New education standards to be introduced next year, tracking a student's progress and reporting it to their parents, were released today.

The Government is to spend $36 million over four years to support schools' implementation of the standards.

Under the standards, parents would twice a year receive school reports on their childrens' progress.

The standards focus on detailed areas that teachers would be expected to test students against at each school level.

For example, after one year at school, students would read The Way it Was by Dot Meharry.

They would then be expected to answer questions from the teacher and provide additional information on the story, such as the use of different colours in the illustrations or the way time difference was depicted.

Teachers would use a variety of assessment activities when they wrote reports and may use samples of students' work.

Students would not be compared to others - assessment would measure only their progress and achievement against the national standards.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said the standards would be introduced in all English-based primary and intermediate schools and would involve years one to eight.

"If students have these foundation skills in literacy and numeracy they will be able to learn across all areas of the school curriculum and will be on track to get at least NCEA level 2," she said.

"I'm delighted for the first time (parents) will now have information on what their children should be able to achieve and by when."

Prime Minister John Key said the standards were supported by parents, would lift achievement standards and provide "clear signposts" on a child's progress.

One in five students was being left behind and they needed to be identified so they could receive the help they needed, he said.

"Parents want, and deserve, clear information on how their children are doing at school."

Parents could not intervene if they did not know there was a problem, Mr Key said.

"In order to succeed our children must have the very best educational opportunities. National standards will help realise those opportunities."

NZEI president Frances Nelson said it was "problematic" that teachers' and principals' first look at the standards was at the end of the year.

"We now need time to study them very closely and see how they're going to fit alongside everything else we do."