Project tackling educational inequality to be extended

Media Release
Issued 14 February 2011

Starpath, a pioneering research project which aims to increase the number of Māori, Pacific and students from low-income backgrounds succeeding at secondary school and entering tertiary study, has received funding for a further five years.

The Partnership for Excellence between The University of Auckland and the Government was established in 2005 to determine evidence-based ways of transforming educational underachievement.

New Zealand has the second highest rate of educational inequality in the OECD, with Māori, Pacific and students from low-income backgrounds showing the highest rates of educational underachievement.

Starpath director Associate Professor Elizabeth McKinley says the next five years is about addressing educational inequality by making changes in high schools based on evidence gathered and tested by Starpath in its five pilot schools over the past five years.

“In phase one of the project we have worked with three Auckland and two Northland secondary schools to identify the barriers to student success and then successfully tested ways of breaking down those barriers,” she says.

The project, which aims to improve NCEA results and increase the number of students entering degree level study, is being expanded to include up to 40 secondary schools.

Starpath Board chair Professor Raewyn Dalziel says in the past five years Starpath has developed major strategies to address barriers to student achievement through tracking and monitoring student progress.

“We found that when performance data are understood and used effectively, student outcomes can be transformed dramatically.”

“Without tracking student progress it is impossible to pinpoint areas of educational success and failure and to know where to invest time, effort and resources intelligently for individuals and groups of students,” says Professor Dalziel.

Phase one research discovered that many Māori and Pacific students who were academically able were not making it to degree studies because they were making ill-informed NCEA subject choices that limited their chances of entering and succeeding in tertiary institutions.

“We found that if we worked with students and their parents early enough then we could make sure that they were on the correct pathway to achieving their goals. It was often as simple as making sure they had chosen the most appropriate NCEA subjects,” says Professor Dalziel.

In phase two, Starpath will be working closely with the Ministry of Education, the Woolf Fisher Research Centre and The University of Auckland Centre for Educational Leadership.