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Our mahi

NMSSA is a large-scale assessment that monitors trends in student achievement. We visit around 200 schools and work with more than 5,000 students each year to build a reliable picture of achievement across the country. The information we provide is used by government, schools and teachers to improve education.

Our work is important for Aotearoa because we track students' progress in the New Zealand Curriculum. Our reports complement results from international studies of achievement. We:

  • identify and monitor trends in educational performance
  • explore impacts on student achievement
  • provide dependable information to policy makers and curriculum specialists for planning
  • give schools insights to help improve teaching and learning.

NMSSA is a collaboration between the University of Otago, the New Zealand Council for Educational Research and the Ministry of Education.

Our approach

We design and trial authentic, engaging and effective assessment tasks.
Our NMSSA task development teams work closely with teachers and curriculum specialists to create rich assessment tasks. The tasks enable students to show what they know, understand, and can do, in the learning areas of the New Zealand curriculum.

We use many approaches to gather assessment data. These include:

  • rich curriculum tasks
  • computer-based tasks
  • pencil and paper assessments
  • collaborative activities
  • performance activities
  • one-to-one and small group interviews
  • questionnaires.

We design interesting tasks that provide relevant, rich information. Students enjoy the tasks we create.

We gather a representative sample of schools and students.
We work in English-medium state and integrated schools across New Zealand each year. We assess the achievement of Year 3, Year 6 and Year 8 students.

We collect dependable achievement data.
NMSSA Teacher Researchers (TRs) travel from school to school in Term 3 each year to collect achievement data. They visit two schools each week to implement the assessment programme. The TRs attend a five-day training programme before they start, to learn procedures that ensure the assessments are delivered consistently.

Teams of teachers mark the student responses. Our curriculum experts facilitate the marking and strict moderation processes are in place.

We recruit and work with up to 60 practising teachers each year. They contribute to most areas of the NMSSA programme and we really value their involvement.

We generate a range of reports and resources to improve education.
Each year we publish a range of reports. These include:

  • Key Findings reports which describe the achievement of New Zealand students and provide information about teaching and learning collected from students, teachers and principals
  • Summary reports which give an overview of the key findings
  • Technical reports which describe the sampling and analysis procedures we use.
  • Interactive Data Windows which provide a graphical view of results

We also create practical resources to support teaching and learning, for example:

  • Insights for Teachers which highlight students' strengths and weaknesses, and provide practical suggestions to improve practice.
  • An on-line science toolkit to help teachers assess, understand, and support Year 7 and 8 students’ learning in science.
  • The Aronuitia te reo card deck focused on te reo Māori learning opportunities. The deck includes data-based conversation starters and QR code links to really useful resources.
  • Progress indicators for science capabilities
  • Science Guides for teachers which include practical ideas for teaching and progress indicators for assessment.

Our foundations

NMSSA has been in operation since 2012, and builds on the strengths of NEMP, the National Education Monitoring Programme (1995-2010). We are guided by a set of grounding principles:

Generating trustworthy information for improvement
Our work provides dependable information that can be used to improve educational outcomes.

Understanding students’ achievement
We collect information about teaching and learning from students, teachers and principals to help us understand achievement results.

Grounded in the diverse identities, languages and cultures of Aotearoa
We honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and work towards an equitable schooling system for all. We celebrate and plan for the diversity of all learners in New Zealand.

Assessing a broad range of achievements
We assess students’ achievement in the breadth of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). This includes students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes in the eight learning areas and five key competencies.

Employing best practice approaches to assessment
We use a range of best practice approaches to design authentic, engaging and effective assessment tasks.

Drawing on the knowledge and experience of practicing teachers
We work with teachers to develop, trial and administer assessment tasks, and mark students responses. This ensures that our work is grounded in good teaching practice and that the professional skills teachers develop during the study are taken back into schools.

Focusing on national growth in achievement
We use a sampling approach which avoids the need for high-stakes testing. We do not produce information about individual schools, teachers, or students.

Our people

Associate Professor David Berg

Academic Lead

Dr Charles Darr

Conceptual Lead

Alison Richardson

Operations Lead

Teresa Maguire

Project Coordinator for NZCER

Jess Mazengarb

Statistics / Psychometrics

Dr Jill Hayhurst

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Ray Reichenberg

Statistics / Psychometrics

Elliot Lawes

Statistics / Psychometrics

Kalika Kastein

Assistant Research Fellow

Katie Montgomery

Curriculum Specialist

James 'Cable' Rae

Multimedia Specialist

Ruth Barton and Kristel De Ryck

Project Administrators

Jack Matterson

Project Logistics

Emeritus Professor Jeff Smith

External Advisor, University of Otago

Marama Pohatu

External Advisor, Te Rangatahi Ltd