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National tools

National assessment tools will inform your professional judgments about your students’ progress and achievement at specific points in the school year. Remember that the information they provide is a snapshot of a moment in time, showing what a student knows and can do within the context of the assessment. So it is important that you see this information as part of a wider picture that includes what you understand from daily discussions and observations, regular tasks and activities, and artefacts.

The table below gives examples of national tools used in New Zealand schools:

Non-standardised tools

Standardised (norm-referenced) tools

Credentialing tools

  • Running records
  • Assessment Resource Bank tasks
  • GloSS, IKAN, Junior Assessment in Mathematics (JAM)
  • Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT)
  • Learning Progression Frameworks (reading, writing, and mathematics)
  • Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement
  • PATs
  • STAR
  • e-asTTle
  • Science: Thinking with Evidence

NCEA assessment standards

  • achievement standards
  • unit standards

National tools are not appropriate for all students. The section "Supporting students working at one curriculum level for an extended period" (currently in development) will provide information on frameworks that can support learning and assessment for students with significant learning needs, such as the Key Competencies Pathways and Central Region Special Schools Curriculum Exemplars (CRSSC). 


The Assessment Resources Maps show the full range of national tools available for years 1–10.

Carl is a year 9 student with a passion for graphic novels and comics. His literacy skills and understandings enable him to work at level 3 of the New Zealand Curriculum. His teacher for English and social studies monitors his progress carefully so she can support his learning with appropriate text selections. During a unit on gold mining in New Zealand, Carl works with In the End, a level 3 text from the School Journey Story Library series, listening to the audio the first time he reads the book. Two weeks later, with the support of the learning support coordinator the teacher uses an excerpt from the same text to conduct a running record with Carl. She uses the information she gathers, along with what she has learnt from her discussions with Carl, to identify a number of texts that will be at an appropriate level and engaging for Carl in the next unit.

As a result of reviewing their teaching of mathematics, a primary school staff has identified that they need to develop their understanding of moderation processes to support consistency in their judgments. The staff decide to explore the illustrations within each of the eight aspects in the PaCT mathematics framework. They expect that unpacking the illustrations will help them to achieve reliable and valid overall teacher judgments in mathematics, schoolwide. They anticipate that their learning will be especially useful for understanding progress and achievement in mathematics for their students, including those with additional learning needs.

Differentiations and adaptations for national tools

National tools are designed to give information about students’ progress and achievement, often in relation to national norms and expectations. Changing the tasks in them can therefore compromise the validity of the results. If a national tool is differentiated in some way for a student, the non-standard conditions must be recorded; otherwise there is a danger that subsequent teachers may believe the tasks were completed under standard conditions and have unreasonable expectations of the student. For this reason, differentiation for national tools is generally achieved by selecting a task at a different level, rather than by changing the specific content of the task (as in the previous section).

Differentiating the content, level, and/or expected responses (the "what") could include:

  • giving an assessment task based on a student’s learning needs rather than year level (for example, asking a year 8 student to sit PAT Reading Comprehension Test 2)
  • agreeing with a student to work on just one NCEA achievement standard within an end-of-year examination (whereas most of their peers will attempt all three).

Students sit a mathematics PAT assessment at the start of each year in an Auckland intermediate. Miriam is a year 8 student who loves mathematics, particularly practical measurement activities – she applies her learning from these in technology classes. During the first four weeks of term, Miss Thorn observes Miriam’s responses to tasks in small group situations and speaks with her previous year’s class and technology teachers. From these discussions, she decides that Miriam is working within early level 2 in mathematics and so will be given PAT Mathematics Test 1 with the support of a reader. Miss Thorn will use the results to share with Miriam and her family her strengths and next steps and to plan teaching and learning opportunities to meet her specific learning needs.

When selecting a tool it is important to remember the purpose behind the tool and to consider the needs of each student, particularly those with additional learning needs. Some students will require adaptations to the tool’s processes and supports in order to be able to demonstrate what they know and can do – for example, you may need to provide opportunities to experience particular types of tasks ahead of the assessment (for example, multi-choice questions), and it may be important to decide who’s best to undertake the assessment with the student and the best time of day for it.

Adapting the assessment process and supports (the "how") of national tools could include:

  • providing a reader and/or writer
  • providing technological support
  • using a signing reader or interpreter
  • providing a quiet location for the assessment
  • enlarging written text
  • ensuring there is enough white space on the page (for example, with only one question per page)
  • providing written versions of spoken material (for example, via braille or captioned videos)
  • allowing for multi-media instead of written responses (for example, videos, PowerPoint presentations).

In Example 8, a teacher successfully adapts an NCEA level 3 task for a student with verbal dyspraxia by suggesting that the student give the required speech to two friends instead of the whole class.


For NCEA there are specific guidelines about adaptations. Detailed information on special assessment conditions is available on the websites of the Ministry of Education and NZQA. 

Sam is a year 11 student completing six subjects in NCEA level 1. He has a visual impairment and reads and writes using Braille. Sam’s first external exam is science, for which the following special assessment conditions have been put in place:

  • an extra 30 minutes for the exam (given he is sitting all three papers)
  • a separate room for the exam
  • an extra 10-minute rest break
  • specialised technology including BrailleNote linked to a monitor
  • two RTVs (Resource Teachers: Vision) to be present during the assessment, the first as a reader/writer and the second as an invigilator to oversee Sam’s responses on the monitor
  • the papers to be available in both Braille (for Sam) and the standard NZQA print version (for the reader/writer).

In pairs, identify 1–2 rows of the table below that are particularly relevant to your context and, in relation to them, identify examples of how you make the learning of all your students visible and how you might better do so.

Moving from...


Viewing assessment as separate from teaching and learning  

Viewing assessment as integral to improving student learning and teacher pedagogy

Teachers leading the learning 

Students actively taking responsibility for their learning in partnership with their teachers

Students unable to demonstrate what they know and can do because individual student needs are not considered within assessment activities

Students able to demonstrate what they know and can do because of differentiations and adaptations to assessment activities

Assessment practices focusing on what students cannot do

Assessment practices focusing on what students can do and what they should do next

Teachers relying on a small routine set of assessment approaches

Teachers using a broad range of assessment approaches flexibly and effectively

Students unaware of what learning looks like

Students aware of when learning is taking place and confident in sharing this with others

Assessment planning being the sole responsibility of the teacher

Assessment planning by the teacher, the student, their whānau, and specialist support 

Health and care needs being the sole focus for some students with additional learning needs

Learning outcomes being a key consideration for all students with additional learning needs

Feedback being about what students know

Feedback supporting metacognition by helping students to understand "how they know"

Little feedback for students that impacts on their learning

Students receiving and giving feedback that motivates and supports ongoing learning

Students having little or no say in assessing their learning

Self- and peer assessment being integral to classroom teaching and learning

Published on: 20 Jun 2016