dards and curriculum should lay out specific, coherent goals for important scientific ideas and practices that can be realized through sustained instruction over several years of K-8 schooling. Assessment should provide teachers and students with timely feedback about students’ emergent thinking that, in turn, supports teachers’ efforts to improve instruction. Teacher preparation and professional development should be focused on developing teachers’ knowledge of the science they teach, how students learn science, and specific methods and technologies that support science learning for all students.

Standards, Curricula, and Assessment: What to Teach and When

Recommendation 1: Developers of standards, curriculum, and assessment need to revise their frameworks to reflect new models of children’s thinking and take better advantage of children’s capabilities. Standards and many widely used curriculum materials fail to reflect new evidence about children’s thinking, particularly the cognitive capabilities of younger children, which are greater than previously assumed.

Recommendation 2: The committee thinks that the next generation of standards and curricula at both the national and state levels should be structured to identify a few core ideas in a discipline and elaborate how these ideas can be grown in a cumulative manner over grades K-8. Focusing on core ideas requires eliminating ideas that are less central to the development of science understanding. Selection of the core ideas should be guided by their status as foundational ideas in the disciplines of science that connect to many related scientific ideas, as well as the potential for sustained exploration at increasingly sophisticated levels across grades K-8. While existing national and state standards have been a critical first step in narrowing the focus of science in grades K-8, they do not go far enough. Future revisions to the national standards—and the subsequent interpretation of these standards at the state and local levels and by curriculum developers—need to clearly identify the knowledge and practices that are most central to the disciplines and describe how these can be developed over successive grades based on current models of children’s learning.

Recommendation 3: Developers of curricula and standards need to present science as a process of building theories and models using evidence, checking them for internal consistency and co-

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement