Introduction

This report builds on the findings of the Education Review Office report The Collection and Use of Assessment Information in Schools, published in March 2007.

This complementary report aims to help secondary schools review their assessment practice. The report gives examples of how five secondary schools use assessment information to provide good learning opportunities for their students. It provides further examples from secondary schools with high quality assessment collection practices.

Overview of good practice in collecting and using assessment information

‘Assessment in education is the process of gathering, interpreting, recording and using information about students’ responses to an educational task.’ 1 The assessment of student achievement (ie examining and using information about what students know and can do) is the basis of effective teaching and learning. Unless teachers are knowledgeable about their students’ achievements and interests, they cannot be confident their teaching is supporting students to achieve their potential. ‘Overall the purpose of assessment is to improve standards, not merely to measure them.’2

Effective assessment systems help schools to monitor students’ progress and achievement, and enable them to design effective programmes. It is not a case of schools assessing more, but of using assessment information in a more planned and thoughtful manner.

Each secondary school in this study developed its processes for the collection and use of assessment information in ways that responded well to their students’ needs and interests.

In the junior school (Years 9 and 10) teachers in this study used a range of strategies, including national exemplars, to monitor student progress and achievement. However, in seeking examples of good practice for this report ERO found that, in general, assessment practice for Years 9 and 10 was not strong. Teachers often used assessment systems derived from NCEA and described achievement on a four-point scale: not achieved, achieved, merit, and excellence. This approach in a class or whole cohort where all students are being taught at the one curriculum level can result in some students spending two years identified as ‘not achieved’. This does not reflect principles of personalised learning, or the design and intention of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

In the senior school, teachers assessed students in each subject against national standards that contribute to the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Standards were assessed using either internal or external assessment. The schools in this study displayed common characteristics that contributed to the high quality of the collection and use of assessment information.

Schools that demonstrated good practice:

  • made certain that teachers had a shared understanding about the purpose of assessment;
  • expected teachers to be knowledgeable about their students’ achievements and interests;
  • made certain that school managers, teachers and students were aware of the rationale for the decisions being made about assessment;
  • gave teachers the opportunity for professional development in assessment;
  • encouraged their teachers to use data effectively to improve their teaching;
  • expected assessment information to be drawn from a wide range of sources: day‑to‑day interactions with students; analysis of students’ work and from more formally designed and administered assessment tasks;
  • made sure teachers were able to analyse both numeric and narrative assessment information and interpret the results so they were understood by all potential users of the information;
  • encouraged teachers to use formative assessment strategies that ensured the purpose of activities was understood, and that students received effective and useful feedback;
  • identified groups of students who needed extra assistance and what specific assistance was needed; monitored the students’ progress; and gathered comprehensive school-wide data on their achievements;
  • identified trends and patterns in students’ achievements and compared the achievements of groups of students within the school;
  • established clear expectations for achievement and assessment, including making collation and reporting easier so comparisons could be made to agreed achievement targets;
  • promoted the philosophy that student learning drove assessment practices, not credit acquisition;
  • established clear lines of communication and easily accessed support between school and home; and
  • provided students and their parents with booklets and held information evenings to explain the NQF requirements and assessment procedures, including appeals and opportunities for reassessment.

Report Findings: The Collection and Use of Assessment Information in Schools

The evaluation of the quality of the collection and use of assessment information in 314 schools occurred in Terms 1 and 2, 2006 and the findings of this evaluation were reported in The Collection and Use of Assessment Information in Schools, published by ERO in March 2007. As part of the major evaluation ERO reviewed the quality of assessment information in 61 secondary schools.

In these secondary schools:

  • 36 percent had developed and implemented an effective integrated school‑wide approach to assessment processes and information;
  • 62 percent had achievement information that demonstrated students’ achievements and progress;
  • 42 percent demonstrated effective interaction of assessment with teaching and learning;
  • 31 percent of students used information about their achievement effectively for further learning;
  • 46 percent were establishing and using school‑wide information to improve student achievement; and
  • 47 percent were effective in reporting information about students’ achievements to the community.

The evaluation was based on six questions about schools’ collection and use of assessment information. ERO found the schools’ effectiveness across these six evaluation areas varied considerably, with about half the schools demonstrating effective assessment practices overall.

The percentages for secondary schools were lower than that of primary schools, because the assessment information gathered by teachers in many secondary schools did not give comprehensive information on students’ achievement in Years 9 or 10. Teachers were better informed about the achievement of students in Years 11 to 13, although in many cases the information gathered for these students did not give an accurate picture of their progress over time.

Without worthwhile information teachers cannot be certain their students have learned what they set out to teach, or that the teaching is relevant to the students’ learning needs and interests. Students need to be fully involved in their learning and to know how well they are progressing and achieving. Where assessment is used effectively, teachers monitor their own teaching and are fully informed about how well students are learning.