Media Release - New Report: The Ministry of Education must adopt a new tool for measuring school performance objectively and fairly

Media Release
9 March, 2020

Wellington, 6 March 2020 – A groundbreaking new tool could give parents and principals the first objective measurement of New Zealand school performance, says a new report released today by The New Zealand Initiative.

Insights and Excellence: School success in New Zealand demonstrates the quality of information, analysis and reporting that could be provided to every parent and principal in the country using the data already collected by the Ministry of Education and other government agencies.

Compiled by Policy Analyst Joel Hernandez, the report uses case studies of three secondary schools, including Southern Cross Campus in Auckland. The other two schools chose to stay anonymous, but voluntarily offered themselves for the proof-of-concept experiments.

Presented as individual school reports, Insights and Excellence shows how the schools performed over a ten-year time span relative to themselves and to every other secondary school in the country.

The data was drawn from Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). In a world-first achievement, Mr Hernandez used the IDI to evaluate every school on an even playing field by connecting multiple data sets on 400,000 students from 480 schools.

The tool was used on three schools to objectively measure their performance in education by separating the contribution of each student’s family socioeconomic background from the contribution of each school.

“This new report isn’t about giving gold stars to New Zealand’s high performing schools or creating new league tables,” Mr Hernandez says.

“We want to demonstrate that the Ministry of Education now has the opportunity to identify the high-performing schools – regardless of decile – and learn about the most effective practices for getting the best education outcomes for every student.”

“And equally important, parents, principals and boards of trustees parents will be given a fairer and more accurate picture of how their child’s school is performing,” Mr Hernandez concludes.

Peter Parussini, Chairman of Southern Cross Campus, underlined why providing the education sector with objective, data-driven information and insights to improve educational outcomes is so important.

“As the chair of the school board, accurate information about the performance of our students is critical to continual improvement. Our community is highly aspirational and looks to our school to be the social and economic escalator for their children. But for administrators and educators, it’s hard to measure progress and success.

“The New Zealand Initiative’s way of looking at that will be useful for us to improve and to know where we are going well, what areas to focus on and, hopefully in future, to share with other schools,” he says.

Read more:

  • You can read Insights and Excellence: School success in New Zealand – including the three case studies – here.
  • You can read more about the Initiative’s work on measuring school performance in New Zealand in our previous report In Fairness to Our Schools: Better measures for better outcomes, available here


Joel Hernandez is available for comment. To schedule an interview, please contact:

Linda Heerink, Communications Officer
P: 04 494 9104 / 021 172 8036

For the editor:

Objective, data-driven school evaluation empowers parents in deciding which school to send their children to. In many cases, this decision influences where they purchase or rent a home for their family. Homes in school zones where a school is perceived to be of higher quality earn a premium on the property market.

For example, homes zoned for Epsom Girls Grammar School have the highest premium in the country, equal to 90.5%. Families without the means to move to the suburb of their choice may choose to drive hundreds of kilometres per year so their children can attend a school perceived to be of higher quality. Out-of-zone schooling is particularly prevalent in Christchurch, where students, in aggregate, travel 355,000 kilometres in one week, almost the entire distance from the earth to the moon, to get to schools outside their school zone.

For parents who are financially better off, a decision to send their children to a private school can cost more than $100,000 over five or more years of schooling.

Without objective data, parents are forced to rely on anecdotal evidence and other unreliable proxies to inform their decisions. For the past two decades, school quality has been inferred from decile ratings and league tables. Together, these highly flawed proxies for school quality have fuelled decile drift and socioeconomic segregation in New Zealand secondary schools.

In the 21 years since the decile funding model was introduced in 1995, the number of students in decile 8–10 schools has increased from 201,153 to 280,209; in contrast, the number of students in decile 1–3 schools has decreased from 188,089 to 179,929. During this period, 24% of all New Zealand students attended decile 1–3 schools compared with 45% of Māori students and 60% of Pasifika students.

Even when low-decile schools are marked in the high-performing category by ERO, some families bypass them and enrol their children in average-performing high-decile schools outside their school zone. New Zealand parents are hardly to blame. Without other reliable sources of information on school quality, parents are left with no other choice but to resort to poor proxies and anecdotal evidence.

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