Assessment of your child forms a big part of their education from now on and along with assessment comes more terms and acronyms to understand. We’ll give you a basic idea of the most common types of assessment at this level and why they are used.

Assessment gives teachers useful information about how well students are progressing, and what students need to do next to continue learning.

While some types of assessment provide a mark or a score, teachers interpret the results in ways that give the student much more information than a mark out of 10 would ever provide. Teachers also use examples of other students’ work as a basis of assessment.

Why assess?

The following are some reasons why assessment might occur –

  • helping teachers determine students’ strengths and weaknesses as a basis for their future tuition
  • reporting on students’ achievements towards the end of periods of education which may influence their paths through the system
  • judging the effectiveness of teachers and schools
  • tracking how the whole school system has been performing over time; and
  • making comparisons between different groups within the system and between the system and those of other countries

So what assessments are likely to occur at Primary School?

Generally speaking the most common types of assessment your child is likely to encounter at the school entry exam, running records, 6 year net, PAT and STAR testing.

School entry assessment –

Children in NZ are generally assessed when they begin primary school as a new entrant. This school entry assessment enables teachers to gather information about their literacy and numeracy skills so they can better work with the children they have in their class as both individuals and in groups.

There are national tests that can be used for this assessment but some schools may have developed an assessment tool that better suits them and their students.

Running Records –

Running records are an ongoing form of assessment that gives teachers reliable information about a student reading skills and fluency.

It works with the student reading aloud to the teacher while the teacher records what the student reads or does. Through doing this, observing, scoring and interpreting the reading of the student, the teacher gains an insight into the student’s reading ability, behaviour and is able to determine when the student is reading fluently.

For example a student must be able to read fluently at one level before they are able to progress to reading at a higher level.

Running records also give the teacher the opportunity to assess who of their students may need extra assistance with their reading. The struggling student will likely be referred to the Reading Recovery programme. (More info on Reading Recovery here).

Once reading fluency is achieved running records are no longer held on a student. It is around this time that STAR testing picks up to assess a student’s reading progress and ability.

6 Year Net (Observation Survey) –

This assessment happens when the student is Year 2 and turns six years old.

The student completes the assessment one-on-one with the teacher who is assessing him/her and is asked to complete specific tasks to do with

  • identifying letters,
  • understanding print concepts, For example, reading from left to right and top to bottom, and making connections between the text and illustrations,
  • reading text, recognising words,
  • writing vocabulary (students are asked to write as many words as they can and know in 10 minutes), and
  • hearing and recording sounds in words.

PATs –

PAT stands for Progressive Achievement Tests. These tests are designed to assess listening comprehension from Year 3, reading vocabulary from Year 4 and both reading comprehension and maths from Year 4.

PAT test results give teachers an idea of how a student measures against the national results of other students the same age and in the same Year group. These results also give teachers on idea of what to focus their teaching on in follow up.

STAR Tests

STAR stands for Supplementary Tests of Achievement in Reading. This testing is based on reading ability and progress and generally picks up where running records leave off, that is in Year Three.

STAR testing helps teachers more accurately assess the students reading ability where

  • word recognition
  • sentence comprehension
  • paragraph comprehension and
  • vocab

are all concerned.

In particular STAR helps teachers to identify students who need extra help, create groups so students are matched with others of similar ability, assess students new to the class/school, identify particular difficulties students or groups of students may be having, gain some idea and evaluate how effective a teaching programme may be or to compare students with the national standard for that age/year group.

As a parent it is your right to access and understand the assessment results of your child. Be sure to ask the classroom teacher when assessments are occurring and how your child has done. They should be only too willing to discuss the results with you.

Every school is also required to have an assessment policy. If you have any queries or questions about your how or why your school assesses students then ask to see it.


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Kylie Valentine is a qualified secondary school teacher, trained journalist, and the mum of two fabulous children.

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Patsy Takamore

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