The results of the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) for 2018 were released in December 2019. Below we share some key findings of the study. We suggest how we can use the findings to improve outcomes for ākonga in Aotearoa New Zealand.
NMSSA monitors student achievement across the New Zealand curriculum at Years 4 and 8 in English-medium state and state-integrated schools. The study, which carried out its first assessment in 2012, is a collaboration between the Educational Assessment Research Unit at the University of Otago, the New Zealand Council for Educational Research and the Ministry of Education. NMSSA builds on the strengths of the National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP, 1995 - 2010) in providing a longitudinal picture of student achievement in New Zealand. Items are retained over successive assessments to enable results to be compared over time.
In 2018 the study focused on mathematics and statistics and social studies. The last time mathematics was a focus was 2013. One hundred schools at each year level, Year 4 and Year 8, were randomly selected from stratified groupings that allowed for decile, geographical location, and school roll. A maximum of 25 students from each school were randomly selected. That process produced a sample of about 2000 students in each year group. These students completed a range of assessment tasks, including one-to-one interviews, a collaborative team activity, and short computer-interactive and written-response tasks.
Summary of Findings (show)
The MS scale is consistently used in each five-yearly cycle. On average student performance improves by eight points per year that a student is at school, in the four years between Year 4 and Year 8. The average mathematics score of New Zealand Year 4 students increased by 1 point on the MS scale, from that in 2013. This increase was not considered statistically significant. However, the Year 8 student average improved by 3 points in the same period. That is equivalent to about 3 ½ months in gain. Several sub-groups made significant gains, most notably Year 8 Pasifika students who improved an average of 6 scale points, or about 9 months of normal progress.
The improvements are good news but the overall patterns of achievement in relation to the levels of the New Zealand Curriculum remained relatively unchanged from when National Monitoring began. 81% of Year 4 students performed at Level 2 or beyond. However, only 45% of Year 8 students performed at Level 4 or beyond. The decline in percentage of students achieving at curriculum expectations in mathematics, between Years 4 and 8, remains a concern.
Click to see the 2018 NMSSA key findings on mathematics and statistics.
What does NMSSA assess? (show)
NMSSA items are based on achievement objectives from the New Zealand Curriculum. All students in each Year group sample attempt a pencil and paper test containing multi-choice and short answer questions. Various forms of the test are used to produce a larger number of items.
Up to six students in each school are also interviewed by a qualified assessor. The interviews are based on extended problem solving tasks, and in 2018 collaborative tasks involving teams of students were used. Interviews are used to get a more in-depth picture of students’ thinking and their problem solving strategies. The assessments include items from all three content strands of the mathematics and statistics learning area.
Detailed descriptors of what is assessed in NMSSA mathematics and statistics are provided on Page 7 of the Insights for teachers.
What do NMSSA items look like? (show)
The Insights for teachers includes several examples of items used in the 2018 assessments. They include detailed descriptions of the items, as well as marking criteria and the percentages of students in each year level that answered correctly. These fractions tasks are from pages 22-23.
What should we do? (show)
The 2018 Insights for teachers describes three main areas of advice for teachers, and includes useful suggestions for classroom activities to use. Click the links below for links to resources on nzmaths that support these areas.Spatial Reasoning