A Case Study of the Manageability and Utility of Assessment in Three New Zealand Primary Schools 1993-2006
This study is concerned with the manageability of assessment in New Zealand schools. In order for assessment to be effective in schools, it needs to be manageable. This is especially important for New Zealand schools in the light of the changes in administration and curriculum introduced in the early 1990s. These reforms which were termed Tomorrow's Schools introduced radical changes to New Zealand schools in the areas of governance, management, the curriculum, assessment, and quality assurance. In the area of assessment, primary schools were presented with a number of challenges which included a requirement to assess a highly structured curriculum with close to 1000 achievement objectives, many of which were open to different interpretation. There was also an expectation to assess against the structure of this new rapidly introduced curriculum, without any tools provided for such assessment. The New Zealand system also departed from other countries in that it made no distinction in terms of importance in teaching and assessment between what are usually considered the core activities of primary school education, literacy and numeracy, and other learning areas. In light of these challenges it is not surprising that a number of the assessment processes that schools developed and used were questionable in terms of manageability and utility. The aim of this research is to examine the effect of government policy and international movements in assessment on the manageability of assessment practice in New Zealand primary schools during the period 1990-2006. The research also examines what is meant by the terms manageability and utility when applied to the context of primary school assessment. By means of case study research, the investigation explores assessment practice in three Wellington primary schools during 2006-2007. The case studies sought to understand current assessment practices in terms of the reforms of the early nineties, as well as more recent developments in assessment in New Zealand. The research illustrated that while these three New Zealand schools still faced some major issues in terms of the manageability and utility of assessment, their views were more optimistic and positive than earlier research studies had reported.