Assessment: A decade of evolution

This report is a synthesis of findings from evaluations carried out over the past decade by the Education Review Office (ERO).

Each year ERO reviews approximately 800 New Zealand schools. During each school’s review, ERO evaluators use assessment information for discussions and reporting on students’ progress and achievement.

As well as reviewing individual schools and early learning services, ERO produces system‑wide evaluative information on significant educational issues, and publishes national evaluation reports on education sector performance and good practice.

Over the decade spanned by this report, ERO has reviewed and reported on all schools in New Zealand, on average three times each.   This work in schools, along with our national evaluation, has given ERO a rich evidential base, enabling us to identify trends in practice and improvement across the sector.  ERO has been able to identify aspects of effective and less effective teaching, school leadership, and management practices influencing students’ learning.

Over the past 10 years, ERO has seen improvement in assessment practice in many schools. In effective schools we are increasingly seeing evidence of:

  • teachers analysing data together, asking challenging questions and suggesting ways to respond to the needs they identify together
  • teachers collecting data and using it to identify students’ progress and plan responsive programmes
  • teachers taking a case management approach for students at risk of not achieving; each student’s progress regularly discussed and the effectiveness of teaching responses explored
  • school leaders working collaboratively to analyse school wide data to determine the diverse and specific needs of students
  • leaders promoting teamwork and high quality relationships with students, their peers and whānau
  • teachers and leaders seeking others ( parents, whānau) to help them raise achievement
  • leaders using the required planning and reporting tools to reach key goals, set targets, focus interventions and reduce disparity
  • trustees demanding achievement based reports about the impact of their resourcing
  • students using rubrics and information to reflect on their learning and set goals
  • students able to explain their learning, progress and achievement
  • students knowing if they needed to catch up what their goals are, what works for them and how they are going
  • greater parent involvement in learning, and school awareness of their role to support parents with this involvement.

These practices, while increasing, are not yet universal in all schools.  ERO decided to look across a range of recent evaluations to ascertain patterns in assessment practices in primary schools, with the purpose of identifying recurring themes in schools the Ministry of Education (the Ministry) or other responsible agencies could address.

ERO has identified many successes and challenges for trustees, leaders, teachers, students and their parents when using assessment to positively contribute to teaching and learning. Although ERO acknowledges many assessments are moment‑by‑moment decisions teachers make, this report focuses on the more formal assessments leaders, teachers and students analyse, record and use.

This report is intended to inform the work of the Ministry of Education and agencies involved in the initial training and ongoing development of teachers and school leaders.  It also provides a basis for discussions among primary school trustees, principals, assessment leaders and teachers about the effectiveness and utility of their own assessment practices.