Lately policy-makers have shown a renewed interest in science learning at school. For example MBIE released a report in 2014 called A Nation of Curious Minds. The report argues that science and technology are critical for enhancing living standards through economic growth and improving social and environmental outcomes. Making sure more of our young people are competent in science and technology, and want to go on to a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related jobs, is one of the three specific goals the report identifies.
All this policy attention has given a boost to professional learning opportunities in primary science. We have become aware that some schools now want to see the ‘value add’ for this professional learning. School leaders and advisers who work with them are asking for ways to measure achievement in science. This isn’t surprising given the current emphasis on data-driven decision making in literacy and numeracy. But we simply don’t know enough (yet) about what making progress in primary science might look like. We don’t have the equivalent of PAT or asTTle tools to be able to readily gather meaningful achievement data. We are working on designing a tool similar to Science: Thinking with Evidence, for years 4-6. The new student engagement survey can be used in the meantime, and should continue to be useful even after a new achievement tool has been developed.
This tool will give schools rich information about their students’ engagement with science and their perceptions of the learning opportunities that have been provided for them. In this way, it provides a useful starting point for designing a science programme that is responsive to students’ interests and needs, and that more deliberately broadens their ‘library of experiences’ related to science ideas and events.
While your school's data will always remain confidential to your school, over time we will be collecting aggregated data from all schools to obtain a clearer picture of what's happening and where the gaps are - a national profile. This information will be used to benefit science education in New Zealand.
Rosemary Hipkins, NZCER, June 2015
 Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
 A paper that discusses this idea can be found here: