The evaluation questions

In 2011 ERO evaluated the literacy and mathematics assessment and planning practices used in schools to support students’ learning at Years 9 and 10. The evaluation sought to answer the question: How effectively do schools use literacy and mathematics achievement information to improve learning for Years 9 and 10 students?

Understanding what students know and can do, and making use of it as the basis for classroom and school planning, is fundamental to students’ learning, and to effective teaching practice. ERO’s interest in Years 9 and 10 students is based on the knowledge that a strong foundation of learning is particularly important for future success in the secondary and post‑secondary years.

Underpinning this evaluation was an interest in exploring the approaches teachers, leaders and trustees took to knowing about and responding to students in these year levels. Accordingly, three further questions were asked:

Evaluation Question One: How effectively is student achievement information sought and used at key transition points? (Years 8 to 9, Years 9 to 10, and Years 10 to 11)

Evaluation Question Two: How effective are the processes used in (a) determining the achievement and progress students make in literacy and mathematics at Years 9 and 10, and (b) setting improvement goals and targets for these students?

Evaluation Question Three: How effectively is assessment information used to plan, implement and review actions to improve student achievement in literacy and mathematics?

The context for the evaluation

This evaluation sits within a broader policy agenda[2] to improve student achievement amongst identified groups of students who have historically not experienced success at school. These include Māori and Pacific students, those from low socio-economic backgrounds, and students with special education needs.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) data indicates a worrying gap between the achievement of Māori and Pacific students and New Zealand European students.[3] In 2011, 77 percent of Year 11 Māori students, and 79 percent of Pacific students achieved their Level One NCEA Literacy requirements in comparison to 91 percent of New Zealand European students. A similar picture is indicated for the Level One NCEA Numeracy requirements, with Māori and Pacific students achieving 81 percent and 84 percent respectively, compared to 93 percent for New Zealand European.[4] The heartening news is that Māori and Pacific student achievement is improving, which is a particularly encouraging picture given that more of these students are being retained in the senior secondary system.[5] Nonetheless, too many priority learners are leaving school without the necessary qualifications to enjoy economic security.

The Government goal[6] is that by 2017, 85 percent of school leavers will have attained National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level Two or equivalent qualifications – the level of achievement that is deemed to equip students sufficiently to participate in employment and in society in a productive and successful manner. Government policy identified key levers that will have the biggest influence on improving their achievement – stronger accountability for improving students’ learning, information that is available to make appropriate decisions for and about students, and effective teaching. The levers align to some of the findings in this report.