A Decade of Evolution in Primary School Assessment - Future Implications

A new ERO report takes a thought provoking look at the evolution of assessment in New Zealand primary schools over the past decade.

A Decade of Assessment in New Zealand Primary Schools – practice and trends looks across ERO’s work and identifies both positive and negative trends in the use of assessment, and its role in supporting positive achievement. The report synthesises findings from national evaluations carried out by ERO over the past decade.

It examines the quality of primary schools’ assessment and how well they are gathering and using data, and examines key trends that have emerged through this series of national evaluations.

“Robust assessment, and responding with appropriate teaching, is vital to lifting student achievement and developing more skilled teachers and teaching practice. But effective use of assessment is patchy: some subject areas are better than others, and some schools are better than others”, according to Chief Review Officer Nicholas Pole.

“We found that some teachers and leaders were not interpreting assessment information correctly, leading them to false conclusions. Others were using assessment well, but failed to apply suitable teaching strategies in response. These are training and development issues that need further work.”

“New Zealand has some outstanding standardised assessment tools available to teachers and schools. The rapidly changing nature of assessment and increasing availability of interactive, online assessment tools allow for richer and deeper understanding of where the learner is at and the focus of teaching to support the student in their learning. Poor understanding of assessment tools and their purpose can result in teachers being unsure when to apply particular assessments and how to take these results to adapt teaching.”

“ERO continues to find that significant improvements need to be made in the ways school leaders and teachers engage in assessment and planning processes. Too often, what is taught sits apart from what is assessed or the information gathered about current learners. Consequently, classroom planning and practices miss opportunities to build on prior learning or to reflect learners’ culture, knowledge and understanding. The implications of this, particularly for learners at risk of underachievement, are profound” said Nicholas Pole.

“If we are to improve the success of all learners and enable them to achieve the outcomes inherent in the New Zealand Curriculum, we also need purposeful leadership focused on improving students’ learning, and better use of information to make appropriate decisions for, about and with students.  Assessment literacy, use of assessment data, school leadership, boards of trustee capacity to enquire into school performance data and student progress, and school planning and reporting remain as key challenges to lifting student achievement and thereby system performance.”

“Much assessment in primary schools has recently focused on reading, writing and mathematics, to help children develop the literacy and numeracy skills needed to fully engage with the whole curriculum. Knowledge and confidence in these areas is crucial. However, some schools are going much further usefully identifying samples of work that demonstrate students’ confidence with Key Competencies from The New Zealand Curriculum. It is now timely to consider extending assessment practices, to determine how well students are progressing in applying their skills to meaningful tasks from other curriculum areas and key competencies.”

“As a system we need urgent agreement in respect to how we will measure, monitor and report on student progress across the Curriculum.”  

“Equally the sharing of information between schools is limited. There is a need for nation wide agreement on the appropriate form and content of assessment information which accompanies students as they progress through the system or move from school to school.”

Please read the Key findings here