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IMPACT 3: Assessment

Trust and confidence in robust secondary school level assessment

NZQA administers and quality assures three NCEA levels for senior secondary students (and for a smaller number of learners outside of the secondary school system) and New Zealand Scholarship examinations. We do this through:

Internal assessment – NZQA manages a system of quality assurance across schools’ internal assessment which includes scheduled reviews of schools’ assessment systems, external moderation of internal assessment, and monitoring. NZQA also provides a programme of workshops, seminars and other support as needed.

External assessment – NZQA’s administration of NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship external assessment, including reports, portfolios and examinations, provides high quality external assessment for over 140,000 students each year.

Delivering to today’s learners, employers and providers

Managing quality assessment practice

Managing National Assessment reviews

NZQA reviews the assessment practices of secondary schools at least once every four years, to ensure that internal assessment is accurate, consistent and to the national standard, and to confirm that the requirements for the consent to assess are being maintained. Schools are reviewed on a one to four-year cycle depending on the outcomes of their review, known as the Managing National Assessment Review (MNA).

In 2019 seven schools, placed on a one-year return cycle in 2018, are being visited to check their progress toward addressing identified issues. A further seven schools which have limited Consent to Assess will have an MNA visit in 2019. In total, 165 schools are scheduled for MNA visits in 2019.

Schools MNA Cycle

Schools MNA cycle

9 This excludes 36 schools – 17 new schools for which a review date is still to be set; 11 schools not providing NCEA; and eight schools in the Pacific.


Enhancing teacher assessment practices: Best Practice Workshops and other support and training opportunities

NZQA offers training focused on the management of assessment practice and administration of NCEA. In this financial year, NZQA delivered 26 MNA seminars for Principal’s Nominees and school senior assessment leaders on the management of NCEA. NZQA also delivered a total of 85 Best Practice Workshops to the profession covering assessment practice. Included in this figure is the Transforming Assessment Praxis Programme (TAP) for teachers, which is delivered online over nine weeks. NZQA also has an online tool in the early stages of development that will enhance teacher assessment judgements.

External moderation of schools’ internal assessment

National external moderation provides an assurance that assessment decisions are consistent nationally. As part of this ongoing quality assurance process 110,013 samples of student work have been externally moderated for the period 2018/2019. NZQA moderators work with interpreters for student evidence presented in te reo Māori to ensure that evidence for assessment is understood and also considers a Māori world-view.

The National Moderator Annual Reports have been developed this year to advise assessors on general issues and trends identified during external moderation. These reports provide insights from moderation material viewed throughout the previous year to assist assessors in their assessment judgement. This year, NZQA has published National Moderator Annual Reports for 34 subjects.

Supporting equity of access

Enhancing Special Assessment Conditions for internal and external assessment

NZQA approved 11,022 Special Assessment Condition (SAC) applications for internal and external assessment in the 2018 academic year. SAC provides students with sensory, physical, medical conditions/impairments and/or specific

learning disorders access to a range of assessment conditions which remove barriers to fair assessments. SAC candidates accessed a range of special assessment conditions, such as reader or computer/writer, separate accommodation, enlarged or Braille papers, sign assisted English, rest breaks or extra time.

In the year to July NZQA has: delivered the combined NZQA and Ministry of Education work programme with the Resource Teacher Learning and Behaviour service to build teacher knowledge about identifying student needs; provided relevant assessment tools, resources and support to all schools; identified schools with low SAC uptake for follow up in 2019; and further streamlined the application process for SAC in response to feedback.

There has been an increase in the applications received as a total percentage of enrolment across all schools from 3.4 percent in 2014 to 6.8 percent in 2018. For the decile 1-3 group, there has been an increase, as a percentage of enrolment, from 1.3 percent in 2014, to 3.5 percent in 2018. However, equitable access remains an issue. The current data shows that participation levels for SAC still vary between genders, population groups and across deciles. New Zealand European students  (8.4 percent) are twice as likely to access SAC, compared to Māori students (4.2 percent), and Pasifika students (2.7 percent).

Kura engagement

NZQA is committed to enabling equity of access and outcomes for Māori students in kaupapa Māori kura through identifying equity issues, sharing best practice and improving NZQA’s service delivery to better meet the needs of kura. This year we have commenced a series of face to face regional hui and clarified the criteria for using kura as examination centres, enabling where possible, students to be assessed in familiar surroundings.

Delivering robust senior secondary (NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship) external assessment

NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship Examinations 2018

The 2018 NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship examination period ran smoothly with 129 examination sessions held at 404 centres. NZQA employed 5,643 examination centre managers and supervisors for the examinations period. Marking of 1,188,842 external assessments proceeded as planned and was completed on time by 1,653 markers.

NZQA continues to provide translated examination papers which provide an interpretation that presents the assessment from a Māori world-view. NZQA also has systems in place so that candidates can be confident that their external assessment evidence is handled equitably by marking panels, whether the evidence is provided through the medium of te reo Māori or English.

NCEA results release 2018

NZQA released the 2018 NCEA results for over 165,000 students in January 2019. NZQA provided an extended call centre to deal with enquiries from students. The call centre was supported by a specialist team of experienced NZQA staff with a teaching background, to assist students with specific questions relating to their results. Final NCEA and UE attainment statistics were published on our website on 28 May 2019. These final statistics include late reporting of internally assessed results and the outcomes from the review and reconsideration process.

Common assessment tasks

NZQA developed Common Assessment Tasks (CATs) for Cook Islands Māori, Lea Faka-Tonga, and Korean language examinations for the first time in 2018. This provided greater consistency for students with entries in externally assessed standards and addressed equity issues existing in the assessment of these languages.

Other initiatives

New enrolment measure

A new enrolment measure, developed jointly by NZQA and the Ministry of Education, was implemented in 2018/2019. Both NCEA and university entrance attainment have been reported using the new measure, which provides a more inclusive and precise picture of secondary schooling attainment than was possible under the previous roll-based measure.

New standards – Digital technologies

As part of the development process for new internally assessed digital technologies achievement standards led by the Ministry of Education, NZQA managed the trial of 13 standards in 17 schools. NZQA introduced a new approach to the assessment of the newly developed digital technologies externally assessed standards. Students were provided with electronic stimuli through CATs in the form of videos and screen shots. They had choice over which stimuli they chose so it became personalised to their learning. The new digital technologies achievement standards will be available online, assessed digitally, and uploaded for online marking for the first time in 2019, as part of our commitment to NCEA Online.

Te Mārautanga o Aotearoa (TMoA)

NZQA continued to support the Ministry of Education in their development of a suite of resources aligned to support implementation and uptake of TMoA achievement standards. The total number of achieved entries in the new (since 2017) Level 3 Te Mārautanga o Aotearoa standards has increased by 12.2 percent (from 1,228 to 1,378) in the last year.

Mātauranga Māori pathways

To further strengthen pathway options and increase the uptake of field Māori standards and mātauranga Māori NZ qualifications, NZQA has developed ‘Ngā Kete Mātauranga’. These resource packs, available online and as hard copies, aim to support kaiako and assessors to develop programmes that lead to the award of mātauranga Māori qualifications.

Ministry of Education’s NCEA Review and Achievement Standards Review

Following the public release on 13 May 2019 of the outcomes of the Review of NCEA, NZQA has been working with the Ministry of Education to contribute to the development of the implementation planning. In addition, NZQA is contributing assessment expertise as key stakeholders in the Ministry of Education’s Review of Achievement Standards work programme. NZQA is a member of significant Ministry of Education groups designing and guiding the implementation of the changes.

Removal of NCEA fees

One of the outcomes of the Review of NCEA announced in May 2019 included removing fees for New Zealand students entering NCEA and the New Zealand Scholarship from 2019. In June 2019, NZQA undertook the planning and system processing to enable formal awarding of NCEA qualifications and credits to students with unpaid fees in 2018 and previous years. Almost 150,000 current and former students with unpaid NCEA fees will now be formally awarded their credits or qualifications.

Monitoring our progress

IndicatorMeasured by2018/19 Result
Increasing the capability of schools in relation to internal assessment practice.

The percentage of schools on a three or four-year Managing National Assessment cycle is between 75 and 85 percent.

As at 30 June 2019, 93.3 percent of schools were on a three or four year schedule. This compares to 92.8 percent in 2017/18.

Maintaining moderator/teacher agreement rates at a level comparable to international best practice.

The annual moderator/teacher agreement rate is around 85 percent.

The agreement rate was 81.7 10 percent. This compares to 83.2 percent in 2017/18.

Increasing the number of students from low decile schools accessing Special Assessment Conditions (SAC) support.

Overall at least 3-5 percent of students from low decile schools apply for SAC support.

The percentage of 2018 applications received by enrolled candidates for deciles 1 to 3 was 3.5 percent. This compares to 3.2 percent in 2017.

Creating the platform for the future

Moving to online delivery of assessment services including external assessments

Digital Trials and Pilots

The 2018 Digital Trials and Pilots project is now complete. Throughout 2018 schools were given the opportunity to participate in:

  • A mid-year Level 1 Science Trial at the end of Term 2, which focused on more advanced ‘augmented’ assessment features that could not have been replicated in a paper-based assessment.
  • Digital Trials in English, Media Studies and Classical Studies at Levels 1, 2, and 3, and another opportunity to complete the Level 1 Science Trial in September and October.
  • Digital Pilots in English, Media Studies and Classical Studies at Levels 1, 2, and 3. These examinations contained the same content as the paper examinations (substitution) and were held on the same dates and times as their equivalent paper-based examinations.

Student feedback:

"I liked how we got to use spell check and I feel that I type faster than I write and that is easier for me to do so."

"I could write my essay faster, could rearrange lines and paragraphs, and easily add/remove parts to my answers without making it messy as it would've been if it were non-digital. The best part is that I am able to go back to it and change my answers easily."

Six User Experience Reports evaluating the 2018 Trials and Pilots were published on 2 April 2019. The users surveyed were students, markers, teachers, Principal’s Nominees and Examination Centre Managers/Supervisors. See: www.nzqa.govt.nz/2018evaluation

NCEA Online

With the conclusion of the Digital Trials and Pilots project, NZQA is now developing a new assessment platform and operating model for NCEA Online. In 2019 there will be 35 digital examination sessions from 14 subjects offered to schools as part of the standard examination process. The subjects are Agricultural and Horticultural Science, Art History, Business Studies, Classical Studies, Education for Sustainability, English, Health, History, Home Economics, Latin, Media Studies, Social Studies, Te Reo Māori and Te Reo Rangatira. This is around one third of the examinations. All results from the 2019 digital examinations will count towards NCEA.

NZQA is continuing to co-design the way the new platform and operating model works with students, markers, school leaders and examination management staff. The digital examinations will continue to be on an opt-in basis for schools and students.

We are continuing to look ahead to future assessment approaches. Some examples of our planned investigations include students being able to listen to questions being read (as well as reading them), control some audio settings for listening activities (rather than have these controlled by the supervisor), and use specialised mathematics software for a better experience of digital mathematics examinations.

Monitoring our progress

IndicatorMeasured by2018/19 Result
An increase in the number of subjects and candidate entries externally assessed digitally.

The number of subjects and candidate entries for external assessments completed digitally compared to a paper-based format.

In 2018 in the subjects and levels offered digitally, a total of 98,517 students obtained 200,272 assessed results in external examinations. Of those, 6,400 students obtained 12,237 assessed digital results, respectively representing 6.5 percent (compared to 5.1 percent in 2017) of all students with assessed results and 6.1 percent (compared with 5.0 percent in 2017) of all assessed results.

In the 2018 academic year, external assessment candidates had the option of sitting Levels 1, 2 and 3 Classical Studies, English and Media Studies as digital assessments. 2018 was the first opportunity candidates had to complete Level 3 external assessments digitally.

We have refined the way we report this information to better reflect the impact. A ‘student’ is now defined as a unique candidate with an assessed result (rather than an entry) for a digital or paper examination. This data will therefore not be directly comparable to that reported in previous years’ annual reports. The following figures are the equivalent of those reported in last year’s annual report, adjusted to include only unique candidates with assessed results: In 2017 (2016 data in brackets) in the subjects and levels offered digitally, a total of 81,874 (45,336) students obtained 174,035 (103,660) assessed results in external examinations. Of those, 4,147 (1,384) students obtained 8,619 (2,516) assessed digital results, respectively representing 5.1 percent (3.1 percent) of all students with assessed results and 5.0 percent (2.4 percent) of all assessed results.

This data reflects the effects of the school and student opt-in design of the Trials and Pilots, the increase in subjects offered via the increased levels at which the three digital Pilot subjects were offered, as well as the approach to consolidating student participation in 2017 and 2018 at Levels 2 and 3 respectively largely to those who had previously participated.

Working with others to lift Māori and Pasifika achievement in STEM related NCEA subjects

Māori and Pasifika in STEM

NZQA has a goal of ‘Partnering with education system agencies to support a 50 percent lift of Māori and Pasifika student achievement at NCEA Level 3 in one or more standards in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subject related areas by 2020’.

To deliver this goal, NZQA has taken a role of systems influencer to aid the education system in responding to the equity in STEM challenge, and to focus on initiatives that create a multiplier effect through working with schools, whānau and students. NZQA continues to support the delivery of several initiatives for Māori and Pasifika learners, parents, and whānau to achieve this goal. These initiatives include:

  • STEM in Secondary Education
  • NCEA and the Whānau and NCEA ma le Pasifika workshops
  • Āmua Ao experience
  • Pasifika in STEM initiatives.

STEM in secondary school

In July 2018 we began working in collaboration with schools and other agencies to promote discussions about equity in STEM subjects. We will continue this work to help support the Education Portfolio Work Programme.

NCEA workshops

NZQA has two specialised initiatives that support kura and schools – NCEA and the Whānau and NCEA ma le Pasifika workshops. These workshops have been designed specifically for parents and whānau to better understand NCEA with a focus on the structure of NCEA, qualification pathways and the importance of STEM.

Almost 4,000 participants have engaged in a workshop, and feedback shows these engagements are highly valued. Participants appreciate the face to face contact with NZQA staff, who are able to explain simply how NCEA is structured and how it works, along with tips for supporting their children to achieve success. Positive feedback has been received from parents attending the workshops, for example:

"I just wanted to know how to help and support my child to do well and now I know what we can do as a whānau"

"I now feel more confident to speak to the school about my sons NCEA choices because I know what questions I can ask"

Parents and whānau have told us the workshops help them see the relevance of rangatahi making the right choices and how these choices align to their aspirations.

Āmua Ao experience

The Āmua Ao programme was designed to inspire Māori students and show them where their STEM studies could take them.

The Pūhoro STEM Academy based in Palmerston North delivers an indigenous STEM programme. Given that the aim of the Pūhoro programme is to raise Māori STEM achievement rates and to influence STEM subject choices and pathways, NZQA entered into a partnership with Pūhoro to bring together both the Āmua Ao and Pūhoro programmes. This strategic move has enabled the two programmes to work closely with students to:

  • increase Māori student engagement and achievement in STEM-related programmes at secondary school
  • pathway students into robust STEM programmes in preparation for tertiary education and STEM- related careers.

Āmua Ao is an experiential learning programme and includes both international and domestic experiences. In April 2019, 15 students participated in an international STEM visit to Taiwan and Singapore. This trip positively influenced students regarding their career options.

To inspire rangatahi Māori to pursue science, two domestic Science and Engineering Challenge events were delivered, one in Manawatu and one in Auckland, attracting more than 400 Māori students (years 9 and 10). Students told us these events had positively influenced their NCEA options and choices. Feedback included comments that the Challenge opened up their eyes to options science offers while for others, the Challenge firmed up ideas they had for tertiary study. We achieved a multiplier effect by these young people sharing their experiences with school friends and their whānau. One example of this is the Palmerston North winning team being recognised at a school assembly and sharing what caused their success. They were also profiled on the school Facebook page sharing with other students, parents and whānau.

Pasifika in STEM initiaves

NZQA collaborated with different partners to implement various STEM-focused activities. These partners included schools, communities, the Ministry of Pacific Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and the Education Review Office.

To increase parents and whānau engagement in their children’s educational success, tailored NCEA information, resources and workshops are provided. The workshop presenters deliver key messages in Samoan, Tongan, te reo Māori and English.

Our Pasifika STEM Ambassadors have provided external assessment support in science standards for Year 11 students at two Auckland secondary schools as part of our collaboration with the Ministry of Education led Power Up ‘Power- stations’ initiative. The Ambassadors were also engaged as part of a reference group to develop and test the Biology digital assessments.

Research has shown that Pasifika students are avid users of social media, and there is a growing expectation that organisations will communicate with them using these channels. In 2018 NZQA established a social media presence targeting Pasifika audiences through the NCEA ma le Pasifika Facebook page and an Instagram page that primarily targets students. Six navigators were recruited to create posts for both digital platforms. To ensure the right content and context for NCEA and study tips for success were created, secondary school students from years 10 to 13 were selected to share their voices with other students. Tracking and analytics of the NCEA ma le Pasifika social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram shows an increase in online activity and that these messages are being embraced by Pasifika learners and families.

NCEA Online pilot workshop

As NCEA exams increasingly move online, it is important that parents, families and communities are well informed of key changes and how they can support their children. NZQA has started to deliver NCEA Online focused workshops with the pilot NCEA Online workshop held with a Cook Islands church group in Porirua. The key messages were well received and feedback indicates there is a growing need to share key NCEA Online messages with priority communities.

Monitoring our progress

IndicatorMeasured by2018/19 Result
We have more parents and whānau engaging with NCEA by accessing information, resources and workshops. Number of parents and whānau who participate in NCEA and the Whānau workshops. As at 30 June 2019, 1,271 parents and whānau members participated in NCEA and the Whānau workshops. This compares to 1,861 in 2017/18.
The percentage of parents and whānau who attended NCEA and the Whānau workshops who report increased knowledge of NCEA and more confidence to support their child(ren) and engage with schools about NCEA pathways. 98.9 percent reported increased knowledge of NCEA compared to 93 percent in 2017/18.

83.9 percent reported more confidence to support their child(ren) and engage with schools about NCEA pathways compared to to 78 percent in 2017/18.
We have more parents and whānau engaging with NCEA by accessing information, resources and workshops. Number of Pasifika parents and families who participate in NCEA ma le Pasifika workshops. As at 30 June 2019. 2,705 parents, families and students have participated in NCEA ma le Pasifika workshops compared to 2,727 in 2017/18.
The percentage of Pasifika parents and families who attended NCEA ma le Pasifika workshops who report increased knowledge of NCEA and more confidence to engage with schools about NCEA pathways. 99.3 percent reported increased knowledge of NCEA compared to 96 percent in 2017/18.

99.8 percent reported more confidence to engage with schools about NCEA pathways. Comparison to 2017/18 is unavailable due to new questions being used in 2018/19.


10 Agreement at the level of grade is where a moderator’s grade of the student’s work agrees with the teacher’s grade.

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