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In fairness to our schools

Better measures for better outcomes
Educational evaluation Educational achievement Educational innovations New Zealand
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In fairness to our schools (report) 973.91 KB

This report explores how New Zealand identifies high-performing and underperforming schools. It is argued that new approaches and tools need to be adopted to ensure that schools can be evaluated objectively.

Finding demonstrate: 

  • The differences in school performance typically seen in NCEA league tables largely reflect differences in the communities those schools serve, not large differences in school quality or effectiveness.
  • Once adjusted for differences in family background, the large performance differences between deciles disappear; however, high-performing and underperforming schools exist across all deciles.
  • In particular, when evaluated on University Entrance, 42 decile 1 and 2 schools outperform 75% of every other secondary school in the country; in contrast, 9 decile 9 and 10 schools are at the bottom 25% of all secondary schools in the country.
  • Accounting for differences in family background, approximately 80% of schools perform almost identically when evaluated across a wide range of NCEA metrics.


  1. Issue annual reports. Annual reports containing insights gained from our school performance tool should be provided by the Ministry of Education to every principal and school board of every secondary school in New Zealand. This will require demand from parents and for additional resources to be directed by the Minister of Education.
  2. Allow the identification of individual schools in the IDI. This can be achieved by revisions to rule 5.14.2 of Statistics New Zealand’s Microdata Output Guide; reinterpretation of the Memorandum of Understanding and Statistics Act 1975; or amendments to the Act.
  3. Further development of our school performance tool in the IDI by the Ministry of Education. Any further research should be made open-source, identical to what we have done for all the coding for this project.
  4. Implementation of our tool as part of an evaluation framework in any new government education policy through the Ministry of Education.
  5. ERO to investigate any differences in institutional practice between low-, middle- and high-performing schools as identified by our tool. This would be in addition to further research comparing the Education Review Office’s conclusions with the conclusions gained from our tool.
  6. Integration of Te Rito, Edsby and Novopay data into the IDI to allow a more comprehensive evaluation of school performance in the future.
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