New Zealand was once world-leading in literacy. However, over the past 50 years, performance has fallen substantially. International assessments of New Zealand’s reading performance paint a worrisome picture. PISA scores (for 15-year-olds) and PIRLS (for 9-year-olds) both have fallen, and our substantial underachievement has persisted. Māori and Pasifika students are particularly underserved. PISA 2018 showed 30% of Māori 15-year-olds are in the bottom category for reading. For Pasifika, it was 36%. These numbers represent an education system that is failing large numbers of students.

Despite the challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic. A revolution in the way literacy is taught in New Zealand schools is underway. Throughout the country, teachers and concerned parents have questioned the poor literacy rates among their children. Their questioning of the status quo has led them to an evidence-based approach called Structured Literacy, which is discussed in this report. 

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