Blueprint For Science Education | July 25, 2011 Issue - Vol. 89 Issue 30 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 30 | p. 11 | News of The Week
Issue Date: July 25, 2011

Blueprint For Science Education

Curriculum: Framework is supposed to yield national teaching standards by 2012
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: NSTA, education, National Research Council, NRC
NRC science education framework stresses hands-on learning by students.
Credit: Shutterstock
A medical student makes up a solution in a laboratory.
NRC science education framework stresses hands-on learning by students.
Credit: Shutterstock

The National Research Council (NRC) has released a framework for science and technology education that is expected to lead to new national standards for teaching science in kindergarten through high school.

“Currently, science education in the U.S. lacks a common vision of what students should know and ... curricula too often emphasize breadth over depth,” Helen Quinn, chair of the NRC committee that wrote the report and a professor emerita of physics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., said in a statement. This framework addresses these weaknesses and “provides a blueprint that will guide improvements in science education over many years,” she added.

The NRC report, “A Framework of K–12 Science Education,” specifies four disciplinary areas all students should understand by the time they finish high school: life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering and technology. It outlines how important concepts, practices, and ideas in these four areas should be developed across grade levels and emphasizes the practices of science, such as helping students plan and carry out investigations.

The next step is to use the framework to develop core standards for science teaching. This will be done through the nonprofit education-reform organization Achieve, which has already begun working on the project. Achieve previously developed core standards for teaching math and language arts that have been adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia.

“Creating the next generation of science standards will be a state-led process that takes into account the views of all stakeholders while staying firmly rooted in the NRC’s framework,” Stephen L. Pruitt, Achieve’s vice president for content, research, and development, said in a statement. The standards are expected to be released late next year.

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) believes the NRC framework has the potential to transform U.S. science education. “This framework emphasizes the importance of engaging students more deeply in the process of doing science, not just learning content,” but much work lies ahead, NSTA Executive Director Francis Eberle said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Achieve to translate the framework into new science standards.”

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