This report for New Zealand forms part of the OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes (see Annex A for further details). The purpose of the Review is to explore how systems of evaluation and assessment can be used to improve the quality, equity and efficiency of school education. The Review looks at the various components of assessment and evaluation frameworks that countries use with the objective of improving student outcomes. These include student assessment, teacher appraisal, school evaluation and system evaluation.
Acronyms and abbreviations
Glossary of Mãori terms
Since the establishment of self-managing schools in 1989, New Zealand has one of the most devolved school systems in the world. Average student learning outcomes are very good by international comparison even though there are concerns about the proportion of students that are not performing well. The current priorities for the school sector are to lift student achievement in literacy and numeracy, enable all young people to achieve worthwhile qualifications and ensure that M..ori students achieve education success "as M..ori". As part of the national strategy to achieve these goals, New Zealand has developed its own distinctive model of evaluation and assessment characterised by a high level of trust in schools and school professionals. There are no full-cohort national tests and teachers are given prime responsibility to assess their students’ learning. Teachers also have a good degree of ownership of their own appraisal and are involved in school self-review. In recent years, school self-review has become the centre piece of school evaluation while the Education Review Office provides an external validation of the process and focuses on building self-review capacity. The principle of evidence-based policy making is well established and there is a high degree of self-awareness at various levels of the education system. Building on recent reforms and developments already underway, this report suggests a range of policy options to ensure that the overall evaluation and assessment framework is coherent, efficient and responsive to the needs of New Zealand’s education system.
School education in New Zealand
New Zealand has one of the most devolved school systems in the world. The 1989 Education Act established self-managing schools as Crown entities and gave responsibility for the administration and management of schools to elected Boards of Trustees. Average student learning outcomes are very good by international comparison, even though there are concerns about the proportion of students that are not performing well. The current priorities for the school sector are to lift student achievement in literacy and numeracy, enable all young people to achieve worthwhile qualifications and ensure that M..ori students achieve education success "as M..ori". Evaluation and assessment are a key element in national strategies towards achieving these goals. Nationally, clear goals and performance expectations are set via the revised National Curriculum, the National Standards, the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, the teacher standards and indicators for school reviews. This is coupled with a strong focus on developing capacity for evaluation and assessment at all levels of the system.
The evaluation and assessment framework
New Zealand has developed its own distinctive model of evaluation and assessment that is characterised by a high level of trust in schools and school professionals. The education system aims to make the best use of student assessment data to inform decision making at all levels while limiting possible negative impacts of high-stakes assessment. The key purpose of evaluation and assessment is to improve teaching and learning, especially for students at risk of underperformance. While the national evaluation and assessment agenda is solidly based on research evidence and characterised by a high degree of coherence, a number of elements could be better integrated and aligned to form a coherent framework. Given the emphasis on school self-management, ensuring consistency in the implementation of national policies remains a challenge. It is essential to continue to build capacity in a connected way at different levels of the education system to ensure that information is used effectively for improvement.
Schools in New Zealand use a variety of assessment approaches to measure students’ progress and achievement in relation to the national curriculum. Assessment in New Zealand is focused less on summative "end point testing" and has a broad focus on improving both teaching and learning. There are no full-cohort national tests and teachers are given prime responsibility for assessing their students’ learning based on a range of evidence. External reference points of expected performance are provided by national curriculum documents, literacy and numeracy progressions, the New Zealand Qualifications Framework and the recently introduced National Standards. A set of nationally validated assessment tools are at teachers’ disposal to guide assessment practice, and professional learning opportunities are provided in initial and in-service training. However, teacher capacities in student assessment are still variable in primary schools and there are concerns regarding the design and implementation of National Standards. While there is a clear aim to make assessment practice as inclusive and personalised as possible, there is room to optimise assessment for diverse groups of students.
Teacher appraisal occurs in two specific instances: To gain or renew registration to teach, and as part of the employer’s performance management processes for salary progression and professional learning. Teaching standards are well established, with the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC) holding the lead role in defining standards for the profession. Beginning teachers are well supported and registration processes appear to be consolidated. Overall, teachers are seen as trusted professionals with a high degree of autonomy. However, regular teacher appraisal processes as part of performance management appears still variable across schools. The limited extent of input in teacher appraisal that is external to the school raises a number of challenges and the fact that there are two different sets of teaching standards risks sending conflicting messages about teaching. Certain elements of teacher appraisal could also be better aligned. For example, there is room to improve the links between teacher appraisal and professional development and between registration processes and teacher career structures.
There are two main forms of school evaluation: Schools are required to conduct ongoing school self-review and external school reviews are conducted by the Education Review Office (ERO) on average every three years. The approach to school evaluation is collaborative, characterised by good levels of trust between schools and ERO. School self-review is at the heart of quality assurance and improvement processes. The basic premise is that schools are best placed to analyse their own contexts and that ERO can provide an external perspective to validate or challenge the schools’ own findings. ERO’s review approach is differentiated based on school needs, the composition of ERO teams is credible and review procedures are sensitive to cultural diversity. However, there are still tensions between the improvement and accountability functions of school evaluation. Schools’ own annual reporting to the Ministry of Education does not seem well connected to other aspects of school evaluation. There is also an ongoing need to provide professional learning and support for teachers, school leaders and Boards of Trustees to conduct effective school self-review and use evaluative data effectively for improvement.
Education system evaluation
New Zealand has clear strategic objectives for education system performance, coupled with comprehensive frameworks for reporting on progress and performance. The principle of evidence-based policy making is well established in the education sector. Information about education system performance is collected through a range of tools including school roll returns and thematic reviews on particular schooling issues and priorities. The Education Review Office (ERO) publishes Education Evaluation Reports on national education issues that inform both policy and practice. Information on student learning outcomes in all curriculum areas is collected from the National Education Monitoring Project in primary education and from assessment for qualifications in secondary education. Training for assessors and a range of moderation mechanisms are in place to ensure the results are nationally consistent. The richness of data available in New Zealand is commendable even though some gaps remain in key measurement areas such as students’ and teachers’ linguistic backgrounds and national monitoring in M..ori-medium education. The use of school reporting information could be further enhanced, and the introduction of National Standards raises additional questions about how this new reporting information will feed into system-level evaluation.
Conclusions and recommendations
New Zealand’s schools offer inclusive education for all students in their local area regardless of the students’ level of impairment or educational need. Schools are comprehensive at all levels and few distinctions are made between academic and vocational programmes. The country has a bicultural and bilingual M..ori and European heritage which is reflected in the provision of M..ori-medium education and, more broadly, the development of education pathways that support and encourage M..ori language and culture. Schools also cater to an increasingly diverse student population, with over half of the school-age population expected to identify with multiple and non-European ethnic heritages within the next five years. The New Zealand Curriculum states its commitment to strong equity principles, including valuing cultural diversity and inclusion of all students in a non-sexist, non-racist and non-discriminatory way. For evaluation and assessment, this implies that approaches at all levels are expected to consider and respond to individual learner needs and school community contexts.
Annex A. The OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes
The OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes is designed to respond to the strong interest in evaluation and assessment issues evident at national and international levels. It provides a description of design, implementation and use of assessment and evaluation procedures in countries; analyses strengths and weaknesses of different approaches; and provides recommendations for improvement. The Review looks at the various components of assessment and evaluation frameworks that countries use with the objective of improving student outcomes. These include student assessment, teacher appraisal, school evaluation and system evaluation. The Review focuses on primary and secondary education.
Annex B. Visit programme (23-30 August 2010)
Annex C. Composition of the review team
Annex D. Comparative indicators on evaluation and assessment
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