Advancement of Science’s (AAAS’) Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996), which have guided K-12 science education for 15 years. The first application of the new framework has been in the design of the Next Generation Science Standards, which are intended to replace current state standards over the next few years. The framework, however, could be used by any other entity that wished to develop science education standards.

The Framework

A Framework for K-12 Science Education1 (National Research Council, 2011c) has three interacting dimensions: practices, crosscutting ideas, and core ideas, Reiser explained. Its structure is based on the idea that anything students learn in science is in some way a “melding of these three things.” The framework is “a step forward from prior standards,” Reiser added, because it reflects new understanding of how students learn and the challenges of using standards to guide instruction.

The framework suggests that new standards focus on “fewer, clearer, and higher” goals. New standards, Reiser noted, should be organized around “core ideas—not a million of them, not one per page, but a small number of core ideas per discipline.” But, he added, this is “easy to say and hard to do.” The committee that developed the new framework defined core ideas as those that

•   have disciplinary significance, meaning that they are seen as key organizing concepts by scholars in the relevant fields;

•   are generative, in the sense that they provide key tools for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems;

•   are relevant to people’s lives, in that they relate to the interests and life experiences of students and are connected to societal or personal concerns; and

•   are usable from kindergarten through grade 12, that is teachable and learnable across the grades at increasing degrees of depth and sophistication.

For example, in the life sciences one of the core ideas is “from molecules to organisms: structures and processes”; in the physical sciences, a core idea is matter and its interactions.


1For a report brief of A Framework for K-12 Science Education, see http://www7.national [June 2012].

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