Aotearoa New Zealand uses a number of formal tools to measure the progress of learners against national averages or expectations established by research. These tools have not been designed to measure exceptional ability. Some gifted learners, particularly underachieving gifted learners and gifted learners from culturally diverse backgrounds, score poorly on standardised tests while others are capable of performing well above the test ceilings. A score right at the top of the test can significantly understate the true potential and learning needs of learners. This can be at least partly addressed with above-level testing. Always use a variety of formal assessment tools – do not rely on one result.
Most formal tools have these disadvantages:
Gifted learners may be at ceiling or ‘well above’ and require above level test
They focus on achievement – may not identify gifted underachievers
May disadvantage learners from culturally diverse backgrounds
Some have a cost which can disadvantage learners from economically disadvantaged backgrounds
Standardised tests of achievement eg: PAT, e-asTTle, NCEA ( NCEA on TKI, NCEA on NZQA): These are already in use in most NZ schools and are normed for NZ learners.
The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (University of Canterbury) provides assessments and surveys for NZ primary and secondary schools. These are adapted for NZ schools and based on world leading educational research, include reasoning skills tests which can compensate for some learning disabilities. They are value-added assessments which offer an objective, accurate way to measure learners growth and the influence schools and subjects have on the educational experiences of learners.
The annual Great Kiwi Science, English and Mathematics competitions are skills-based and closely aligned with the New Zealand Curriculum.
ICAS assessments offer international comparisons for learners.The subjects assessed in ICAS are Digital Technologies, English, Mathematics, Science, Spelling and Writing. They are skills-based assessments developed by subject experts and assess the level of competency learners possess in a particular subject area.
Standardised tests of intelligence/cognitive abilities provide provide comprehensive information on areas of relative strength and weakness and there are non–verbal tests useful for ESOL learners. However, individual tests are expensive as they require a specialist to administer them. They are often not written in a manner that translates to classroom practice.