September 30, 2023

Exemption – assessment



I have received a letter back from the MOE saying;
“Please add to the sections on assessment, including your plans to set learning goals for………… and the evaluation of these goals over time in a planning and review cycle. You need to show how you will evaluate the overall teaching and learning programme you have set for………….”.


They aren’t really asking for much. And also, having your exemption held up while they ask for more information is standard procedure….it happens to everyone.

I should point out that when they ask you to list learning goals they are in fact going outside their legal parametres. The law says the MoE must be “satisfied the child will be taught at least as regularly and well as in a registered school.” Note that it is the teaching, not the learning, that needs to be as regular and well. Note also that “Registered school” is not the same as state school, but includes all the schools in the country, including alternatives and weird ones too who never do any assessment. In other words, there are no objective standards by which your application can be judged apart from “as regularly and well”.

You shouldn’t have to write more than a single paragraph. I’ll attach (and pasted below)some lengthy examples of what schools have written in their ERO reports…this will give all kinds of ideas. Here is what I wrote a while back to someone else on the topic:

“The question on assessments is easy. Because you observe your child nearly all day, everyday, you know when the child has understood the material and when he has not. You know when he has mastered the skill involved and when he as not. When he has understood/mastered the material/skill to your satisfaction, you progress or move on to the next subject. When he has not understood/grasped/mastered it, you review until he does. So you do an informal assessment based on intimate observation. That’s all that’s needed. You may do the odd oral quiz or written one you make up yourself. You may also get a hold of formal tests which are available here or there, tests like the P.A.T., Progress and Achievement Test, which is available from: Alan Curnow, 200 Hill St., Richmond, Nelson, (03) 544-7728.”

Do spend a bit of time thinking about assessment, remembering that there are no hard and fast rules or anything specific that they’re looking for, just that you appear to know what your’re talking about…also remembering that what you write down is not a contract or a promise of what you WILL do, but more of a statement of intent.

Russell St. School 1999, Primary

3.2.3 Student Assessment

Although there has been a clear schoolwide focus on developing sound learning programmes, considerable progress has also been made in the area of assessment. Assessment schedules each term set out the requirements for assessing student learning. The focus areas for both Terms 1 and 2 this year have been English and mathematics.

Goal setting is an integral component of every classroom programme. Class, and individual goals in some classrooms, provide the base for students to take responsibility for their own learning. Students are assessing their own work to varying degrees, throughout the school.

A schoolwide report on student achievement in mathematics (number and basic facts), spelling, and reading, provided the school with good information from which to analyse student achievement and evaluate programmes. From the results, recommendations have included introducing a schoolwide programme for spelling. The school has also established expectations for students’ recall of addition, subtraction and multiplication facts. Regular and consistent review is leading to continual improvement in school programmes and ultimately, student achievement.

Teachers monitor student progress by including achievement objectives and learning outcomes in their unit planning, and continually assessing these. In some classrooms learning logs are being used as an effective record of student progress and achievement. A variety of other methods of recording ongoing achievement is being used. The school acknowledges that a further stage in the assessment system will be the development of a schoolwide cumulative record of student achievement.

Russell School, Porirua East, Decile 1, Primary, 2000

Assessment Processes

The assessment policy and recently developed school achievement statement provide appropriate guidance to teachers for monitoring, recording, and reporting student achievement. Since the 1998 Review Office report a great deal of work has been done to address the recommendations relating to assessment. The school is well on the way to developing an effective and manageable assessment system. The recommendations that follow are designed to assist the school in ensuring that valid and useful information is generated by valid and useful assessment practices.

Teachers use a range of suitable monitoring procedures to evaluate students’ performance. These include checklists, anecdotal notes, and formal and informal tests. The administration of entry, one month, six month and six year net diagnostic tests provides sound baseline data for junior school teachers. The senior teacher compares each result with previous data so that student progress is monitored. Results are used to ensure that appropriate intervention programmes are provided to students with identified needs. New entrant teachers use the information to determine suitable groupings for literacy and numeracy teaching sessions.

Under the leadership of the deputy principal the school has developed links between planning and assessment requirements. Junior, middle and senior syndicate teachers maintain a consistent system of assessing and recording progress and achievement as students move through the school. However, because the national achievement objectives are not always redefined as specific learning outcomes, the quality of the assessments suffers. Some teachers do not always have a clear focus for their teaching, therefore they do not always have a clear focus for assessing the learning. Specific and accurate assessment of individual students and their level of attainment should result from clearly established NAO, SLO and assessment item links.

The codes used to record achievement levels are open to interpretation. This affects the accuracy of assessments. It is exacerbated by the fact that there are no consistent criteria for determining the extent to which a student has met the stated learning outcome. No moderation across classes takes place, leading to inconsistencies in applying the codes. Senior managers are aware of the need to address this to ensure that assessments are comparable and fair.

The points reported above lead to difficulties in keeping accurate cumulative records. At present the cumulative record cards show very broad notions of progress and achievement, with a ‘best fit’ curriculum level being allocated. The usefulness of the cumulative record would be enhanced by the addition of brief anecdotal notes to detail actual achievement against the stated learning outcome.

The school has a well-established system for reporting to parents on student achievement. This includes interviews and written reports. Reported comments are based on assessment data, work samples and test results that are collected in individual student profiles. The profile samples would be enhanced by the inclusion of brief annotations that record the level of achievement and the context for it. This should, alongside the improved cumulative records, provide teachers with a more substantial base of evidence for reporting purposes.

The deputy principal has undertaken comprehensive analyses of art, social studies and mathematics test results, to determine school-wide trends and patterns of achievement in these areas. The data analysis has provided some useful information, however, it is important to ensure that the tests are appropriate. This will help ensure that information gleaned from the analysis of results is valid and reliable. Staff and trustees would then have more accurate information for determining priorities in planning and resource allocation.

Some teachers undertake evaluation of units of work. The evaluations tend to be general and descriptive rather than evaluative. As senior managers and teachers make the suggested refinements to the assessment system, the data gathered should provide a useful base for achievement related evaluations of units of work. This will add an important facet to the school’s curriculum quality assurance system.

Russell School BoI, Decile 5, Primary, 2000

Assessing Student Progress

Teachers regularly monitor and assess student progress against curriculum objectives. They demonstrate a good understanding of the cyclic nature of planning and assessment, and evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching programmes after each study unit.

In a number of essential learning areas, teachers individually select what they consider to be appropriate learning outcomes against which to assess students. It would be beneficial for teachers to work together to identify more consistent benchmarks of achievement criteria that could provide a developmental profile of expected achievement over time in different subjects. This would help teachers track student progress more consistently and provide an established framework of appropriate learning outcomes for planning purposes.

The principal and staff are exploring summative methods of collating and analysing student achievement. They have prepared some good reports on student performance for the board in aspects of English, mathematics, and social studies. Staff are seeking ways to provide comparisons for trustees and parents about the performance of their students against general age expectations in New Zealand.

Teachers are attempting to do this by having advisers provide them with external tests such as the one recently completed in mathematics. Using this material in comparative ways can be problematic. Comparisons of this nature should be made against normed and standardised materials such as those already used by the school in the Progressive Achievement Tests. Analysis of these results would provide better quality comparative data against national age expectations. It would also be interesting for staff to compare these results with the school’s own achievement information to determine the effectiveness of its own assessment procedures.

Paroa School, WHK, Decile 1, Primary, 2001

3.2 Assessment of Student Learning

Assessment practices have strengthened since the last review. What is to be assessed against the relevant achievement objectives is decided for all essential learning areas and all levels across the school. Teachers assess student learning in specific units of work against the specific learning outcomes identified in unit planning. Students’ learning is monitored in a way that is methodical and purposeful.

A school-wide formal assessment timetable ensures there is consistency in data collection. The timetable includes all essential learning areas and is well understood and followed by teachers. This should lift the quality of assessment data that is collected.

Individual student profiles are used consistently and well. Formal assessment requirements are fully reflected in these profiles. They provide a cumulative record of achievement for students across the school. Parents are invited to view them when they attend report interviews. They report that they are able to understand more graphically what their children can do. To make this information more useful, work samples and evaluations should be dated.

The growing use of student self evaluation and assessment is commendable. Students are taking a more active part in their learning. They are being encouraged to become independent learners and reflective of the learning process.

Conclusions drawn from assessment information at year eight indicate that there is little difference in levels of achievement in English between rümaki and mainstream students.

Tamariki School, Primary Integrated, Decile 5, 2001

Assessing, Recording and Evaluating Student Achievement

The principal and teachers have made some progress in managing these aspects of learning. Their involvement in the Assessment for Better Learning (AbeL) contract is enabling them to consolidate their ideas and improve their assessment practices. They have trialed a number of different data gathering methods and have introduced portfolios and cumulative record cards. These development have helped the teachers, the students and their parents to identify some of what the students have learnt and to begin evaluating students’ progress more effectively.

The next development for teachers is to establish assessment programmes that identify students’ progress against the national achievement objectives. They need to make sure that these developments result in school-wide assessment and recording procedures that enable teachers to evaluate student achievement and their curriculum programmes more effectively. [Action 4.2]

The teachers and principal have also taken steps to formalise their curriculum evaluation and reporting procedures. A curriculum delivery report by the principal to the board in 2001 contained some useful self-review information. This process needs to continue so teachers can evaluate the effectiveness of their programmes as part of the school’s self-review programme. [Action 4.3]

PN Boys High, Decile 8, 1999


The emphasis on external examinations also limits the development of approaches to assessment. While a wide range of classroom assessment practices is used, formal school assessment systems currently reflect a norm referenced approach. Student achievement at all levels in many subjects is recorded and reported in terms of marks, percentages and grades. Such an approach yields limited data on student performance that can be used to improve learning. It does not demonstrate what students can do and what their learning needs are.

Some departments are developing a wider range of methods for recording and monitoring progress. Examples include the reporting format used in physical education, core art, metalwork and woodwork, which more clearly indicate levels of performance in defined areas. Also, an approach to assessment and reporting that reflects the objectives associated with national curriculum levels is used for students requiring additional support in English. This approach should be extended across the department.

In addition, the school’s approach to assessment impedes the progress of departments in fully implementing the new curriculum. The link between recorded assessment and the achievement objectives of the national curriculum in mathematics, science, English and technology is often tenuous or non-existent. Consequently, the requirement to monitor student progress against the national achievement objectives cannot be met. The school needs to face the challenge of reviewing its approaches to assessment, recording and reporting, and develop systems that enable it to demonstrate student progress more effectively.

The development of approaches and systems related to the assessment and recording of student achievement would enable the school to better respond to the changing nature of its intake. Increased rigour in approaches to the identification of students’ individual needs on entry and the collation of information on a schoolwide basis, would promote a more proactive approach to decision making, and the planning and resourcing of programmes to respond to learning needs. The availability of more meaningful and useful assessment information, would inform departmental evaluation, and facilitate the setting of specific targets for improving student performance and the development of appropriate programmes.

Some large departments, such as mathematics, have well-developed systems for monitoring curriculum delivery. Similar systems need to be developed to track and ensure implementation of the technology curriculum.

Collingwood Intermediate, Decile 7, 2002-08-07

Student Achievement and Assessment and Reporting Practices

During the review, the board adopted a potentially useful policy on the reporting and analysis of student achievement information. When this policy is implemented, the board and teachers will be in a better position to use student achievement information to target support for individuals and groups of students.

At present, the board receives only a limited range of information on student achievement. In 2001 trustees received curriculum review reports in mathematics and English. The mathematics report described the organisation of student class placements resulting from two sets of standardised tests. The results of these tests were later made available to trustees. The English review report included graphed information from standardised testing in aspects of English, with a generalised statement of results.

The principal and teachers have worked hard to implement a computerised assessment system to report to parents on the achievement of individual students. When it is fully operational, teachers expect to use this system to report to trustees on the achievement of students and groups of students, and to analyse trends and patterns in achievement.

Teachers use the computerised assessment system to report to parents on their child’s progress in the essential learning areas and essential skills. Parents receive comprehensive reports on their child’s achievement. These reports include information on the levels of achievement that a student has reached, and the effort the student has shown.

Aspects of assessment and reporting practice need to be improved to ensure that the information on student achievement is more useful and reliable. The computer system records student achievement against sets of progressive criteria. Teachers acknowledge that this criterion-referenced assessment provides only a snapshot of a student’s learning. Some of the criteria do not give a reliable and accurate picture of a student’s level of achievement. The principal and teachers should ensure that these progressions of learning are moderated by comparisons with external benchmarks and exemplars, as they become available to schools. [Action 4.3]

To report effectively to trustees and parents on student achievement, the board, through the principal, should:

establish comprehensive guidelines for the management of the assessment and reporting of student achievement;

specify the duties of the persons responsible for managing the reporting of student achievement and the development of the assessment system;

ensure that staff continue to develop the computerised assessment system; and

ensure that the board receives detailed analysed information about trends and patterns of student achievement and progress over time, including information about the progress of Mäori students. [Action 4.3]

The principal and teachers are likely to require further professional development if they are to be successful in completing the development of the assessment and reporting system. At present, teacher knowledge of the system is limited. Teachers report that the school librarian, who has responsibility for this area, has made significant progress in the development of the system. As the librarian was unavoidably absent for a major part of the review, and in the absence of much achievement data in hard copy, reviewers were unable to obtain information on student achievement.

Teachers keep individual portfolio records of student achievement that are shared with parents. Where students take care with the presentation of work, these portfolios form an attractive record of student achievement. For portfolios to be more useful, teachers should ensure that they consistently contain information for parents on the learning expectations for each piece of work, and information on whether the student has met the expectations. Teachers should make more extensive use of these records to identify and address student learning needs. [Action 4.3]


  1. Luckily, your piece goes to the center of the topic. Your clarity leaves me wanting to know more. I am going to instantly grab your feed to keep up to date with your online blog. Saying thanks is simply my little way of saying what a masterpiece for a solid resource. Let In my best wishes for your next post.

  2. Claire Whyman says

    I have just read the above answer to the letter received from the MOE for further information. I received the same (it must be a standard). They asked me to supply a sample timetable for a typical week, this left me wondering if they actually read your first application because I had a complete sample of a weeks timetable set out.
    Assessment and evaluation, they also asked me to demonstrate the method in place to test and measure how effective your teaching. In my application I explained my testing and checking methods along with the fact that a Primary school teacher with 25+ years experience will be assessing my daughter using probe and star testing on a regular basis.
    Do they actually read the original application.
    Thank you for your above piece, it is a lot of help.

  3. Gidday Claire,

    Well, in fact, according to what I’ve heard (it is 2nd hand), they randomly grab a few applications and send out random letters asking for random extra information. I have certainly heard from others who say exactly the same as you have: the information asked for was already covered in detail in the first application. So just shovel a bit more information in there and send it back. It’s a bit like a bureaucratic tennis match…play the game.

  4. Tanja Smeets says

    Hi to Claire and Craig and everyone concerned,
    I also received a standard bureaucratic letter asking for the exact info I had already sent.
    I didn’t play the game (it is not my way, sorry Craig). I replied in a letter that they were not going to get any more information from me. I also said I found their letter for more information very bureaucratic or a powerplay or at the least a sign of unwillingness. I had made a very full extended application, so I felt very upset at their reply, which I also said in the letter. I am very curious at their reply to this. I will let you know!

  5. Gidday Tanja,

    Well, good on ya, I say! My deep down position on this is that the MoE has no business in the education game at all…refuse to do exemption applications at all, close down the schools, get rid of compulsory attendance, burn the Education Act. That’s probably a bit too radical for most. The MoE has been merely applying resistance to Exemption Applications…they rarely decline them, and that is because there are no objective standards they can impose, only their “professional” and “official” opinion. When someone like Tanja is so confident about what she’s written, she’s done exactly what the MoE needs: resistance back, to keep them behind the line of their official powers. If we don’t do this, they will overstep their powers (as spelled out in the Education Act) and try to push us around to make their job easier. We need to push back at strategic times to keep them honest, to let them know we’re watching them.

    Thanks Tarnja. I’d be surprised if you did not get your exemption straight away. Do keep us posted please.

  6. Tania van Tonder says

    I am just starting out this process of exemption now, but already I am totally frustrated by the MoE. Called them today to get an application form sent out to me and gave my mailing address – they had a go at me for not wanting to give them my physical address straight off. This does not bode well for me. IMO they have no business with my physical address until I ACTUALLY make the application do they? Seriously, they failed my kid in formal schooling for 7 years and now I am the one being treated like a criminal?

    Anyway, thought I’d share my progress as I go along in this process that will undoubtably be a nightmare of red tape.

  7. Gidday Tania van Tonder,

    Totally agree with you: they are being unnecessarily intrusive asking for your physical address. Every time we have a change of government and the new Min of Ed want to flex their muscles, there is usually a perception of them “tightening up” on home educators. I’d say you’re caught up in that. Don’t sweat it. Just wait til you see the actual exemption application! It is a very user-UNfriendly document. When it comes, fix a cup of coffee, sit down in a comfortable, quiet spot and put on your best humourous attitude, for it is a shocker at first reading. But don’t take it as seriously as all that it seems at first. Read it a second time, then give us a ring…we’ll talk you through it. Craig & Barbara Smith, ph. (06) 357-4399. Ring before this Friday 16 April.

  8. Tania

    If you live in the South Island then perhaps you can make one of these events:

    If you ring after the 16th then our daughter or son can give you our cell phone number.

  9. Tanja Smeets says

    Hi Craig, I promised I would let you know what happened after my ‘angry’ letter to the Ministery. Well; they turned down my application! Now I have to appeal to the secretary of the Ministery, which would be my ‘last chance’ at exemption…We’ll see!

  10. Gidday Tanja Smeets,

    I would not go the route of making an appeal. The “decision is final” phrase scares me. Just make a fresh application. Remember, there are no legal or objective requirements you have to fulfill in the application…you only have to subjectively “satisfy” the ministry person reading your application. Historically, over the last 20 years, they only turn down those who prove themselves to be incompetent, or who give up, or where some terrible skeletons fall out of the closet. Stick with it, firmly and politely press the ministry person doing your application for precise details as to why the application was not approved. Recruit others you may know in the teaching profession or related fields to approve your application and say so to the ministry. There is a certain amount of playing the bureaucratic paper shuffling game involved here that we just have to put up with. This present tightening up may or may not be signalling a move to shut us down. I don’t think so, since Key, Tolley and Heather Roy all speak very convincingly about more parental choice in education. But when it become clear that they ARE trying to shut us down, then WE ALL DO NEED TO BE PREPARED TO BECOME AS MAD AS HORNETS and let the MoE know we are NOT going to allow it to happen.

    Craig Smith

  11. Hi all.

    Eek! This made for some nail biting reading. I am in the throws of researching as much as I can about home schooling as I would like to have my two out of the public school system and begin home schooling by the start of 2011.

    I had planned on contacting the local MoE office for an exemption application form this week, but feel I might need to read a little more and be further informed before leaping into the lions den.
    thanks for all the resources on this site!
    kind regards

  12. Tanja Smeets says

    Hi there dear homeschoolers. I realized I never updated anyone on the next step of my exemption process! When you get to the secretary of the ministery, which is the end of the line(!!!), you DO NOT get turned down! This secretary just sent it back to Whangarei, where it went to the same person who had declined my exemption in the first place, but now she had to accept it.
    So; I homeschooled, legal and all. Never bow down when you know you are in your right, is my advice. They are not allowed to decline without a very good reason, so when you play it as far as I did, that is what you find out.
    Good luck everyone!

  13. Hi!

    Gosh that was an intense wee read, I have just received my paperwork, and have to write exemptions for 3 children(14,12,and 11), as I am reading here, I was starting to panic, but hooray, congrats to Tanja Smeets, I am feeling almost confident now;-)

    i must add also, this website has been the best, and what an amazing family:-)