ERO’s role and purpose

ERO is a government department, set up under the State Sector Act 1988 to evaluate and report publicly on the quality of education provided in New Zealand schools and early childhood services, and on the effective use of public funds. Its role encompasses accountability (including compliance with regulatory requirements), education improvement, and knowledge generation.

The manner in which ERO carries out its mandated responsibilities has changed since the agency was first established in 1989. Current features include:

  • a focus on outcomes for students who are not being well served by the education system
  • the integration of internal and external evaluation
  • a participatory/collaborative approach to the evaluation process
  • a context-specific approach to the design, conduct and reporting of evaluations
  • an emphasis on evaluation as a learning process for the school and the system
  • developing evaluation capacity

ERO’s external evaluations complement the evaluation activities of schools. Where an evaluation determines that student learning or welfare is at risk, ERO will recommend to the Ministry of Education that it intervene.

At the national level, ERO carries out evaluations of education sector performance and policy implementation, and reports on good practice.

Internal and external evaluation

The school is the primary agent for change, and high quality internal evaluation processes are fundamental in developing strategic thinking and the capacity for ongoing improvement.1

Twenty-five years of school improvement research has shown that improving schools depends on internal capacity and new learning. It requires motivation (improvement orientation), new knowledge, and the development of new skills, dispositions and relationships. In particular, using indicators to improve practice in schools depends on skill in using data, creating cultures of inquiry, engaging in deep and challenging conversations about practice, and changing long-established beliefs and patterns of practice. Considered this way, indicators and the [evaluation] process itself are tools to support the thinking and action that is part of building professional capital.2

Periodic external evaluation supports schools in their improvement journeys by providing an independent assessment of their performance in terms of excellence and equity of outcomes for every student, and the extent to which internal conditions support ongoing improvement. Insights gained from an external evaluation can act as a catalyst for change.

By embodying in the evaluation indicators what we know about how to best improve valued student outcomes, our intention is to provide a common language for conversations within schools and between schools and ERO. Whether they are being used for internal or external evaluation, the indicators will support evaluative thinking, reasoning, processes, and decision making.3

Together, School Evaluation Indicators: Effective Practice for Improvement and Learner Success, Effective School Evaluation: How to do and use evaluation for improvement and Internal Evaluation: Good Practice provide tools for leading the development of conditions that are essential for increasing internal accountability. This will require a collective commitment to improving learning outcomes for all students, as well as a commitment to strengthening professional capital in schools and across the system.4