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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? 1 Introduction This report comes at a time of widespread interest in improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in elementary and secondary schools. STEM education at the K–12 level is important in part because it can develop student interest and aptitude in subjects directly relevant to the nation’s capacity for research and innovation. This capacity is largely credited with supporting U.S. economic health, national security, and quality of life (NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2007). More generally, K–12 STEM education contributes to scientific and technological literacy, important attributes for all citizens. President Barack Obama has made STEM education a priority for his administration (Obama, 2009), and policy changes and funding have followed. The U.S. Department of Education has more than $4.3 billion to support the Race to the Top Fund, an initiative that includes incentives for states to improve STEM teaching and learning (DOEd, 2009). The White House is also backing Educate to Innovate, a major public-private initiative that will bring additional resources and attention to STEM education (Chang, 2009). At the same time, a coalition led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers has embarked on an effort to create common standards in core subjects, including mathematics (www.corestandards.org). The hope is that states will adopt the standards, thereby making curricula, assessments, and teacher professional development more consistent and more rigorous and, ultimately, raising student achievement. In addition, the National Research Council (NRC) is developing a content framework for the next generation of science standards. A draft of the framework released for public comment in July 2010 included a section devoted to engineering and technology. Motivated by concerns that too few U.S. students are interested in or performing at high enough levels in STEM subjects (e.g., Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2009), foundations and businesses are supporting efforts by several states that are restructuring or are planning to substantially restructure their K–12 STEM education systems (e.g., www.ncstem.org, www.osln.org, www.californiastem.org). Historically, the “T” and, especially, the “E” in STEM have not received the same level of attention as the “S” and “M.” The “T,” technology education (and its predecessors industrial and manual arts), have a long history (Herschbach, 2009), a small but dedicated teacher corps (Dugger, 2007), and, as of 2000, a set of standards specifying what students should know and be able to do to be considered technologically literate. These standards include engineering-related learning goals. In fact, based on the shift in technology education toward engineering, ITEA (International Technology Education Association) members voted in early 2010 to change the
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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? name of their organization to the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA). In contrast, the “E,” engineering education, has only recently begun to make its way into the K–12 classroom. According to a recent estimate, some 5 million K–12 students have taken part in formal engineering curricula since the early 1990s (NAE and NRC, 2009). Although this is a small number compared with the roughly 56 million students enrolled annually in K–12 schools (DOEd, 2008), it indicates that STEM education is expanding beyond science and mathematics. K–12 students are also being exposed to engineering in informal settings—such as after-school programs and visits to informal-education institutions, such as museums and science centers. For example, some 160,000 students ages 6 to 18 participated in engineering-related design competitions through the FIRST program (FIRST, 2009). Developers of engineering curricula, informal and after-school engineering programs, engineering professional societies, a number of engineering schools and companies, and a growing cadre of education researchers and teachers believe engineering education offers K–12 students a number of benefits, including stimulating interest and improving achievement in mathematics and science, developing engineering design skills, increasing technological literacy, improving the understanding of engineering and the work of engineers, and attracting young people to careers in engineering. Evidence of these benefits is slim so far, in large part because few rigorous impact studies have been conducted. However, as was noted in Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects, the data are strongest for the potential positive impact of engineering on the learning of mathematics and science (NAE and NRC, 2009). In fact, the report found that enhancing the study of science and mathematics for all students—the “mainline”—was the most common objective of existing K–12 engineering curricula. Only a few had as their primary purpose preparing students to pursue careers in engineering or other technical fields, often referred to as the engineering or STEM “pipeline.”1 However, K–12 engineering education is being taught in the absence of content standards to define what students should know and be able to do, even though standards have been a major element in education reform in the United States for more than 20 years. Existing standards in other subjects, such as science and technology education, do include connections to engineering, but there are no separate, comprehensive, grade-by-grade standards for engineering in K–12 education. Defining Engineering Engineering has been defined as design under constraints (Wulf, 1998), and the most fundamental of these constraints is the laws of nature. Engineers designing a solution to a particular problem must, for example, take into account how physical objects behave in motion. Other constraints include time, money, available materials, ergonomics, environmental regulations, manufacturability, reparability, and political considerations. Engineers design with the goal of meeting human needs and wants. Design is an iterative process that begins with the identification of a problem and ends with a solution that takes into 1 It is probably more accurate to describe the track followed by STEM students as “pathways,” since there are multiple routes into and out of careers. However, for the purposes of contrasting the general-education and engineering-preparation purposes of K–12 engineering education, the committee has chosen to use the mainline-pipeline metaphor.
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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? account the identified constraints and meets specifications for desired performance. Because engineering design problems do not have single, correct solutions, engineering, by necessity, is a creative endeavor. Indeed, while scientists are most concerned with discovering what is, engineers are concerned with what might be. In addition to constraints and specifications, other important ideas in engineering are: systems, modeling, predictive analysis, optimization, and trade-offs. Although each of these terms has a general meaning, in the context of engineering the meanings are often specific. For instance, engineers use modeling to understand how a product or component may function when in use. Models can be drawings or constructed physical objects, such as mock-ups of an airfoil made from plastic or wood or mathematical representations that can be used to predict and study the behavior of a design before it is constructed. Engineering has strong connections to many other disciplines, particularly mathematics and science. Engineers use science and mathematics in their work, and scientists and mathematicians use the products of engineering—technology—in theirs. Engineers use mathematics to describe and analyze data and, as noted, to develop models for evaluating design solutions. Engineers must also be knowledgeable about science—typically physics, biology, or chemistry—that is relevant to the problem they are engaged in solving. Sometimes, research conducted by engineers results in new scientific discoveries. For a more complete discussion of the origins and nature of engineering, see NAE and NRC (2009, chapter 2, “What Is Engineering?”). A Brief History of Standards in STEM Education2 Educational standards are not new. More than a century ago, the Committee of Ten, a working group of educators assembled by the National Education Association, recommended requirements for college admissions, including laboratory experience. The committee’s report influenced numerous programs and practices in the nation’s high schools (DeBoer, 1991; Sizer, 1964). For instance, it was the impetus for the Harvard Descriptive List, a set of 40 physics experiments students applying to the college were required to complete. Applicants also had to take a written test about the experiments and principles of physics. In essence, the list, which defined a combination of content and teaching goals, was a set of standards. Since the late 1800s, numerous policies, generally in the form of committee reports, have described what we now call educational standards. In the late 1980s, a new stage of education, the “standards era,” emerged. The origins of this new era can be traced back to A Nation at Risk, a report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE, 1983), which included high school graduation requirements in five core subjects—English, mathematics, science, social studies, and computer science. The report also included two recommendations for strengthening the content of the core curriculum and using measurable goals to assess progress in learning. These requirements set the stage for standards as we know them today. In 1989, then President George H.W. Bush met with governors from across the nation in Charlottesville, Virginia, for an education summit, the outcomes of which laid the groundwork for the Goals 2000 Education Program. The creation of those goals led to initiatives for voluntary national standards in all core subjects. That same year, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) published Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 1989), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) pub- 2 This section is based in part on a commissioned paper prepared for the committee by Rodger Bybee, Rodger Bybee and Associates. For the complete paper, see p. 55, Appendix B.
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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? lished Science for All Americans (AAAS, 1989). Both publications supported further standards-based reform. There are three generally accepted reasons for adopting educational standards: to ensure quality, to define goals, and to promote change (NCTM, 1989). Standards are also often considered to be statements of equity, that is, the expectations they express pertain to all students (e.g., NRC, 1996; Schoenfeld, 2002). This report focuses on content standards, though several other types of standards have been developed (Box 1-1). BOX 1-1 Types of Educational Standards Content Standards—a description of the knowledge and skills students are expected to have mastered by the end of their schooling. Content standards describe learning outcomes, but they are not instructional materials (i.e., lessons, classes, courses of study, or school programs). Teaching Standards—a description of the educational experiences that should be provided by teachers, textbooks, and educational technology. Teaching standards relate to the quality of instruction and sometimes emphasize unique features, such as the use of integrated instructional sequences. Teacher Professional Development Standards—a description of subject-specific and pedagogical knowledge and skills teachers are expected to attain through professional development experiences. These standards provide guidelines for all parties involved in teacher preparation, including schools of education and policy makers who determine requirements for teacher certification. Program Standards—criteria for the quality of school education programs. Program standards are guidelines for designing programs, in keeping with content, teaching, and assessment standards, and descriptions of the conditions necessary to ensure that all students have appropriate learning experiences. Assessment Standards—requirements for assessments used to measure student achievement and opportunities to learn. Assessment standards provide guidelines for teachers and state and federal agencies designing assessment tasks, practices, and policies. Performance Standards—a description of the form and function of achievement that show what students have learned. Performance standards, usually described in relation to content standards, sometimes identify levels of achievement for content standards (e.g., basic, proficient, advanced).
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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? The fundamental idea of standards-based reform was to establish clear, coherent, and important content as learning outcomes for K–12 education. Funders and developers assumed that voluntary national standards would be used by state education departments and local jurisdictions to select educational programs, guide instructional practices, and implement assessments that would help students attain the standards. They also assumed that undergraduate teacher education and professional development for classroom teachers would be aligned with standards. These assumptions sound straightforward, but the reality has been considerably more complex. Because of the many independent decisions affecting teacher preparation, curriculum, and testing, the influence of national standards on teaching and learning has been highly variable (NRC, 2001). This issue is discussed more fully in Chapter 2. In the two decades since the release of Science for All Americans (AAAS, 1989), a number of other STEM-related standards initiatives have been undertaken. In 1991, What Work Requires of Schools, a report of the Secretary’s Commission for Achieving Necessary Skills (DOL, 1991), and Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics, an NCTM report, were both published. In 1993, building on Science for All Americans, AAAS published Benchmarks for Science Literacy, followed in 1996 by the NRC’s National Science Education Standards. In 2000, ITEA released Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology, and NCTM published its revised standards in Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. A third NCTM revision, Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8, was published in 2008. Today, as noted earlier, an initiative is under way to develop common core standards in mathematics and science. (For a more detailed chronology of STEM-related standards initiatives in the past 40 years, see the annex to this chapter.) Project Goal, Objectives, and Study Process The goal of the project described in this report was to assess the potential value and feasibility of developing and implementing content standards for K–12 engineering education. The project committee was not asked to develop standards for K–12 engineering and did not attempt to do so. The committee’s statement of task included the following objectives: Review existing efforts to define what K–12 students should know and be able to do related to engineering, both in the United States and other nations. Evaluate the evidence for the value and impact of content standards in K–12 education. Identify elements of existing standards documents for K–12 science, mathematics, and technology that could link to engineering. Consider how the various possible purposes for K–12 engineering education might affect the content and implementation of standards. Suggest what changes to educational policies, programs, and practices at the national and state levels might be needed to develop and successfully implement K–12 engineering standards or alternative approaches to standardizing the content of K–12 engineering education. To address these objectives, the committee conducted a variety of information-gathering activities, including commissioning papers on relevant topics (see Appendix B), soliciting input from experts at a two-day workshop in summer 2009 (the workshop agenda appears at Appendix C), and conducting additional research. The committee had three face-to-face meetings (includ-
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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? ing the workshop) and eight project-related conference calls. Additional input was received from the report reviewers (listed on p. ix), whose task was to ensure that the report addresses the statement of task. Content of the Report and Intended Audience This report includes an executive summary, four chapters, and several appendixes. Chapter 2 provides a discussion of the arguments for and against developing content standards for engineering in K–12 education. In Chapter 3, the committee describes how current standards in other subjects may be leveraged to improve the quality and consistency of K–12 engineering education. Chapter 4 provides the committee’s conclusions and recommendations. Appendix A provides biographical information about committee members, Appendix B contains the commissioned papers, and Appendix C has the agenda for the July 2009 workshop. This report should be of interest to a varied audience, including leaders in the K–12 STEM education community, STEM professional societies, policy makers at the state and federal levels, business and industry engaged in K–12 STEM education outreach, individuals and institutions responsible for teacher education and teacher professional development, and developers of curricula, assessments, and textbooks. References AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). 1989. Science for All Americans: A Project 2061 Report on Literacy Goals in Science, Mathematics, and Technology. Washington, DC: AAAS. AAAS. 1993. Benchmarks for Science Literacy. Project 2061. Washington, DC: AAAS. Carnegie Corporation of New York. 2009. The Opportunity Equations: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy. Institute for Advanced Study, Commission on Mathematics and Science Education. Available online at http://www.opportunityequation.org/TheOpportunityEquation.pdf. (January 26, 2010) Chang, K. 2009. White House begins campaign to promote science and mathematics education. New York Times. November 23, 2009. Available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/24/science/24educ.html. (January 25, 2010) DeBoer, G. 1991. A History of Ideas in Science Education. New York: Teachers College Press. DOEd (U.S. Department of Education). 2008. National Center for Education Statistics. Digest of Education Statistics, 2007 (NCES 2008-022), Table 3. Available online at http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=65. (January 26, 2010) DOEd. 2009. Race to the Top Fund Executive Summary. November 2009. Available online at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf. (January 25, 2010) DOL (U.S. Department of Labor). 1991. What Work Requires of Schools—A SCANS Report for American 2000. Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. Available online at http://wdr.doleta.gov/SCANS/whatwork/whatwork.pdf. (January 26, 2010) Dugger, W.E. Jr. 2007. The status of technology education in the United States: A triennial report of the findings from the states. The Technology Teacher 67(1): 14–21.
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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). 2009. 2008 Annual Report. Available online at http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Who/Annual_Report-Financials/2008_AR_FINAL.pdf. (January 26, 2010) Herschbach, D.R. 2009. Technology Education—Foundations and Perspectives. Homewood, IL: American Technical Publishers, Inc. ITEA (International Technology Education Association). 2000. Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology. Reston, VA: ITEA. Kendall, J.S., and R.J. Marzano. 2010. Content knowledge: A compendium of standards and benchmarks for K-12 education. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning. 4th ed. Available online at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/. (September 13, 2010) NAE and NRC (National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council). 2009. Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. NAS, NAE, and IOM (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine). 2007. Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. NCEE (National Commission on Excellence in Education). 1983. A Nation at Risk. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). 1989. Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics. Reston, VA: NCTM. NCTM. 1991. Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics. Reston, VA: NCTM NCTM. 2000. Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. Reston, VA: NCTM. NCTM. 2008. Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8. Reston, VA: NCTM. NRC (National Research Council). 1996. National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. NRC. 2001. Investigating the Influence of Standards: A Framework for Research in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education. Committee on Understanding the Influence of Standards in K–12 Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Obama, B. 2009. Remarks by the president at the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting. April 27, 2009. Washington, D.C. Available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-the-National-Academy-of-Sciences-Annual-Meeting/. (January 25, 2010) Schoenfeld, A.H. 2002. Making mathematics work for all children: issues of standards, testing, and equity. Educational Researcher 31: 13–25. Sizer, T. 1964. Secondary Schools at the Turn of the Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Wulf, W.A. 1998. Diversity in engineering. The Bridge 28(4). Available online at http://www.nae.edu/Publications/TheBridge/Archives/CompetitiveMaterialsandSolutions/DiversityinEngineering.aspx. (Accessed May 19, 2010)
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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? ANNEX Timeline of Selected National Standards Efforts in Mathematics, Science, and Technology3,4 1980 Agenda for Action, published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). 1983 A Nation at Risk (NCEE), call for reform of the U.S. education system. 1983 Bill Honig, newly elected state superintendent of California public schools, begins a decade-long revision of the state public school system, the development of curriculum frameworks (content standards) with aligned assessments, professsional development, and instructional materials. 1985 The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) establishes Project 2061, with the goal of making all Americans scientifically literate. Children beginning school this year, when Halley’s Comet was visible from Earth, will see the comet again in 2061, a reasonable time frame for the ambitious goals of Project 2061. The National Council on Science and Technology Education, an independent committee, is established to oversee the project. 1985 California Mathematics Framework emphasizes “mathematical power” and problem solving. 1987 NCTM writing teams begin reviewing curricular documents and draft standards for curricula and evaluations. 1989 Publication of Everybody Counts, a report of the National Academies’ Mathematical Sciences Education Board 1989 The nation’s 50 governors, led by Bill Clinton of Arkansas and President G.H.W. Bush, adopt National Education Goals for the year 2000. One goal is that the United States will be “first in the world in mathematics and science.” 1989 Publication of Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, a report by NCTM. 1989 Publication by Project 2061 of Science for All Americans, which describes the “understandings and habits of mind … essential for all citizens in a scientifically literate society.” “Science” includes mathematics, science, and the designed world. 1990 In his State of the Union address, President G. H. W. Bush announces the National Education Goals for the year 2000. Shortly thereafter, he and Congress establish a National Education Goals Panel (NEGP). 1990 The Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) is appointed by the secretary of labor to determine the skills young people need to succeed in the world of work. 1990 National Educational Assessment of Progress (NAEP) introduces State Mathematics Framework, based on a “content by mathematical ability” matrix grounded in the NCTM Curriculum and Evaluation Standards, and begins short-term trend 3 Adapted by permission of McREL from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K–12 Education, http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/docs/purpose.asp. All rights reserved. Source: Kendall and Marzano, 2010. 4 Unless the month is specified, the order of entries within years has not been verified.
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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? lines. 1990 Publication of California Science Framework, which incorporates ideas from Science for All Americans. 1990 The New Standards Project, a joint project of the National Center on Education and the Economy and the Learning Research and Development Center, is formed to create a system of standards and assessments for student performance in literacy, mathematics, science, and applied learning. 1991 SCANS publishes What Work Requires of Schools, which describes the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the workplace. 1991 (June) Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander asks Congress to establish the National Council on Education Standards and Testing (NCEST) to provide a vehicle for reaching bipartisan consensus on national standards and testing. 1991 NCTM publishes Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics. 1991 NAEP publishes Science Framework based on state frameworks and Science for All Americans; used for NAEP science assessments in 1996, 2000, and 2005. 1991 The National Science Foundation (NSF) begins to fund State Systemic Initiatives based on the NCTM Standards and the “emerging national science education standards.” 1992 (Jan.) NCEST releases Raising Standards for American Education to Congress, proposing the establishment of an oversight board, the National Education Standards and Assessment Council (NESAC), to certify content and performance standards, as well as “criteria” for assessments. 1992 The National Research Council (NRC), with major funding from the U.S. Department of Education and NSF, establishes the National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment (NCSESA) to oversee standards development in content, teaching, and assessment. 1993 AAAS Project 2061 publishes Benchmarks for Science Literacy. 1993 NCTM publishes Assessment Standards for School Mathematics. 1993 (Nov.) NEGP Technical Planning Group issues “Promises to Keep: Creating High Standards for American Students” (referred to as the Malcolm Report) calling for the development of a National Education Standards and Improvement Council (NESIC), which would give voluntary national standards a stamp of approval. 1994 (March) President Clinton signs Goals 2000: Educate America Act into law. The legislation creates the National Education Standards and Improvement Council (NESIC) to certify national and state content and performance standards, opportunity-to-learn standards, and state assessments; adds two new goals to the national education goals; brings to nine the number of areas for which students should demonstrate “competency over challenging subject matters.” The subject areas now covered include foreign languages, the arts, economics, and civics and government. 1994 (Sept.) The International Technology Education Association (ITEA) forms the Technology for All American’s Project, which begins development of Rationale and Structure for the Study of Technology. The first in a series of three documents, this publication makes the case for the importance of technological literacy and paves the way for the development of technological literacy standards. 1995 (Nov.) The New Standards Project releases Performance Standards, a three-volume “consultation draft” for English language arts, mathematics, science, and “applied learn
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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? ing,” based on NCTM and anticipated NRC standards. 1996 (Jan.) NRC publishes National Science Education Standards, including standards for teaching, professional development, assessment, content, science programs, and systems. 1996 (March) Governors and business, education and community leaders meet for a National Education Summit that aims to establish high academic standards, assessment, and accountability and improve the use of school technology as a tool to reach high standards. The summit leads to the creation of Achieve, Inc. 1996 ITEA’s Rationale and Structure document is published, supported by an NSF grant and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This document provides a foundational guide for the development of standards in technological literacy. 1997 (Feb.) President Clinton, in his State of the Union Address, calls on every state to adopt high national standards and declares, “By 1999, every state should test every 4th grader in reading and every 8th grader in math to make sure these standards are met.” 1998 AAAS Project 2061 publishes Blueprints for Reform. 1998 The Council for Basic Education publishes Standards For Excellence in Education, which includes standards in science, history, geography, English language arts, mathematics, civics, foreign language, and the arts. 2000 ITEA publishes Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology, which had been revised four times after three public reviews and reviews by the NRC Standards Review and Technical Review committees and the National Academy of Engineering Special Review Committee. 2000 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) publishes National Educational Technology Standards for Students: Connecting Curriculum and Technology. 2000 NCTM publishes Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. 2000 NRC publishes Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning. 2001 AAAS Project 2061 publishes Designs for Science Literacy. 2001 AAAS Project 2061 publishes Atlas of Science Literacy, Vol. 1. 2001 NRC publishes Classroom Assessment and the National Science Education Standards. 2005 Revised mathematics framework for state NAEP developed after a period of public comment. 2006 NCTM publishes Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics. 2007 AAAS Project 2061 publishes Atlas of Science Literacy, Vol. 2. 2007 NAEP Science Framework approved for 2009 assessment, the first time Project 2061 Benchmarks and NRC National Science Education Standards have been incorporated. 2009 NCTM publishes Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making. 2010 (June) Release of common core standards for English language arts and mathematics by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. 2010 (winter) The National Research Council is expected to publish its framework for a new generation of science standards.