drafting, review, and final revisions of the Standards (NRC, 1996).

Since the publication of the Standards, the National Research Council has established the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education and has published various reports designed to help school districts and others apply the Standards (NRC, 1997b, 1999a,b, forthcoming). The longterm goal of these activities is achieving quality science education for all K-12 students in the United States.

The Standards encourage teachers to engage students in the process of scientific inquiry by directing them to ask questions about the natural world, design experiments to answer these questions, interpret the experimental results, and discuss the results with their peers. Such inquiry-based teaching enhances student understanding of scientific concepts (NRC, forthcoming), and it is intended to equip all students with the analytical skills they will need in the future to interpret the world around them. Importantly, although the Standards stress inquiry-based teaching, they do not assume that all science can be learned through an inquiry process, given the amount and diversity of scientific concepts that should be learned.

Besides describing scientific content to be learned by grades 4, 8, and 12, and encouraging research-based teaching methods, the Standards present standards for school district administrators, principals, and policy makers, including local school boards (NRC, 1996). The document also contains guidance to help schools develop effective science education programs, specifying a need for:

  • a curriculum design that presents content at each grade level that is appropriate in-depth and number of topics covered for the age and previous educational experience of the students;

  • teacher education and continuing professional development that support the curriculum and provide teachers with the skills needed to teach science with an inquiry-based approach;

  • provision of adequate science materials to all classrooms;

  • assessment methods that are consistent with the curricula and provide reliable methods for evaluation of student learning and teacher instructional proficiency;

  • parental involvement in understanding the nature of good science programs and in planning improvements;

  • commitment of the community, including local business, in ways that demonstrate the relevance of science to adult life and work; and

  • recognition by local and state school administrators and boards of the vital importance of an understanding of science and technology for the future success of children.

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