$520 billion spent on K-12 education in the United States came from state and local governments, and about 10 percent came from the federal government (U.S. Department of Education, 2008).
The most important state responsibilities are (1) developing state education standards and associated support (e.g., curriculum guides, curriculum frameworks), (2) implementing statewide high-stakes assessments and enforcing consequences of high or low performance on the assessments, and (3) credentialing teachers and establishing criteria for teacher licensing. In addition, in about 40 percent of states, the state department of education reviews and approves curriculum materials on a statewide basis.
Standards determine the direction and nature of science learning and set learning goals for all students. Establishing standards is an important tool for states to influence science instruction. Establishing standards is a process in which the content of science learning is melded into a montage of learning expectations drawn from a variety of sources; primarily the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996), the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993), and local science teaching traditions. In addition, the way state standards are implemented may be influenced by informal education institutions and organizations in the state, including some that receive funding from federal sources, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), NOAA, and others.
The involvement of the federal government in K-12 science education dates back to the mid-20th century. The federal government currently influences the national agenda in K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education through two processes. First, legislation affects federal funding, which can lead to changes in state and local education systems. For example, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and its reauthorization under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB; U.S. Department of Education, 2004) Act, implemented by the U.S. Department of Education, has significant effects on K-12 STEM education. NCLB requires states to establish academic standards for reading, mathematics, and science in order to apply for specific types of federal support. NCLB also requires states to hold schools and districts accountable for student performance in reading and mathematics. This has resulted in increased instructional time in reading and mathematics to make adequate yearly progress and consequently little time for science instruction (Griffith and Scharmann, 2008). This is particularly true in Title I schools (schools in which 40 percent or more of the students come from low-income families), in which failure to make adequate yearly progress carries significant consequences for the use of federal funding received by the school.
Second, Congress provides funding for federal agencies involved in K-12 STEM education, which influences the types of education programs