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Reviewing your school's assessment systems

Teachers working together.

Regulation 21 of the Education (School Boards) Regulations 2020 states that schools must collect, analyse, and report on good quality assessment information that “draws on a range of evidence to evaluate the progress and achievement of students and build a comprehensive picture of student learning across the curriculum”.  

This regulation states that schools need to report to students and their parents on the progress and achievement of individual students.

The reports must: 

  • be written in plain language 
  • be provided at least twice a year
  • include the student’s progress and achievement across The National Curriculum, as expressed in The New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, including in mathematics and literacy, and/or te reo matatini and pāngarau.

Flexibility in how schools assess

There is room for some interpretation in reporting to parents and their families "across The National Curriculum". Schools have discretion to design both their approach to the curriculum and to assessing and reporting on student progress and achievement so that both recognise the aspirations and desires of the local community.

Schools now have more flexibility about how they assess, what assessment information they collect and analyse, and how they use it. If you choose to review your approach, it is still important to ensure that any changes retain at least the same rigour and educative purpose as before.

These comments from the May 2018 ERO report on assessment in primary schools are pertinent:

"If we are to improve the success of all learners and enable them to achieve the outcomes inherent in the New Zealand Curriculum, we also need purposeful leadership focused on improving students’ learning, and better use of information to make appropriate decisions for, about and with students. Assessment literacy, use of assessment data, school leadership, boards of trustee capacity to enquire into school performance data and student progress, and school planning and reporting remain as key challenges to lifting student achievement and thereby system performance."

"Much assessment in primary schools has recently focused on reading, writing and mathematics, to help children develop the literacy and numeracy skills needed to fully engage with the whole curriculum. Knowledge and confidence in these areas is crucial. However, some schools are going much further usefully identifying samples of work that demonstrate students’ confidence with Key Competencies from The New Zealand Curriculum. It is now timely to consider extending assessment practices, to determine how well students are progressing in applying their skills to meaningful tasks from other curriculum areas and key competencies."

“As a system we need urgent agreement in respect to how we will measure, monitor and report on student progress across the curriculum.” 

“Equally the sharing of information between schools is limited. There is a need for nationwide agreement on the appropriate form and content of assessment information which accompanies students as they progress through the system or move from school to school."

Three step approach

Reviewing an assessment approach can be complex and time-consuming. We are presenting a three-step approach that we think will make the process clear to all and as time-efficient as possible.

1. Consider:

The intertwined nature of curriculum and assessment.

  • What is your interpretation of the curriculum, designed to best meet the needs of your students and community?   
  • How do you ensure that every student is well supported to learn all that the curriculum offers?
  • Do you need to review these?

If you do, then how you assess will also need to be reviewed.

Re-refresh your familiarity with these documents:

Once you have finished implementing your review findings, you will want your system to align with the expectations described in these documents.

2. Review:

  • Understanding progress – do teachers have a common understanding about how student learning builds and grows? Are big ideas and competencies clear at each level? Is there a shared language of learning across the school? Can teachers locate a student’s performance along a continuum of curriculum levels?
  • Current pedagogy – how well are student agency and assessment capability being grown across the school? How well does assessment for learning underpin teaching and learning?
  • Current assessment activities and tools – what works, what doesn’t, what needs modifying?
  • Quality assessment processes that ensure dependable information – assessment administrationmoderation, data entry, data analysis.  What works, what doesn’t, what needs modifying?
  • Current processes for sharing information – is achievement information shared with those who need it, what processes work well, what needs modifying?

3. Implement as appropriate:

  • school-wide clarification of what progress looks like, taking into account the 'front end' of the curriculum as well as curriculum achievement objectives
  • processes to improve effective assessment for learning in classrooms
  • improved streamlined, skilled use of assessment tools
  • new assessment tools and approaches
  • use of assessment information for improvement – including sharing information with parents/whānau and board and community. Our Why report to parents and whānau page shares ways to share information for learning, rather than for compliance.

Key ideas for guidance

Never believe that any review, no matter how thorough, is the final product and that it is finished. The curriculum keeps evolving, and how we represent and monitor progress and learning needs to keep moving with it. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep the principles of assessment for learning in mind and check the coherence of your emerging system against them rigorously.
  • Keep the stakeholders for assessment information clearly to the fore. As you design your system, make sure that you can meet the legitimate needs of all of them:
    • students
    • teachers
    • school leaders and board of trustees
    • parents and whānau
    • school or kāhui ako.
  • Think carefully about your purposes for assessment. Assess only when the information will be used to improve teaching and learning. Do not over-assess.
  • Think carefully about your processes for recording, storing, and sharing assessment information. These should be easily updated and accessed via your SMS or other technology.
  • Keep overall judgments of progress and achievement as a central part of the system at all levels. Remember that it is the big ideas, the concepts, that we want all learners to take hold of, as well as the techniques, skills, and strategies.
  • Remember that moderation, using agreed sources of evidence, is vital to keep everyone assured of the dependability of overall judgments about where the learner is at.
  • Remember that your assessment systems must be able to measure both progress and achievement.
  • Keep anything that worked while National Standards (archived) were with us. Change or discard the parts that don’t work so well or that complicate learning. 

Developing curriculum

Regulation 21 might cause you to rethink your curriculum plan and how you will think about representing progress and achievement. If your school has a Graduate Profile, this is a good time to be thinking about what that profile looks like, not only at graduation, but also at key year levels or transition points: for example, from year 3 to 4, year 6 to 7, and year 8 to 9.

Ideas about Key competencies have been evolving. Think about the big capabilities you want for your students at those transition points through the school that will result in graduates who have the capabilities described in your profile. Some of these school stories share their early thinking about how they are going about this. Rather than trying to develop learning progressions for all of the subject areas, which is too big a job for individual schools, this is a good time to be thinking carefully about the overall concepts. Check out the Curriculum Progress tools section for guidance around the Learning progressions framework and PaCT.

The Cross-sector forum toolkit developed for Communities of learning | Kāhui Ako contains a set of coherent pathways shaped around four capabilities (big ideas), described for several key transition points. You can read about it in this document:

PDF icon. Capabilities across the curriculum (PDF 267 KB)

This might be a useful place to start if you don’t already have a graduate profile or similar.