The Auditor-General has slammed the education ministry for having little information on the cost of its efforts to lift Maori achievement, or their success.
In a report summarising five years of audits released today, Auditor-General Lyn Provost said progress for Maori was still too slow, despite her belief significant improvement was a "realistic objective".
"It is well known that there is a gap between Maori and non-Maori achievement," the report said.
The Auditor-General chose the topic of Maori education because there were still disproportionate numbers of Maori children not reaching their full potential, she said.
"The education sector has an integral role to play in reducing the gap ."
"Significant improvement in Maori education is a realistic objective."
Provost found there were too many Maori education initiatives that were not connected or evaluated for cost-effectiveness, despite a $1.2 billion spend on Maori education each year.
She said the Ministry of Education could not accurately identify the funding for all programmes focused on Maori students; and that evaluation information on the effectiveness of programmes was scarce.
For example, of the relevant programmes, only three had evaluation information available.
"In our view, because it uses public money to fund programmes and initiatives, the Ministry of Education needs to work out how much these activities cost, whether they are effective, and whether they add any value overall, and to Maori students in particular."
Two other recent reports had noted similar concerns, including one by the Ministry of Education itself, and another by a right-wing think tank called The New Zealand Initiative.
The report also highlighted the need for poorly-performing schools to learn from high-performing schools.
It said every school needs to implement the Maori education strategy, Ka Hikitia, which was not the case in the current environment.
Schools also needed to improve relationships with whanau.
The Auditor-General said while things had changed in five years since she began her reports, there was still much to be done.
Ministry acting head of early learning and student achievement, Karl Le Quesne, said the report acknowledged that Ka Hikitia was a sound and well-researched strategy that had the backing of Maori.
"Since Ka Hikitia was introduced in 2008, we have begun to see a turnaround in Māori participation and achievement in education."
Participation in quality early education services had reached record highs for Māori, at 94.6 percent.
The number of Māori 18-year-olds with level 2 NCEA had risen since 2008 by more than 25 percent (from 44.8 percent to 71.1 percent).
More Māori were also staying at school longer to gain higher qualifications. "These improvements are not accidental. We are seeing significant changes in Māori achievement due to deliberate planning and targeted resources."
Proposed changes to the Education Act would help ensure that every school was focused on, and accountable for, raising Māori student achievement. T