Assessing Against National Standards in New Zealand: What of Validity?

Year: 2015

Author: Gilmore, Alison

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The assessment system in New Zealand has been recognized as one of the most valid and effective systems in the OECD. Indeed, valid and effective assessment is regarded by the Ministry of Education as a key element of quality teaching and essential for raising student achievement. Just following the OECD review of the assessment and evaluation system of New Zealand, a major assessment change has been implemented. In 2010, National Standards in Literacy and Numeracy were implemented. The standards are intended to provide specifications of what students should be aiming for, or beyond, as they move through years 1-8 of their schooling.

The introduction of National Standards was strongly opposed by the professional union of primary and intermediate teachers, and by assessment academics/experts. However, unlike other countries, the model of national assessment does not rely on national tests. Instead there is an emphasis on teacher professional judgements (OTJs), assessment for learning principles and practice, and the importance for information sharing to support student learning. Teachers should form their OTJs on a range of evidence, both formal and informal.

Schools are also required to introduce moderation processes in order for teachers to have a shared understanding of the national standards and hence have OTJs that are consistent and dependable (reliable and valid). The validity of National Standards assessment is strongly influenced by the ‘assessment capability’ of teachers but also other stakeholders of the education system including students, parents, principals, Boards of Trustees, the Ministry of Education and the public.

Although the New Zealand model of national assessment uses OTJs, there are a number of challenges (or threats to the validity of the assessment information): such as, the effect of narrowing the curriculum, labelling children as achieving ‘below’ or ‘well below’ the standard, communicating students’ achievement to parents, the impact on teachers’ and principals’ work.

This presentation considers several core elements of the New Zealand model of assessment against National Standards as it has been implemented. Suggestions are made for how the professionally constructive elements of the model may be used to greatest effect, while complementing national-level monitoring of the system with the sample-based national Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) introduced in 2012.