This report is part of a series published by the Education Review Office, over three years, about the implementation of the National Standards in English-medium schools with students in Years 1 to 8.

The New Zealand Curriculum provides schools with direction and a framework to design and review their curriculum to respond to students’ diverse learning capabilities and needs. The National Standards help teachers make judgements as to whether students’ competence in reading, writing and mathematics is enabling their learning across the curriculum, and whether they are making the expected progress.

In 2011, ERO’s focus shifted from evaluating schools’ preparedness to work with the National Standards, to evaluating the extent to which they were working with the standards. Schools were required to include in their charters targets to raise student achievement in relation to the National Standards, and to have reported twice to parents and whānau about their child’s progress and achievement in relation to the standards in 2010.

Twenty-two percent (97) of the 439 schools included in this evaluation were working well with the National Standards. Fifty-nine percent (258 schools) were developing their systems and processes to work with the standards and 19 percent (84 schools) were not working with all the requirements associated with implementing the standards.

Highly professional leadership was a feature of the 97 schools that were working well with the standards. Leaders were:

  • positive in their approach and committed to working with the standards as an integral part of their curriculum review and development processes
  • knowledgeable about the standards and making good use of the Ministry of Education’s (the Ministry) website and their professional networks to support their understanding and practice
  • guiding and supporting teachers as they embedded the standards in their school’s assessment practices
  • instrumental in planning for, leading and accessing relevant and timely professional learning and development (PLD) that helped build teacher confidence and capability in working with the standards.

Fifty-nine percent of schools (258 schools) were developing processes to work with all the requirements of the National Standards. Within this group, ERO identified a wide range of practice. Some schools were just starting to consider the standards as part of a review of their curriculum and assessment processes. Others were quite well advanced in their development and were refining their assessment and reporting processes. Many of these schools were building teacher confidence in making overall teacher judgements (OTJs) and associated moderation activities.

Nineteen percent of schools (84 schools) were not working with all the requirements of the National Standards. Thirty of these schools were not doing so because they were opposed to the standards. Key issues for the remaining schools included leaders’ and/or teachers’ limited assessment capability to work with the standards, and a lack of understanding by school leaders of the nature and intent of the standards. The extent and nature of support these schools needed varied. Some had multiple issues to address and others needed relevant, focused and sustained PLD to build leader and teacher capability to work with all requirements associated with implementing the standards. Working with other schools and learning from them could help some of these schools move forward.

This evaluation highlights the critical role of school leaders in working with the National Standards to raise the achievement of all learners. Effective professional leadership was pivotal to:

  • trustees having access to timely and well-analysed school-level achievement information to set targets and make sound resourcing decisions
  • teachers developing confidence to make OTJs and engage in moderation discussions
  • teachers knowing about and responding to school targets for identified groups of students
  • the development of clear expectations and guidance for teachers to enable them to use data to inform and evaluate their teaching; to fully involve students in understanding and assessing their learning; and to establish and maintain partnerships with parents and whānau.

In schools where professional leadership was lacking, trustees were less likely to have a good understanding of the intent of the National Standards, as benchmarks for students’ progress and their value for informing governance decisions. Trustees were also less likely to be able to effectively communicate this intent effectively to parents and whānau. Teachers often did not have adequate understanding of the use of the various assessment tools to make and moderate judgements about learners’ achievement and progress. Some teachers also needed guidance from school leaders to better understand their role in responding to their school’s targets, and how they could support learners to meet or exceed the National Standards.