ERO looked for secondary schools, decile 5 and below, with more than 200 students, with low disciplinary statistics and whose National Certificate of Achievement (NCEA) Level 2 data showed good achievement levels. Of the possible 140 secondary schools with the required decile and roll size, ERO identified only nine schools that met the achievement criteria. ERO considered additional information including the most recent ERO review reports in making the selection of schools to visit. ERO was able to visit seven of the schools late in Term 4, 2013.

The sample includes single sex schools, an integrated school, and urban and provincial schools with ethnically diverse rolls ranging from 400 to 2200 students.

ERO sought to answer the following question:

What are the key attributes of the school that enable the engagement and success of students?