Media release: New Zealand schools need better performance measurement

29 June, 2016

Wellington (29 June 2016): ​New Zealand has a mostly well-functioning school system, but there is evidence of stubborn underperformance, a report by The New Zealand Initiative finds.

“New Zealand’s economy depends on a literate and numerate workforce. Yet thousands of New Zealand’s students are poorly served by our school system, and too many schools are allowed to underperform for a student’s entire schooling career,” says Martine Udahemuka, author of the report.

The report titled Signal Loss: What we know about school performance finds that school underperformance is inadequately addressed:

The Education Review Office (ERO) evaluations show that, as at 30 June 2015, about 185 schools lacked the internal capability to manage significant concerns and needed intervention.

Twenty of those 185 schools had performed poorly for an average of eight years, despite having had considerable support to turn things around.

As at October 2015 the Ministry of Education had taken over all or some functions of 67 school boards.

These 67 schools educate thousands of students and, worryingly, half of the students affected attended lower decile schools.

There is concern that evidence of underperformance may indicate more systemic issues.  

“Schools and teachers do not all educate the same types of students,” Ms Udahemuka says.

“Current benchmarks can unfairly penalise schools with students from disadvantaged backgrounds. They may not meet national targets even if they have progressed their students significantly. Conversely, schools with more school-ready students who meet targets could still perform below their capabilities.”

The report shows that the education system is not using the vast amounts of data available, which could be utilised to support schools and teachers to manage areas of underperformance.

Signal Loss looks at better ways to measure, signal and manage educational quality so that teachers and schools can effectively support their students to reach their potential.

Two subsequent reports will further examine local and international case studies of school performance management and use the findings as the basis for recommendations to the Government.


To arrange an interview please contact:

Simone Evans  
Communications Officer, The New Zealand Initiative  
Phone +64 4 494 9109  
Mobile +21 2937 250


About The New Zealand Initiative  

The New Zealand Initiative is an evidence-based think tank and research institute, which is supported by a membership organisation that counts some of the country’s leading visionaries, business leaders and political thinkers among its ranks.    

Our members are committed to developing policies to make New Zealand a better country for all its citizens. We believe all New Zealanders deserve a world-class education system, affordable housing, a healthy environment, sound public finances and a stable currency.    

The New Zealand Initiative pursues this goal by participating in public life, and making a contribution to public discussions.  

For more information visit

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