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Clarifications about National Standards

In the table below are a number of common misunderstandings about National Standards and clarifications for each of them.

Misunderstandings Clarifications

#1 Misunderstanding
 

  • Standards-based assessment is the same as criterion-referenced assessment.

 

# 1 Clarification

  • Standards-referenced assessment shows what a student can do in relation to descriptions of expected achievement supported by exemplars. Teachers’ judgments are about the important aspects that students need to bring together to achieve the standard. It entails making one judgment across a number of aspects of learning.
  • Criterion-referenced assessment shows what students can or can’t do in relation to a specific list of tasks or skills. Teachers’ judgments are about whether the student has achieved each individual skill or task. It entails making several judgments against a checklist.

#2 Misunderstanding

  • Expectations should align to current norms.

 

 

 

#2 Clarification

  • Setting expectations at current norms would mean that we don’t expect achievement to get any better than it is now. If expectations were set at current norms we would need to be sure that the demands of living in our society and economy were not changing.
  • Norm-referenced assessment shows how students are achieving compared with a statistical sample of others of an equivalent group at a given point in time.
  • Standards-referenced assessments show how students are achieving compared to an expected level of achievement regardless of where the achievements of others sit.

#3 Misunderstanding

  • Judgments should be made against school-defined standards.

 

#3 Clarification

  • Parents are entitled to know that the standards that their child’s school sets are as high as the standards at other schools.
  • Schools and teachers need to know that their judgments align with other teachers and schools.

#4 Misunderstanding

  • Students after one year at school cannot be judged as working below or well below the National Standard and students at the end of Year 8 cannot be judged as working above the National Standard.

# 4 Clarification

  • The full range of descriptions - Above, At, Below, Well Below - can be used when making OTJs for students at all year levels, despite there being no defined National Standard prior to Year 1 or after Year 8. Teachers are expected to use a range of evidence and their professional judgment.
  • Note: For reporting to parents, families and whānau, schools do not have to use the Above, At, Below, Well Below scale. The intention of National Standards policy is to provide a means of informing improvement through the formative use of standards-referenced assessment. It is not intended as a means of sorting and labelling either at the classroom or the school level. The only place these terms are required to be used is in whole-school level reporting to assist Boards of Trustees’ reporting and decision making. See the following # 5 Clarification on reporting to parents and whānau.
  • For a student to be judged as At the standard after one year at school, he or she must be best described by the standard for ‘After 1 year’.

    If the student’s current achievement is best described by the ‘After 2 years’ standard or higher, the student should be judged as being Above the standard.

    If there are significant elements of the ‘After 1 year’ standard which the student cannot do, or will need significant ongoing support to achieve, the student should be judged as Below or Well Below the ‘After 1 year’ standard. Teachers are expected to use a range of evidence and their professional judgment to make a decision about whether a student is below or well below.  

  • For a student to be judged as At the standard at the end of Year 8, he or she must be best described by the standard for ‘End of Year 8’.

    If the student’s current achievement is best described as working in Level 5 of the curriculum, the student should be judged as being Above the standard.

    If the student’s current achievement is best described by the ‘End of Year 7’ standard, the student should be judged as being Below the standard.

# 5 Misunderstanding

  • The terms At, Above, Below and Well Below  must be used for reporting to parents. This means some schools are using the terms Below and Well Below on reports even when teachers judge that these terms are likely to demotivate the child and/or their parents and whānau.

 

#5 Clarification

  • The intention of National Standards policy is to provide a means of informing improvement through the formative use of standards-referenced assessment.  It is not intended as a means of sorting and labelling, either at the classroom or the school level. The only place these terms are required to be used is in whole-school level reporting to assist Boards of Trustees to make informed resourcing decisions.
  • For reporting to parents, families and whānau, schools do not have to use the At, Above, Below, or Well Below scale. Schools may choose to report student achievement in relation to National Standards by identifying the year standard which is the best fit for that student’s achievement. There are a number of approaches which may be taken, but the student’s achievement in relation to National Standards must be conveyed clearly.
  • Written reports should be personalised when necessary to ensure ongoing success and motivation to learn, and finer grained progressions within standards, for example, the English Language Learning progressions, may be used to describe the progress and achievement of students.
  • For the Board of Trustees’ annual report, schools must report in relation to National Standards using the four-point scale (At, Above, Below, or Well Below) described in NAG 2A, and include all students.

# 6 Misunderstanding

  • Teachers should report against the end of year standard at mid-year.

# 6 Clarification

  • At mid-year teachers should not report against the end of year standard. They should state:
    • if students are on track to meet the appropriate year’s standard
    • if there are aspects that need to be focused on to help the student reach the standard
    • if there are more specialised interventions needed because there are concerns that the child is at risk of not meeting the standard by the end of the year.
  • For students who will make progress, but will not make a year’s progress in a year, a personalised, more fine-grained reporting approach is likely to be needed to ensure progress can be seen and celebrated.

# 7 Misunderstanding

  • Assessment tools can be used as proxies for OTJs.

 

# 7 Clarification

  • No single source of assessment information can accurately summarise a student’s achievement or progress. The use of a range of evidence accumulated over time builds dependability in progress and achievement decisions.
  • Assessment tools only measure some aspects of each standard. Teachers should use a range of information including assessment tools and their own observations to inform their judgments. For each student, they need to consider where achievement sits in relation to each aspect of learning within the standard and then make an overall judgment about where "on balance" the student’s achievement sits in relation to the standard. This also provides information about which aspects of learning within the standard need particular attention in order to support the student to appropriately move their learning forward.

# 8 Misunderstanding

  • A reading age can be used to assign a standard.

# 8 Clarification

  • Reading age provides only an indication about the difficulty of the text the child is reading and does not describe a student’s level of reading expertise. (Refer Literacy Learning Progressions.)Teachers should make overall judgments about students’ achievement after considering each aspect within the reading standard. They should then make an overall judgment about where "on balance" the student’s achievement sits in relation to the standard.

# 9 Misunderstanding

  • Children who have just achieved the standard or are just above the standard can be assigned as being above the standard.

# 9 Clarification
 

  • Children who have just achieved a standard should be described as being At the standard, because this is the standard their achievement is closest to "on balance". They should only be described as being above the standard if, "on balance", their achievement is closest to the standard a year or more above their year level.

# 10 Misunderstanding

  • Independently and largely by themselves means the child completes their tasks with no help from the teacher or other resources.

# 10 Clarification

  • Independently and largely by themselves means students can complete tasks with minimal teacher support.
  • The amount of support given and the way the student responds will help the teacher to make a professional judgment about the extent of control the student has over their reading and writing. In mathematics, teachers should base their decision about a student meeting a given expectation on whether the student solves problems and models situations in the expected way independently and most of the time.

# 11 Misunderstanding

  • Teachers should report students are working towards the standard for their age when the student is anywhere below the expected standard.

# 11 Clarification

  • When reporting to parents about where progress and achievement sits in relation to the National Standards, the description of performance should be more specific than working towards.
  • Working towards can be interpreted in many different ways. Parents find the term confusing because it does not provide a clear enough picture of how their child is progressing. Parents want to know how close their child is to achieving the next standard. Reporting that students are beginning to achieve aspects of the next Standard or that they are close to achieving a standard or, if it is mid year, that they are on track to meet a certain standard by the end of the year, all provide more clarity than the phrase "working towards".
  • When discussing progress and achievement in relation to a standard relative to curriculum level, the following should be borne in mind.
  • The National Standards are one year increments. New Zealand Curriculum bands span approximately two years. The term “towards” was used to denote the interim year in a two year curriculum band i.e. students working towards level 4 are deemed to have met curriculum level 3 (likely to be year 7) and could be expected to achieve curriculum level 4 at the end of the coming year (likely to be year 8) after another year of instruction. The mathematics standard used the term “early” to mean the same thing. Reading and writing standards changed to use the term “early” as well at the time the A1 posters were published.

# 12 Misunderstanding

  • Standards are a band with blurry edges, like curriculum levels. This means all children six months below and six months above the standard are actually “At” the standard.

# 12 Clarification

  • Standards are not a band with blurry edges. The standards are a description of what students should know and be able to do at the end of each year of learning. Teachers should decide which standard best describes the student’s current achievement after considering where the student’s achievement sits in relation to each aspect of learning within the standard. They should then make an overall judgment about where on balance the student’s achievement sits.

# 13 Misunderstanding

  • Children who do not start school until they are 6 or 7 should be assessed against the end-of-year 1 standard, since it is their first year at school.
  • When reporting to parents about progress against National Standards, you calculate the time spent at school from the date they started, if they started after they turned 5 years old.

# 13 Clarification

  • This depends on how the student is classified by the school. For example if a student enters school at age 6 and the school places them in a year 2 class with similar aged students, then it is appropriate to consider the student against the “end of 2 years at school” standard at the same time as other students of the same age.  This is because National Standards are about ensuring that each student is appropriately progressing towards the next stage of learning.
  • It is important the teachers and schools notice where learning progress sits relative to where it needs to be to meet the demands of the curriculum. This highlights where additional or different support may be needed to move progress along so that the student is prepared to meet the demands of the curriculum expected in year 4.
  • If students enter school at age 6 and are classified by the school as tear 1, the answer could be different. You will find more a more detailed paper about the relationship of Ministry Classification, School Classification and National Standards Classification of students here.

# 14 Misunderstanding

  • Teacher judgments are not a ‘national standard’.

# 14 Clarification

  • Teachers make an overall judgement about a student's progress and achievement in relation to National Standards. Because no single source of information can accurately summarise a student's achievement, a range of evidence, from a variety of sources, is collected to compile a comprehensive picture of a child’s progress and achievement.
  • Moderation processes improve the dependability of an overall teacher judgment and the evidence that informs and supports it.

# 15 Misunderstanding
 

  • National Standards narrow the curriculum and force teachers to focus on literacy and numeracy, to the detriment of the rest of the curriculum.

# 15 Clarification

  • The Standards describe the literacy and numeracy knowledge, skills and understanding needed by year 1–8 students if they are to fully access, and meet the demands of, the New Zealand Curriculum across all learning areas. The standards are broad descriptions of expected achievement. They provide a nationally consistent guide to illustrate what students should be aiming for (or beyond) as they move through years 1–8 of their schooling.
  • The National Standards focus on literacy and numeracy because students need these foundation skills to access, and achieve across, all areas of The New Zealand Curriculum. Literacy, for example, is an enabler for all learning. A student can’t succeed in social studies or science if they can’t read and write. Consistent with this, evidence of progress and achievement in relation to the standards can, and should, be drawn from across all areas of the curriculum.