused on three cognitive targets, which were assessed across a range of written texts:

  • and recall ideas and information
  • and interpret ideas and information
  • and evaluate ideas and information.

The assessment of vocabulary understanding and application was also included and was integrated across the three targets.

Scores on the KARE assessment were located on a scale constructed using item response theory and common to both Year 4 and Year 8.

The Student Questionnaire: About You

All students in the NMSSA study (about 2,200 at each year level) completed the NMSSA student questionnaire. The About You section asked students general questions about the amount of English spoken at home, the number of schools attended, absences from school and whether they thought their teacher liked them. All Year 4 and Year 8 students in the study were asked to respond to the same questions.

Most Year 4 and Year 8 students reported that they 'always' spoke English at home. Students who 'always' spoke English at home scored higher on average on the KARE assessment than students who spoke English 'often' or 'hardly ever' at home.

Sixty-four percent of Year 4 students reported that they had attended 1 school since their fifth birthday, and 66 percent of Year 8 students reported attending either 1 or 2 schools (many Year 8 students will have attended a contributing primary followed by an intermediate or secondary school). The number of schools that students had attended varied by school decile at Year 4 and by ethnicity at both year levels.

Year 4 students who had attended only 1 school scored higher on average on the KARE assessment than Year 4 students who had attended 2 or more schools. However, on average, Year 8 students' achievement was similar across the number of schools attended.

Greater proportions of students from low decile schools (deciles 1 to 3) reported frequent instances of whole-day absence and being late to school than students from mid (deciles 4 to 7) or high decile schools (deciles 8 to 10). The same was true for Māori and Pasifika students compared with non-Māori and non-Pasifika students. At both Year 4 and Year 8, students who reported a greater number of absences and being late for school tended to score lower on the KARE assessment. These results are likely to be somewhat confounded due to the school decile and ethnicity interaction.

At both year levels, students who reported greater numbers of absences and instances of being late for school scored lower on average on the KARE assessment than students who reported fewer absences and instances of lateness.

The majority of the students indicated some level of agreement with the statement 'my teacher likes me'. Students who responded to this statement with 'strongly agree' had higher scores on average on the Attitude to Reading scale compared with students who responded with 'agree', 'disagree' or 'strongly disagree'.

Student Interview: My Reading

A subset of the NMSSA sample, consisting of up to eight randomly selected students from each sampled school, completed a one-to-one structured interview called My Reading with trained teacher assessors. About 800 students from each of Year 4 and Year 8 were interviewed.

The students were asked a range of questions about their reading. The interviews were video-taped and the digital video files used to code students' responses in subsequent analyses.

For both Year 4 and Year 8 students, the most commonly reported places to find things they liked to read were 'school library', 'public library' and 'bookshop'. Response patterns were consistent across gender and school decile but varied to some extent across ethnic groups for the categories 'bookshop', 'home' and 'computer/cellphone'. A greater proportion of Year 8 students reported finding things they like to read on 'computer/cellphone' than Year 4 students.

About 15 percent of students at each year level indicated they spent more time reading on electronic devices (such as computers, iPads and cellphones) than reading books. Year 4 students' average scores on the KARE assessment increased with the relative amount of time spent reading from a book rather than an electronic device. However, a similar relationship was not found for Year 8 students.

'Familiar settings' and 'cultural identity' were the two main reasons given by students for reading books by New Zealand authors. The response patterns for these categories did show some difference across school decile and ethnicity.

At least 90 percent of students at each year level said it was important to be a good reader. Students listed 'learning benefits' and it being 'helpful in the future' as the main reasons for being a good reader.

The most commonly mentioned things that make reading easy were 'words/simple text' and 'diagrams/pictures', whereas 'difficult words' and 'text length/font/size' were stated the most when it came to things that make reading hard. The desire to extend vocabulary was the most commonly cited area for improvement, followed by the need to read harder texts and wanting to improve comprehension.

Teacher Questionnaire

Up to three teachers in each of the schools involved in the NMSSA English: reading study completed a teacher questionnaire. About 80 percent of eligible teachers completed the questionnaire at each year level.

Overall, almost half of the teachers indicated they had taught for at least 10 years. The average class size for teachers of Year 4 and Year 8 was 27 and 29, respectively.

In general, teachers were found to have very positive attitudes towards reading and their own teaching of reading. Their responses to the questionnaire items related to their attitudes and practices in teaching reading were similar across the decile bands.

Meeting the differentiated reading needs of students was commonly achieved by 'reading groups within the classroom', 'whole-class activities', 'extra individual assistance' and 'reading activities across the curriculum'.

The vast majority of teachers reported that students in their class often had opportunities to be involved in a range of learning activities and experiences in reading. The frequencies reported by teachers for each activity/experience were similar across school decile bands. Students responding to the student questionnaire also rated how often five of these learning activities and experiences happened. On average, students reported that they occurred less frequently than did the teachers.

When asked to describe the aspects they emphasised the most when teaching reading, teachers mentioned comprehension strategies more often than any other aspect.

Just over half of the teachers at both year levels rated the level of professional support that they received for the teaching of reading as 'good' or 'excellent'.

Most teachers indicated that they were often (at least once a term) involved in a range of interactions with other teachers involving the teaching of reading. About 70 percent of teachers reported that they had an opportunity to observe a colleague teaching reading at least once a year. Teachers with less than 2 years of teaching experience reported more frequent opportunities to observe a colleague teaching reading than teachers with greater than 2 years of experience.

About 55 percent of teachers reported that they had received reading-focused professional learning and development in the last 12 months.

Principal Questionnaire

The principal in each of the schools selected for the 2014 NMSSA study was asked to complete a 4-part questionnaire. Over 80 percent of principals completed the questionnaire at each year level.

Twenty-six percent of Year 4 principals and 12 percent of Year 8 principals reported that the proportion of students in their school for whom English was not their first language was greater than 25 percent.

Year 4 and Year 8 principals reported that classes, on average, spent 5 and 4 hours per week, respectively, on their reading programmes.

The majority of the principals rated the provision for learning in reading at their school as 'good' or 'very good'. About 30 percent of principals rated their school's reading programme as 'excellent'.

At least 90 percent of principals at each year level rated their school's inclusion of students with special education needs in the reading programme as 'very good' or 'excellent'.

Footnotes

  1. Students's responses to parts of the questionnaire directly related to English: reading have been reported in the chapter titled 'Students' Attitude to Reading and their Opportunities to Learn' in NMSSA Report 5.1: English: Reading 2014 – Overview and in similar sections of the associated priority learner group reports for Māori, Pasifika and students with special education needs (see Appendix 1).
  2. Six reports have been written to present the findings for social studies, and a parallel set of six reports have been written to present the findings for English: reading. A table of the reports for each learning area is provided in Appendix 1.

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