Executive summary

This report is part of a series of national evaluation reports ERO is publishing over three years about the implementation of the National Standards in English-medium schools with students in Years 1 to 8. The first report, Working with the National Standards within The New Zealand Curriculum,was published in August 2010. An interim report, Working with the National Standards: ERO’s interim findings for Term 3, 2010 was published in November 2010.

The data for this report was gathered from 237 schools ERO reviewed during Terms 3 and 4, 2010. At this time many schools were reviewing and trialling the way they reported to parents and whānau about each student’s progress and achievement against the National Standards. School leaders and teachers were also gathering and analysing information about students’ progress and achievement in relation to the standards, as part of preparing to set targets in their 2011 charters.

ERO noted a positive shift in the percentage of schools working with the National Standards as part of their curriculum and assessment processes compared with schools reviewed in Terms 1 and 2, 2010. Ninety percent of schools in this current evaluation were either well prepared or had preparation under way to work with the National Standards. This is to be expected given that when ERO gathered data in 2010 for this report, schools had had more time to seek support to help them work with the standards.

Factors common to the 37 percent of schools that were well prepared to work with the National Standards were similar to those in the first report. These schools had strong professional leadership, carried out robust self review, reviewed and developed their curriculum on an ongoing basis, and teachers and school leaders made effective use of student achievement information. In addition, they had either reported or were preparing to report to parents about their child’s progress and achievement against the National Standards. Most were generally well placed to set targets in their 2011 charters, with some having already set these for the next year.

Most of the 53 percent of schools where preparation was under way had a base of good practice to build on as they reviewed current practice against the expectations of the standards. For some, their local school curriculum was the foundation for aligning processes and practice with the standards. For others, recently appointed principals and/or senior management teams took a key role in preparation. Self-review and assessment processes were identified as two key areas for development in many of these schools. Barriers to preparation in some schools included issues with governance, leadership and teacher capability, as well as turnover of principal and staff.

In the 10 percent of schools not yet prepared to work with the National Standards, ERO identified factors that contributed to their lack of preparation. In most, assessment practices needed considerable development to enable leaders, teachers and trustees to use the standards in their respective roles. Changes or high turnover in school personnel, leadership capability, and opposition or resistance to the National Standards were also evident in some of these schools.

The extent to which students were involved in setting and assessing their learning goals related to the National Standards was still not high. Only 32 percent of schools did this well. In its August 2010 report ERO noted this as an area of concern, given it is central to working with the National Standards.

School leaders’ and teachers’ confidence in moderating achievement information in reading, writing and mathematics was developing. Where confidence was high it was often because of strong professional leadership in the school, and the guidance and support for teachers engaging in moderation activities. Having a reflective, open, and trusting culture in the school provided an environment where discussions about data and consistency of teachers’ judgements could develop. Cluster work with other schools helped bring a broader perspective to moderation in some schools.

There were, however, some challenges for schools in this area. These largely related to:

  • how well the National Standards were understood
  • the extent to which leaders were able to work with achievement information at a school-wide level
  • teachers having the confidence to work with a range of assessment tools and other sources of information to make judgements about students’ progress and achievement against the reading, writing and mathematics standards.

Self review was crucial to schools’ preparation to report to parents in 2010 as many schools were reviewing and trialling reporting formats and processes. This review was supported by professional learning and development sessions for teachers and included consultation with parents and whānau, and, in some schools, students. Written reporting was often an integral part of three-way conferences or parent interviews. Some schools were proactive in seeking parent feedback after mid-year reporting. Leaders and teachers refined their use of written language and included information for parents on helping their children at home. ERO identified issues that related to the quality or nature of the information used to report achievement and progress, and reports not yet informing parents about their child’s progress and achievement in relation to the National Standards.

In the second half of 2010, schools were expected to begin preparing to set targets in their 2011 charters for improving student achievement. Schools that were well placed to do this, or had already set their targets, generally were those with good self review. They had well-established processes to gather and analyse school-wide achievement information as part of curriculum review and strategic planning. Aligning existing expectations and assessment practice with the standards helped them with these processes. Many schools that were not yet preparing to set targets had previously had issues with the quality and relevance of their targets or poor quality information on which to set targets.

Understanding of the standards by trustees showed a minimal increase over the second half of 2010. ERO’s August 2010 report noted that many trustees were new to their roles because of recent board elections. At the time of this report, these new trustees were still in the process of ‘growing into’ and becoming familiar with their roles, and knowing about the standards. Apart from being new, the main barriers to trustees’ increased understanding were lack of time to come to terms with their role in relation to the standards, and funding for external support for trustees.

Areas where schools needed further support to work with the National Standards in 2011 included:

  • time to look in depth at the relationship between the standards and their school curriculum and align them to existing practices and assessment tools
  • help with moderation of judgements and associated analysis and use of achievement information
  • more support for trustees to understand and work with the standards as part of their governance role and responsibilities.