The conceptual framework presented in this report of the Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K-12 Science Education Standards articulates the committee’s vision of the scope and nature of the education in science, engineering, and technology needed for the 21st century. It is intended as a guide to the next step, which is the process of developing standards for all students. Thus it describes the major practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas that all students should be familiar with by the end of high school, and it provides an outline of how these practices, concepts, and ideas should be developed across the grade levels. Engineering and technology are featured alongside the physical sciences, life sciences, and earth and space sciences for two critical reasons: to reflect the importance of understanding the human-built world and to recognize the value of better integrating the teaching and learning of science, engineering, and technology.
By framework we mean a broad description of the content and sequence of learning expected of all students by the completion of high school—but not at the level of detail of grade-by-grade standards or, at the high school level, course descriptions and standards. Instead, as this document lays out, the framework is intended as a guide to standards developers as well as for curriculum designers, assessment developers, state and district science administrators, professionals responsible for science teacher education, and science educators working in informal settings.
There are two primary reasons why a new framework is needed at this time. One is that it has been 15 or more years since the last comparable effort at the national scale, and new understandings both in science and in teaching and learning science have developed over that time. The second is the opportunity provided by a movement of multiple states to adopt common standards in mathematics and in language arts, which has prompted interest in comparable documents for science. This framework is the first part of a two-stage process to produce a next-generation set of science standards for voluntary adoption by states. The second step—the development of a set of standards based on this framework—is a state-led effort coordinated by Achieve, Inc., involving multiple opportunities for input from the states’ science educators, including teachers, and the public.
A VISION FOR K-12 EDUCATION IN THE SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING
The framework is designed to help realize a vision for education in the sciences and engineering in which students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in scientific and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen