curriculum, instruction, professional development, and assessment—that would be required in order to make explicit recommendations for related sets of standards for each component. Indeed, the committee and the timeline for our work would have required considerable expansion in order to give such an endeavor adequate treatment.

The committee instead relied on a number of recent reports from the National Research Council (NRC) that did examine research related to each of the components discussed in this chapter. They include Knowing What Students Know [1], Investigating the Influence of Standards [2], Systems for State Science Assessment [3], America’s Lab Report [4], Taking Science to School [5], and Preparing Teachers [6]. The discussions in the following sections are based primarily on these reports.

Explicit standards for teaching, professional development, education programs, and the education system were included in the original National Science Education Standards (NSES) published by the NRC in 1996 [7]. Although many of these standards are still relevant to K-12 science education today, the committee did not undertake a thorough review of these portions of the NSES. Instead, given our charge, we focused on the NSES standards that describe science content. For future efforts, we suggest that a review of the other NSES standards, in light of the research and development that has taken place since 1996, would be very valuable; such a review could serve as an important complement to the current effort.


The key components of science education that we consider in this chapter are curriculum, instruction, teacher development, and assessment. It is difficult to focus on any particular component without considering how it is influenced by—and how it in turn influences—the other components. For example, what students learn is clearly related to what they are taught, which itself depends on many things: state science standards; the instructional materials available in the commercial market and from organizations (such as state and federal agencies) with science-related missions; the curriculum adopted by the local board of education; teachers’ knowledge and practices for teaching; how teachers elect to use the curriculum; the kinds of resources, time, and space that teachers have for their instructional work; what the community values regarding student learning; and how local, state, and national standards and assessments influence instructional practice.

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