Rationalising national assessment in New Zealand

John O'Neill, PhD


In the 1990s and 2000s, New Zealand governments monitored national
educational performance broadly through cyclical ‘light-sampling’
of primary school students, and the annual proportions of secondary
school students who gained formal credentials. In 2008, a centre-right
coalition government legislated for national standards of achievement in
literacy and numeracy in primary schools. In 2012, individual schools’
national standards results were reported publicly for the first time despite
professional and popular awareness of their unreliability. To date, New
Zealand has not adopted national testing, instead preferring to emphasise
the importance of teachers’ professional judgments. The paper examines
how this uncommon policy position became ‘conceivable’.


national assessment, national standards, rationality, discourse, teacher judgment

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