with instruction, assessments, and teacher support (both preservice and inservice); and encouraging all school stakeholders to play their part—all issues that are still very current today.
In Schneider’s view, a significant challenge to the success of the earlier reform movement was resistance to any kind of federal mandates regarding standards, even though many of the United States’ international competitors have had national standards for many years. Now, in part because of federal incentives offered through the Race to the Top initiative,2 states which together educate 80 percent of the students in the country are adopting new, common standards. It is possible that this change might actually “move the system,” he suggested.
Jere Confrey stressed that the new standards will only be successful to the degree that teachers are well prepared to teach to them at each grade level. If this really happens, she believes, the result would be a meaningful improvement in educational equity and outcomes. She also noted that although the standards were written with explicit attention to learning trajectories, the existing research to support that approach is still uneven, so that in practice, for example, in mathematics, the standards reflect “mathematicians’ best logical guesses combined with empirically based learning trajectories.” It will be very important to increase the empirical base for these going forward, she noted.
She also cautioned that while formative assessment is a powerful and critical tool, the consortia of states that have formed to work on the next generation of assessments have focused almost exclusively on statewide summative assessments. She expects some to incorporate computer-based testing and possibly performance assessment and most to work to assess higher-level thinking skills, but she expressed doubt that there will be the sort of change in psychometric approaches that was highlighted during the workshop discussion of BOLT, for example. The new standards and assessments hold the promise of significant economies of scale that could allow states to explore formative and diagnostic testing and other innovations. “But,” she added, “there is nobody really in charge, and nobody at the federal level can take charge because it would start to not look like state standards.”
Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards
The National Research Council, in collaboration with Achieve, Inc., the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National
2For more information, see http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html [July 2011].