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Assessment | English language | Special needs

Assessment using the standards

The standard for a given year comprises both the description of the curriculum level that students should be achieving at and the individual statements of expectation (expressed as bullet points under the strand headings). When assessing a student’s achievement and progress, the teacher needs to make an overall judgment about the student in relation to the whole standard. This judgment needs to be based on evidence collected over a period of time, much of it derived from daily classroom interactions and observations.

Multiple sources of evidence should inform overall teacher judgments about a student’s performance. As well as the student’s work, sources of evidence may include self- and peer assessments, interviews, observations, and results from assessment tools. A single assessment is insufficient and unacceptable for several reasons:

  • While progress over the long term is more stable and predictable, there is considerable variation in student performance in the short term.
  • Different types of assessment provide different information; assessments should be chosen for their suitability for purpose and viewed together to arrive at an overall teacher judgment.
  • Assessments need to be meaningful for students. For this reason, teachers need to choose a range of assessments that give their students the best opportunity to demonstrate achievement.

The standards and their accompanying examples provide descriptions of how students are expected to solve problems and model situations. The descriptions recognise that students vary in their responses to problems, and they emphasise that how a solution is arrived at is a critical part of the expectation. 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.

A strong understanding of 'number' is vital if students are to succeed in mathematics. For this reason, the expectations for number are the most critical requirement for meeting a standard. Students’ achievement and progress in number may be assessed using the tools developed in the Numeracy Development Projects.

When assessing achievement and progress in relation to the standards, it is important to remember that students start at different points and progress at different rates. It is therefore necessary to take a long-term view and to work on the basis that students advance in their learning in different ways and at different rates from one another.

Making judgments in relation to the standards will indicate whether a student is at, above, below, or well below the expectations for that school year. These judgments will indicate when and where extra support or extension is needed and will assist the teacher to set learning goals with the student and to share them with parents, families, whānau, and communities. Students have capacities for learning that cannot be reliably predicted from achievement at any one point in time and that can be adversely affected by inappropriate categorisation or labelling. Realistic expectations should be conveyed to students in ways that enhance their attitudes to learning and motivate them to take on new challenges.

Research evidence shows a clear association between positive outcomes for students and a detailed knowledge of those students based on quality assessment data. The introduction of National Standards will support teachers as they continue to use assessment to guide instruction (rather than as an end point).

English language learners

English language learners in New Zealand schools are very diverse, and their language learning needs are not always apparent. Students who have good social English language may have had little exposure to the academic language they need for learning.

Students learn mathematics through language and often must demonstrate their knowledge and understanding through language. The mathematics standards set benchmarks for achievement and progress that may be very challenging for students who are new learners of English.

Teaching programmes should address students’ learning needs in both English language and mathematics. Teachers need to understand what their English language learners know and are able to do in relation to both the English Language Learning Progressions (ELLP) and mathematics and statistics.

Learners with special needs

Some students face particular challenges in performing numerical calculations, decoding mathematical symbols, visualising spatial relationships, classification, or logic. The mathematics standards will help to identify these students and inform decisions concerning appropriate educational targets, effective instructional practices, and extra support that may be needed.

Due to significant cognitive impairments, a very small number of students work to individual education plans (IEPs) that are developed in consultation with the students’ parents, families, whānau, and communities; the students’ teachers; and the Ministry of Education. The achievement and progress of these students will be assessed in relation to the standards, as part of their IEPs. Boards will continue to report on these students separately in their annual reports.

Published on: 13 Oct 2009