Waikato Journal of Education
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How to Cite

Hodder, C. (2017). Stepping through the standards - pass rates and their uses: A case study of a nineteenth century Waikato school. Waikato Journal of Education, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v4i1.486


With the Education Act of 1877 and its accompanying regulations of 1878, New Zealand schooling was divided into six Standards. Pupils were examined annually by an inspector and either passed or failed their Standard examination based on their performance in required subjects.

The public of New Zealand and indeed the administrators of education were naturally concerned that there should be "value for money" and "efficiency" in the new national education system which was largely paid for out of public funds. As a measure of this efficiency, pass rates for the Standards examinations rapidly came to be used as an indication of how well teachers in particular and schools in general were performing. However, pass rates could be manipulated by members of the concerned public to show that a disliked teacher was not performing as well as another preferred teacher. Often such concern was voiced through letters to the editor of the local newspaper. Pass rates could also be influenced by teachers when some pupils were not presented for examination for a variety of reasons, thus improving the pass rates for a Standard, and apparently the performance of the teacher and the school. Both public manipulation of the statistics of pass rates and withholding pupils from examination are documented for Cambridge School in the Waikato in the 1880s. This school was converted to a district high school for some five years (1883 - 1888) and the pass rates for pupils in the higher Standards were apparently affected by the introduction of the higher, post-primary subjects. This affected the school's overall pass rate.


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