Introduction

In the New Zealand education system assessment and evaluation inform both improvement and accountability. The Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) has identified key strengths of New Zealand’s assessment and evaluation framework:

  • assessment and evaluation build on a high degree of trust and collaborative work ‑ students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning; teacher professionalism is encouraged and supported; the school’s own internal evaluation is at the heart of school evaluation; and system evaluation monitors student outcomes while avoiding high stakes testing
  • the improvement function of assessment and evaluation is strongly emphasised
  • assessment and evaluation aim to respond to diverse learner needs
  • there is a strong commitment to evidence based policy and practice (Nusche et al, 2012).

High quality assessment and evaluation allows us to focus on student progress and outcomes at classroom, school and system levels.  It helps teachers, schools and systems to report on student achievement across points in time, and provide information for parents, trustees and the public about the quality of education. 

Classroom Level

At the classroom level, assessment information provides feedback to improve learning and teaching. Teachers can use information gathered to inform learning (formative assessment) and to make a judgement about learning at a particular point in time (summative assessment) (Absolum et al, 2009).

Effective teaching integrates deep and flexible knowledge of subject matter, how students learn, and curriculum specific pedagogy.  Formative assessment supports teachers’ knowledge to improve learning (Young & Kim, 2010), and can have a significant influence on student outcomes (Hattie, 2009).

High quality assessment practice requires that teachers are data literate:

Data literacy for teaching is the ability to transform information into actionable instructional knowledge and practices by collecting, analyzing, and interpreting all types of data (assessment, school climate, behavioural, snapshot, moment‑to‑moment, and so on) to help determine instructional steps. It combines an understanding of data with standards, disciplinary knowledge and practices, curricular knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and an understanding of how children learn (Datnow & Hubbard, 2016).

School Level

At the school level, assessment enables teachers, trustees and the school community to evaluate the success of their curriculum provision and teaching programmes. It informs decision making, strategic planning, resource prioritisation, monitoring and school improvement.  It is critical in identifying individuals and groups of students whose progress needs to be accelerated.  Together with information gathered through activities such as teachers’ professional inquiries and appraisal, assessment supports the provision of focused and responsive professional learning and development opportunities.

In effective schools, internal evaluation processes draw on a range of qualitative and quantitative assessment and evaluation information:

[These processes] are systematic, coherent and connected at all levels of the school.  This alignment ensures that leaders, teachers and boards of trustees are able to purposefully engage with [the Education Review Office’s] external evaluation, using it as an opportunity to review, validate and support their own improvement actions (ERO & Ministry of Education, 2016).

System Level

At the system level, assessment and evaluation information provides assurance about the quality of education.  It also contributes to the overall evaluation of the effectiveness and impact of policy and its implementation, and provides direction for system improvement.

New Zealand participates in several international assessment studies: the International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS); the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS); and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).  These studies provide comparative information about our students’ achievement compared to other participating countries, and have been part of New Zealand’s system level evaluation since the 1970s.

The National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) provides information about student achievement at Years 4 and 8 across the learning areas of The New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007).  The study also identifies strengths and weaknesses and measures change in student achievement over time.

The National Certificate of Educational achievement (NCEA) certifies the achievement of students in senior secondary education.  NCEA provides meaningful and useful information for students, tertiary education providers, employers and the public.

ERO undertakes system‑wide evaluations to inform the development of education policy and practice, reporting on significant education issues through national evaluations of sector performance; reports about good practice; and policy advice to the education sector.

In effective education systems, the gathering, analysis and use of assessment and evaluation information at every level is fit for purpose and drives improvement and innovation.