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July 13, 2010

A Framework for Science Education Preliminary Public Draft

(via Board on Science Education, Center for Education)

Dear Members of the Scientific and Science Education Communities,

I am pleased to introduce a working draft of the National Research Council’s conceptual framework to guide the development of next generation standards for science education. This framework is the first step in a process for revising existing standards in K-12 science education which were published over a decade ago. In the second step, Achieve, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, will work closely with states to develop a full set of standards based on the framework.

The impetus for this project grew from the recognition that although the existing standards and benchmarks (developed in the early to mid 1990s) were an important first step in strengthening science education, there is much room for improvement. The community has learned some important lessons from 10 years of implementation, and there is a new and growing body of research on learning and teaching in science that can now inform a revision of the standards.

I am honored to be serving as the chair of the committee of 18 experts convened by the National Research Council (NRC) to develop the framework. The committee members, working as volunteers, as do members of all NRC committees, represent expertise in the natural sciences, learning sciences, learning and teaching, curriculum, assessment, and education policy. Four of the members have many years of experience as K-12 classroom teachers. Nine of the committee members are members of the National Academy of Sciences or the National Academy of Engineering. The committee’s work is supported by a team of 20 consultants who have deep experience with science, science teaching, and standards development. (Biographies of the committee members and a list of these consultants are available at the end of the working draft.)

Right now we need your help with the next, very important step of obtaining feedback on the draft conceptual framework. Your input will provide the committee with important information about where the framework needs to be improved or clarified. The period for public comments runs from July 12 through August 2, after which the committee will consider all of the submitted comments and make appropriate revisions to the framework. I ask and hope that you will offer your comments on the draft.

In providing your feedback to us, please remember that this is a framework only; it is not a set of fully elaborated standards. Therefore, it does not include an articulation of the ideas and practices at every grade level. Instead, it offers descriptions only at some key grade level “anchor points.” Similarly, it does not provide specifications for performance expectations for all of the ideas and practices at these anchor points. Rather, it offers some examples to serve as illustrations for standards development. Finally, please recognize that this is a working draft and as such is incomplete in some ways. We are making it public in this early form in order to allow your input to help inform the committee’s work. We are also working with the National Science Teachers Association and other professional organizations to gather input through discussions held in regional meetings across the country.

When the committee’s final report is publicly released, currently planned to be in the first quarter of 2011, it will include a description of this public comment process and summarize the committee’s responses.

The published report will also include information on sources of evidence to support the framework that are not included in this working draft. Please note, too, that the final, revised draft of the framework, like all NRC reports, will undergo an intensive expert and confidential review.

In the material posted on-line for your review, we have included a survey that we ask you to use to focus your feedback; this will help us to make sense of the numerous comments we anticipate receiving. The questions in the survey focus on four main issues:

(1) Does the framework identify the most important ideas and practices for K-12 science education and describe them accurately?
(2) Are there any important major areas of science that have been overlooked and are important for ALL students to know?
(3) Are the progressions across grades appropriate?
(4) Is the framework organized in a way that is accessible and understandable?

Thank you for your interest in the framework and for taking the time to provide thoughtful comments. Your feedback will help to ensure that the final document is of the highest quality and meets the needs of students and teachers across the country.


Helen Quinn

View the framework here

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