Maori and Pasifika students are lagging behind others at school, national standards data released by the Government suggest.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said the figures showed a "concerning number" of such students not meeting the standards in reading, writing and mathematics.
Overall, 76% of children in years 1 to 8 were at, or above, the national standard in reading, 72% for maths and 68% for writing.
The figures for Maori children were 66%, 62% and 58% and as many as 46% of Pasifika children were below the national standards in all three subjects.
"We've still got to focus much more on having a focus on Maori and Pasifika, on children that come from poorer homes, children with special education needs," Radio New Zealand quoted Parata as saying.
Parata defended the release, for the first time, of the national standards as providing benchmarks against which to measure progress in coming years.
"Up until now we've had to rely only on NCEA data - at the end of compulsory schooling - to provide us with a picture of our education system,'' Parata said.
''National Standards data will now allow us to support all learners and target those who are behind much earlier and give them the help they need.''
Today's release was a national overview. Next week, figures for individual schools will be made available, allowing parents to compare their child's primary or intermediate school to others.
Critics of the national standards say the data is unreliable and should not be used to compare schools.
"What we may have done as a school might be different from the school down the road," Jill Corkin, of the Auckland Primary Principals' Association, told ONE News.