Upon completion of a review of the literature related to the influence of the NSES on the science curriculum, one is left with many unanswered or partially answered questions. There are many gaps in the research literature. The following recommendations are offered to researchers and funding agencies to consider as a research agenda for the next decade:
Innovative designs are needed to learn more about the nature of standards-based instructional materials in K-12 science.
Consumer report studies are needed to characterize the degree to which available instructional materials in science at all levels and in all subjects are standards-based. These studies should be repeated at least once every three years, because instructional materials are continuously changing. The results of these studies should be disseminated widely.
States and school districts need assistance and support in identifying and selecting high-quality, standards-based materials.
Studies are needed at regular intervals to determine the degree to which local school districts are adopting high-quality, standards-based materials and to determine the factors that influence successful use.
For reform to proceed, intensive and extended professional development and substantial resources are required to support teachers in enacting standards-based curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices.
Studies are needed to investigate the nature of the enacted curriculum in classrooms throughout the nation to determine the quality of the program and the alignment with best practices.
Large-scale studies are needed to investigate the impact of standards-based science programs (where curriculum, instruction, and assessment are well aligned) on student achievement.
Failure to conduct these studies will ultimately cast doubt on the value of the massive expenditures on standards-based reform. The public and educators alike will demand a continuous chain of evidence that strongly supports the claim that standards-based reform has improved the quality of science education in our nation’s schools. Without establishing alignment of all aspects of the system, however, it will be impossible to draw valid conclusions about the value of national standards in science.