A colleague & I did some research some years back by analysing examiners' comments on NCEA subjects. We focussed on why students fail in NCEA? and How students get to Excellence in NCEA.
We had a hunch that failure was to do with literacy - subject vocabulary, subject reading materials and subject writing requirements. We also had a hunch that from our experiences with classroom teaching, NCEA marking and working with teachers, that students attain Excellence or Scholarship through demonstrating the quality of their thinking and especially using the Extended Abstract category of the SOLO taxonomy. Analysis of the examiners' reports proved that our hunches were correct.
2016 examiner's reports can be seen here. The examiners descriptively list what students commonly did to be awarded Achieved, Not Achieved, Merit and Excellence. These lists are very helpful, especially for Beginning Teachers and the findings within the lists concur with our hunches of 8 years ago.
The lesson to be learned from this is that all teachers of all subjects must be teaching the literacy of their subject as students are still failing because they don't understand the academic vocabulary of their subject.
Vaka Moana, HOD English Wesley College on Pasifika Literacy in secondary schools