Green Paper on Assessment for Success in Primary Schools

  • Brian Donnelly
Associate Minister of Education (Early Childhood Education and Maori Education)

The scene is set for a new system to assess how well primary school aged children are achieving, and what can be done to make students more successful.

A Government consultation Green Paper published today is the forerunner to a package of tools based on the school curriculum to provide teachers, parents and schools with the information they need to make certain every child is on the right educational track.

"We have to be able to nip in the bud any problems so students don't get behind. If students do need extra help to achieve then we have to ensure teachers and schools know what to provide and how to provide it.

"Currently schools, teachers and parents have a great deal of information about student achievement. But its usefulness is limited because there are no comparative standards and it is not necessarily related to the curriculum statements."

The Government is proposing to make changes by:

Providing teachers with examples of the 'ideal students' work, what students should be achieving, and examples of ways to assess students as they go through primary school.

Providing teachers with new tools to establish what an individual child's specific learning needs are. (diagnostic tools)

Bringing in external, nation-wide maths and literacy tests, based on the curriculum, for students in Year 6/Standard 4 and Year 8/Form 2.

Providing each school with an annual report on their students' achievement in the tests.

Schools will be provided with information on student achievement levels which can be compared with all other schools nationally and to schools with a similar student makeup.

Bringing in in-depth 'probe' studies to focus on the achievements of specific groups within the school population to help Government develop policy and monitor its effectiveness.

The Ministers said the Green Paper set out an integrated package to strengthen and support assessment activities currently undertaken by teachers. The package would be based on the curriculum statements.

"If the proposals are agreed to, parents will have a much better idea of how well their child is progressing. Schools and teachers will have a much better idea of where their strengths in education are, and where they can improve.

"These changes will give every primary school age student the best possible springboard into the future, into their secondary school years and the workforce.

'The new assessment and tools for assessing young children aren't the answers to the problem of student achievement, but will provide guidance towards solutions for better teaching and learning.

'The lack of good information for gauging how effective teaching programmes are makes it difficult for boards, principals, teachers, and parents to identify any areas of weakness and to set targets for improvement."

Ministers have considered the implications of workload when putting together these proposals.

"The creation of assessment tools at the school level has been one of the components of additional work-load pressure on teachers. This integrated package of assessment will ease that workload so that teachers can focus their attention upon the teaching and developing components of their role.

"The Government was not interested in league tables where schools are ranked individually from top to bottom. They are crude and misleading. We don't want to put labels on schools, we want to help all schools improve."