The Education Review Office (ERO) is conducting an ongoing series of national evaluations reporting on the quality of teaching for specific learning areas and skills, in alignment with the National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP). These evaluations represent a systematic treatment of curriculum and learning areas and follow on from work ERO has done in previous years.
 This evaluation of the teaching of reading is the fifth in the series. ERO has previously evaluated the quality of teaching in Years 4 and 8 in science, the visual arts, the information skills of graphs, tables and maps, and music.
NEMP provides information about student achievement but does not provide information on factors that influence student achievement. ERO’s evaluations complement the NEMP studies by focusing on the quality of teaching, potentially the largest single school influence on student achievement.
NEMP (set up in 1995) measures the educational achievement of students at two levels, four years apart: Year 4 (age 8-9) and Year 8 (age 12-13). Learning areas and skills, covering a broad range of content included in the New Zealand school curriculum, are surveyed on four-yearly cycles.
 The quality of teaching evaluations carried out by ERO also focus on the Year 4 and Year 8 levels and on the learning areas surveyed by NEMP each year. The areas for 2004 were music, reading, speaking and technology education.
The structure and focus of the NEMP student achievement assessments and ERO’s quality of teaching evaluations also complement international surveys of student populations (including New Zealand).
The structure and focus of the NEMP student achievement assessments and ERO’s evaluations of the quality of teaching also complement international surveys of student achievement in reading. New Zealand has participated in international surveys including:
- Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). Thirty-five countries participated in this 2001 study. It measured the reading literacy achievement of fourth-grade students (ages 9 and 10) and gathered information about home and school factors associated with learning to read. The study has been designed to show trends in achievement in five-yearly cycles with the next assessment planned for 2005/06.
- The OECD’s Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA). Collecting information from 32 countries (28 OECD countries), PISA was first administered in 2000 to assess fifteen-year-old students in three key areas: reading literacy, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy. PISA runs every three years.
 IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement) Reading Literacy Study. This study was conducted in 1990/91 and compared the reading achievement of students aged 9 years old and 14 years old in 32 countries.
The New Zealand context
New Zealand performs well in international surveys of student achievement when compared with other countries. However, an examination of the key findings for
New Zealand show that, compared with other countries, there is a wide distribution of student achievement. The gap between our highest and lowest performing students is larger than for most other countries surveyed.