News & Views


Welcome to the NMSSA News page, recently launched. Check in here for updates on the project and for items of interest.

Aronuitia te reo – Te reo Māori resource deck


NMSSA is pleased to launch this new resource which has been designed to assist schools with strengthening their provision of te reo Māori learning opportunities. It contains three sets of activity cards, each with a different focus, that can be explored in any order.

The resource is based on findings from NMSSA’s 2016 assessment of learning languages at Year 4 and Year 8 and has been developed with the support of the Ministry of Education.

The full set is now available for free download from the NMSSA website. There is also a printable A3 version.

English Insights for Teachers Released

English Insights for Teachers

Following the release of NMSSA Insights reports on creating meaning [1] and making meaning [2] in English, NMSSA has now released Insight reports into multimodal texts and critical literacy [3] and writing for an audience [4].

Using data from the NMSSA English programme, these reports look at aspects of some of the assessment tasks in detail. The reports have been written for teachers and curriculum specialists and are designed to provide insights into how students responded, and the kinds of things that students found challenging. They also make suggestions as to how teachers might respond in the classroom.

These Insights reports supplement the English Key Findings and Summary reports released in November 2020. Further insights into student achievement for Science and Social Studies in 2020 and Mathematics and Health and PE in 2019, can be found here.

It was fun and I really want to do it again — the NMSSA technology trial

In March, a formal trial of assessment tasks and processes for the NMSSA technology component of the 2021 assessment programme was administered in a range of New Zealand schools over a period of three weeks. Formal trials are extremely important to NMSSA. They provide important information about the efficacy of tasks, scoring schedules and administration processes, as well as the functionality of our digital platform. This means we are very grateful to the schools and students that agree to participate.

The full NMSSA programme this year encompasses aspects of the arts learning area (including tasks from each discipline), technology (including aspects of the newly introduced digital technologies areas) and learning languages. The learning languages assessment is computer adaptive and examines students’ knowledge of vocabulary and simple phrases in te reo Māori.

The possibility of changes in Alert Levels due to COVID-19 interrupted our plans for a Term 3 field study last year, hence the larger than usual programme for 2021. The trial for the arts and te reo Māori was conducted early last year, so this year we focused specifically on technology, including digital technology.

Selected assessors (all registered teachers) undertook an intensive few days of training before setting off to try the new tasks in the trial schools, where overall, several hundred students participated. All tasks had been pilotted, and had undergone thorough review prior to the trial. Six teachers with expertise or a special interest in the technology learning area were employed to mark the activities in the last week of Term 1.

Reactions of the participating students indicated that they enjoyed the experience, including the opportunity to ‘think differently’ and to ‘talk about technology’ . The students ‘learned new things’ and found the activities ‘interesting’ and ‘quite fun to do’. One mentioned that they particularly liked thinking about robots — ‘how they are made, what they act like, and how they can help people’. ‘Saying the answer’ rather than writing it down made some of the tasks easier, and others, after acknowledging initial nervousness, thought it was ’just fine’ and ‘a good opportunity to learn more about digital technology’. The activities were judged to be ‘not too easy and not too hard’. Some were’ tricky’, some were ‘challenging’ but most were ‘fun!’.

Our task development team is now analysing the results of the trial and based on these results will make any changes to task wording, rubrics and resources to be used in the main study.

Many thanks to all those involved in the NMSSA trial!

2021 Programme Preparations

Ka tata mai te hōtaka 2021 / This year’s programme is getting closer.

Preparations are well underway for rolling out the 2021 programme into schools in Term 3. We are pleased to be approaching our annual target with 200 randomly-selected schools taking up the invitation to participate this year. Planning visits to 200 schools over nine weeks is no mean feat but it’s a challenge we are pretty familiar with.

The task development team is putting the finishing touches on the tasks for the arts, learning languages and technology and checking that there is a sound balance of written, oral and practical activities to engage and challenge the students. Inclusion of digital technology is a particular focus of the technology assessment this year and the team is looking forward to capturing and reporting on student thinking and understanding in this area.

It is always exciting for us to see the programme launch and to send out another team of teacher assessors. Our teachers are looking forward to their training week in Wellington. They will then head out to work with year 4 and year 8 students for the rest of the term, meeting students in a variety of schools in their region. For those working in the bigger urban areas, they are staying pretty close to home. Others have some travel ahead of them.

Look out for updates later this term.



In this post, I look at how NMSSA’s new Insights reports for the English learning area takes some of their inspiration from the national assessment programme that preceded NMSSA — the National Educational Monitoring Project (NEMP).

Charles Darr, Conceptual Leader, NMSSA, 10 March 2021

The National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) has just released two new reports focussed on learning in the English Learning Area (Creating Meaning and Making Meaning). The reports have been written for teachers and curriculum specialists and are designed to provide insights into teaching and learning based on findings from NMSSA’s 2019 English study. The reports also suggest how teachers might use learning opportunities to respond to different issues. The new reports mirror similar reports released for Science and Social Studies in 2020 and Mathematics and Health and Physical Education in 2019.

NMSSA’s commitment to reporting that speaks directly to classroom learning reflects its heritage. NMSSA follows on from the National Educational Monitoring Project (NEMP) that was set up in 1993 and that carried out a national assessment programme in New Zealand schools from 1995 to 2010. Like NMSSA, NEMP used a sample-based approach and was focussed on achievement at Year 4 and Year 8.

NEMP assessed learning across the curriculum over a four-year cycle (compared with NMSSA’s five-year cycle). Table 1 shows the original schedule for the first four cycles of NEMP. The last NEMP assessment programme in 2010 disrupted the cycle to some extent when Reading and Mathematics replaced Health and Physical Education, and Listening and Viewing in the assessment programme. As can be seen in the table, the English Learning area was divided into five language modes which were assessed in different years in two combinations (reading and speaking in one, and writing, listening and viewing in the other).

Table 1: The four-year NEMP assessment cycle

1 1995
  Visual Arts
  Information Skills: graphs, tables, maps, charts and diagrams
1 2
2 1996
  Language: reading and speaking
  Aspects of Technology
3 1997
  Mathematics: numeracy skills
  Social Studies
  Information Skills: library and research
4 1998
  Language: writing, listening and viewing
  Health and Physical Education

The NEMP programme featured extensive use of performance tasks (extended tasks often completed one-to-one with a Teacher Assessor). This enabled the project team to collect rich responses from students. The reports published by NEMP were organised around these tasks and described how students had responded to the different task elements. All the NEMP reports can still be accessed through the NEMP website (NEMP - NZ's National Education Monitoring Project ( Readers might be interested in exploring these further. In addition, some NEMP tasks with full instructions and scoring details can still be found on the Assessment Resource Bank (

At NMSSA we believe that the new Insights reports mentioned at the start of this post will stimulate thinking about teaching and learning with this generation of students. The two new English learning area reports, for instance, focus on insights related to creating meaning and making meaning, respectively. Extended commentaries, supported by task examples and annotated samples of student responses are used to alert readers to potential learning opportunities and useful resources. The reports cover insights related to several language modes. The insights involving speaking, viewing and presenting will prove very interesting to readers, given that professional resources in these areas are generally less available than they are for reading and writing.

The postponement of NMSSA’s programme in 2020 due to COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for the team to develop further Insights reports related to English and te reo Māori. These will be made available on the NMSSA website around the middle of this year.

NEMP established a principled commitment to a national monitoring system in New Zealand that was focussed on learners and their learning. NMSSA continues to hold to those principles. We hope the sector makes use of the resources being developed and benefits directly from the work undertaken.