This research provides the first insights into student progress and achievement of a cohort of New Zealand students in primary schooling over a 5 year period. The findings confirm some evidence from other studies but add some new and significant evidence about pathways of students through their schooling (compared with curriculum expectations), the extent of the variation amongst students cohorts, and whether certain characteristics of students really matter to how students' progress. All this evidence is fundamental to improving teaching and learning in schools for the benefit of students.
A key finding of this research is that, while contextual factors such as ethnicity, gender and socio-economic status are strongly related to student achievement, there is no clear systematic relationship between these factors and the progress students make. Simply put, the research suggests that differences in average achievement by socio-economic status, gender and ethnicity observed at higher levels of primary school reflect students' different starting points, rather than differing amounts of progress students make throughout Years 4 to 8.