The national monitoring study of student achievement – doing national monitoring the New Zealand way

Year: 2012

Author: Gilmore, Alison

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) is a new programme in New Zealand designed to assess and monitor the achievement and progress of primary school children at year 4 (roughly 8 years old) and year 8 (roughly 12 years old).  It is conducted jointly by the Educational Assessment Research Unit (EARU) of the University of Otago, and the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER).

NMSSA is a low-stakes, light-sampling approach that includes both paper and pencil measures, performance-based tasks, interviews, and affective as well as cognitive assessments.  The programme replaces the internationally recognised National Education Monitoring Project, which ran from 1995 to 2009.  The re-designed national monitoring programme seeks to reflect the breadth and depth of the revised New Zealand Curriculum, current government strategic priorities for improving the educational outcomes for Maori and Pasifika learners and learners with special needs, psychometric advances in reporting student achievement, and innovative approaches to assessment.

One of the goals of the new programme is to better understand the underlying reasons for students' achievement and for why it might differ in different segments of the population. The perspectives of students, teachers and principals will be collected to allow us to examine how the factors within students' school and home/whanua/community  learning contexts influence their achievement and progress across the curriculum. The EARU/NZCER team has been working on the development of this new programme for over a year as of the time of this proposal, and will be implemented in term 3 of 2012.

During the developmental phase there has been widespread consultation with key reference groups, technical experts and advisory panels, and conceptual thinking and operational planning around the design and elements of the assessment programme, and assessment tasks and instruments have been trialed.

The purpose of the presentation is to set out the ideas that have been developed for the new national monitoring programme, with a special emphasis on new approaches to assessment, and new thinking on extending the notion of assessment to include why achievement occurs in addition to how much has occurred.

The model for national monitoring in New Zealand is unique at a time when globally cohort national assessment is being increasingly introduced to monitor student achievement and progress, as well as school and teacher effectiveness. The merits of a low stakes, sample based model of national monitoring will be highlighted.