Background to the development of the Literacy and Numeracy unit standards

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The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) and Ministry of Education have been reviewing all achievement and curriculum based unit standards in order to align them to the New Zealand Curriculum (2007).

This review has followed a set of principles that includes: all NZ Curriculum (NZC) based standards will be achievement standards and will align with the achievement objectives of NZC level 6; there should be no duplication between unit and achievement standards; there should be credit parity between standards (10 hours notional teaching learning and assessment per 1 credit).

As work on the alignment of standards progressed, it became clear that some of the NZC based unit standards, currently based below NZC level 6, being used by schools for some students undertaking NCEA Level 1 would no longer be available. In the consultation document on NCEA Design in June 2009, the introduction of Literacy and Numeracy unit standards was proposed.

Positive feedback (80% of the 209 responses) to the consultation package containing proposed design changes to NCEA led to the development of Literacy and Numeracy unit standards by NZQA.

From 2011, these standards will contribute to the NCEA Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy requirements. The requirement for NCEA Level 1 will be 10 credits from Literacy and 10 credits from Numeracy.

These standards have also been designed to be used in tertiary and workplace programmes and support the principle of embedded Literacy and Numeracy.

In August, NZQA invited representatives from key bodies to form a Project Advisory Group (PAG). The group includes representatives from:

  • Ministry of Education
  • NZQA
  • Tertiary Education Commission
  • Industry Training Federation
  • Post Primary Teachers Association
  • Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand
  • Adult Literacy Practitioners Association
  • Māori and Pasifika

The PAG met twice to provide guidance and set parameters from which a writing panel would develop the unit standards. In determining critical content and where to pitch the standards, the PAG considered a wide range of evidence, including the Adult Learning Progressions, the Literacy Learning Progressions and Numeracy Progressions in schools, the draft Literacy and Numeracy National Standards for primary and intermediate schools, and international sources (DeSeCo and PISA).

The PAG proposed that the definitions of  literacy and numeracy to be used are:

  • Literacy is the written and oral language people use in their everyday life and work. It includes reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Skills in this area are essential for good communication, active participation, critical thinking and problem solving.
  • Numeracy is the bridge between mathematics and daily life. It includes the knowledge and skills needed to apply mathematics to everyday family and financial matters, work and community tasks.

A writing panel of specialists in literacy and numeracy across the sectors was convened and completed development work on the six standards. The standards have been written on the basis they will be assessed using naturally occurring evidence drawn from authentic contexts. This lends itself to assessment via portfolio.

An assessment resource writing panel, drawn from cross sector and school deciles then met with the purpose of developing resources and guidelines for the standards for use across the sectors. The resource writing panel considered that evidence could be gathered from existing practice, with planning and co-ordination to identify where assessment opportunities exist within a unit of work. As such the resource development focussed on developing guidelines and examples that would assist this approach. The standards were critiqued from an assessment design perspective.

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