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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education?
The goal of the American Diploma Project (ADP; www.achieve.org/ADPNetwork) by Achieve, Inc. is to promote college readiness through the adoption by states of ADP benchmarks in English and mathematics. Four cross-disciplinary proficiencies are embedded in the benchmarks, all of which are potentially relevant to engineering: research and evidence gathering; critical thinking and decision making; communications and teamwork; and media and technology. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has developed an outcomes-based framework (P21, 2009) that suggests the skills, knowledge, and expertise students will need to succeed in the workplace and in their lives outside of work. Among the recommended skills are creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication and collaboration, traits consistent with engineering habits of mind proposed by the Committee on K–12 Engineering Education (NAE and NRC, 2009).
Mapping at the State Level
Because of the strong influence of state standards on what happens in classrooms and on teacher preparation in public institutions of higher education, a mapping strategy at the state level might be very effective. However, given the number and variability of standards from state to state, mapping efforts will have to overcome significant practical challenges.
For example, a core engineering idea that maps to the science standards in one state may or may not map to the standards in another state, and determining the alignment for 50 different states would be a major undertaking. (If common core science standards are adopted, the alignment problem would be less difficult, at least in theory.) Software has been developed by the Syracuse University Center for Natural Language Processing (www.cnlp.org) that can be used to find content matches between and among state standards. Teach Engineering (www.teachengineering.org), a project of the National Science Digital Library, is using this and related software to map the content of national and state science, technology, and mathematics standards5 to its collection of more than 800 engineering-related curricular units, lessons, and activities.
This chapter describes infusion and mapping as complementary approaches that offer alternatives to the development of stand-alone content standards for K–12 engineering education. Engineering-related ideas have already been infused into some national and state standards, and more infusion will be possible as existing standards are revised. A few examples of standards mapping and some evidence of the efficacy of this approach suggest that mapping may be a viable tactic.
Both approaches could be impacted by what happens with common core standards, particularly if standards for science, which has provided more fertile ground for connecting to engineering than mathematics, are developed. The prospects for infusion and mapping will almost certainly improve if an agreement can be reached on the core concepts, skills, and