To Graduation and Beyond

Insights Newsletter
11 June, 2021

Secondary schools should provide every student with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed after graduation.

However, in our latest report, To Graduation and Beyond, we show that this is not always the case. But fleeing to high decile schools is no solution.

In fact, our report finds low decile schools overrepresented among top performers – after taking into account differences in the families they serve.

Our work in Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure draws on data from more than 500,000 students enrolled at nearly 500 secondary schools, and their family backgrounds.  We compare tertiary qualification completion rates for students graduating from these schools and find high-performing schools (the top 10%) across all deciles.

Among these high-performers, low decile schools tend to outnumber their middle- and high-decile peers.  

When we instead look at progression into a tertiary institution, high-performing schools tend to skew to both low and high deciles.

To Graduation and Beyond is the sixth report using the Initiative’s school performance tool to fairly compare secondary schools.

Setting a level playing field matters when comparing school results.

While we cannot say what leads to greater or lesser success among comparable schools, we provide the starting point for that kind of work. The Education Review Office, for example, could assess on-the-ground factors at different schools that might lead to these different outcomes.

Much more work is needed to reverse our dismal educational decline.

Over the last three years, the Initiative has opened the black box of secondary school results. But it would be up to the Ministry of Education to provide these kinds of results to every school, so that every Principal, Board of Trustee Member, and parent can share these insights.

Identifying which schools are getting the best outcomes is crucial so that successful schools can be studied, underperforming schools can be given support, and parents empowered in school choice.

Of course, not every student needs to go into a university, polytechnic, private training establishment, or Wānanga. There are many worthwhile opportunities outside of formal education.

Regardless of whether students progress into and complete a tertiary qualification, every child deserves an education that opens as many doors as possible. Fortunately, many low-decile schools are strong performers. But until parents, Boards, and principals start receiving better information on their schools’ performance, it will be harder to lift performance at the schools that need it most.

The report, To Graduation and Beyond: Secondary school performance and tertiary education outcomes can be read here.

Listen to Joel Hernandez explain his three-year journey of crunching New Zealand's education data in our Initiative podcast.

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