NMSSA 2017: Science - Key Findings

Publication Details

The National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) is designed to assess student achievement across the New Zealand Curriculum at Year 4 and Year 8 in English-medium state and state-integrated schools. The study is organised in five-year cycles. The first cycle ran from 2012 to 2016.

In 2017, NMSSA assessed science achievement using a nationally representative sample of about 2,100 students at each year level. Results were reported on a measurement scale called the Science Capabilities (SC) scale. Questionnaires were also used to gather contextual information from students, teachers and principals.

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

Date Published: December 2018

Executive Summary

Introduction

The National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) is designed to assess student achievement across the New Zealand Curriculum at Year 4 and Year 8 in English-medium state and state-integrated schools. The study is organised in five–year cycles. The first cycle ran from 2012 to 2016.

In 2017, NMSSA assessed science achievement using a nationally representative sample of about 2,100 students at each year level. Results were reported on a measurement scale called the Science Capabilities (SC) scale. Questionnaires were also used to gather contextual information from students, teachers and principals.

Science was last assessed by NMSSA in 2012. The measurement scales used in 2012 and 2017 were linked on the basis of assessment tasks that were used at both points of time. This allowed results from the separate studies to be compared.

This report is designed to provide a succinct overview of key findings from the 2017 science study. The report is supplemented by a report focused on curriculum insights for teachers, a technical report and an online interactive statistical application. All reports and the interactive application can be found on the NMSSA website.

Key findings

Achievement in 2017

Most students (94 percent) in Year 4 were achieving at or above curriculum expectations (Developed Level 1 and 2), while in Year 8 a minority (20 percent) were achieving at or above curriculum expectations (3 and 4).

The difference in average scores between Year 4 and Year 8 indicates that students made about 8 SC units of ‘progress’ per year between Year 4 and Year 8.

Girls scored higher, on average, than boys by 4 SC units at both year levels.

At both year levels, students from high decile schools scored higher, on average, than those from mid decile schools, who, in turn, scored higher than those from low decile schools. The difference between the average scores for students in the high and low decile bands was 23 SC units at Year 4 and 20 SC units at Year 8.

Māori and Pacific students, who were more likely than other students to attend mid and low decile schools, scored lower, on average, than non-Māori and non-Pacific students, respectively. Scores for Māori students were lower, on average, than non-Māori by 12 SC units at both year levels. Pacific students scored lower, on average, than non-Pacific by 18 SC units at Year 4 and 14 SC units at Year 8.

Change in achievement between 2012 and 2017

Differences in the overall average scores for Year 4 and Year 8 students between 2012 and 2017 were not statistically significant. Statistically significant increases in average achievement scores were recorded, however, for several population subgroups including: Year 4 Asian students, Year 8 girls, Year 8 Māori students, Year 8 Pacific students, and Year 4 and Year 8 students in low decile schools. These increases ranged from 5 to 9 SC units.

Contextual findings

From students

Most students were positive or very positive about learning science at school and expressed confidence as science learners. Students in Year 8 tended to be less positive about science and, overall, expressed lower levels of confidence in science than students in Year 4. Both attitude to science and confidence in science were positively associated with achievement. The correlations, however, were generally weak.

Students were given a list of learning opportunities in science and asked whether they did each one ‘sometimes’, ‘often’, ‘very often’ or ‘never’. Most students indicated they did each one at least sometimes. The exception to this was the opportunity related to entering a science competition or fair where the majority of students responded ‘never’.

Most students rated the difficulty of their science learning as ‘about right for me’.

From teachers

A higher proportion of the Year 8 teachers than Year 4 teachers indicated they had school leadership
responsibilities in science. Year 8 teachers were also more likely to indicate that they had a qualification
related to science.

Most teachers indicated that they enjoyed teaching science and were confident about teaching it. About 20 percent of teachers at both year levels indicated low levels of confidence in teaching science.

Overall, the majority of teachers indicated that they had adequate access to a range of resources for teaching science. However, 30 to 40 percent of teachers at both year levels did not agree that they had access to suitable spaces to teach science or appropriate teaching materials.

Around 60 percent of teachers at Year 4 and Year 8 reported that they had participated in professional learning and development associated with science in the last five years.
Teachers generally reported infrequent opportunities for professional interactions with colleagues related to teaching science.

From principals

At Year 8, 67 percent of principals rated their school’s overall provision in science as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’ compared with 46 percent of those at Year 4.

Overall, the majority of principals indicated that science was mainly taught in blocks or modules (Figure 4.21). At Year 8, 34 percent of principals indicated that science was mainly taught as a regularly timetabled subject. This compared with 9 percent of principals at Year 4.

Seventy-seven percent of principals at Year 4 and 80 percent at Year 8 indicated that the inclusion of students with special education needs in science was either ‘good’ or ‘very good’. A greater proportion of Year 8 principals responded using ‘very good’ compared with those at Year 4 (59 percent at Year 8 compared with 44 percent at Year 4).

Fifty percent of principals at Year 4 and 40 percent at Year 8 indicated that teachers in their school had little or no access to external professional learning and development in science.

Forty percent of principals at Year 4 and 28 percent at Year 8 indicated that science had not been a focus for development at their school in the last 5 years.

Footnotes:

  1. The curriculum insights report will be released after the key findings report.
  2. In the New Zealand Curriculum, achievement objectives for science are the same for levels 1 and 2 and almost the same for Levels 3 and 4. To differentiate between different levels of performance at Levels 1 and 2, and Levels 3 and 4, the curriculum alignment exercise in 2012 defined an 'emerging' and 'developed' expectation for the achievement objectives contained in each pair of levels. At the end of Year 4, the curriculum expectation is for most students to have achieved at Developed Level 1 and 2. At Year 8, the curriculum expectation is for most students to have achieved at Developed Level 3 and 4 by the end of the school year.

Contact Us

Education Data Requests
If you have any questions about education data then please contact us at:
Email:      Requests EDK
Phone:    +64 4 463 8065