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Project 2061: Focus on the Future

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Washington--With the aim of improving science and mathematics education across the grades, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has launched a long-range program to set student learning goals, make recommendations for curriculum development, and assist schools with curriculum changes.

Project 2061, which has received initial funding of $1 million from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, will attempt to "build reform for science education on a solid intellectual foundation," said F. James Ruth-erford, the science organization's chief education officer.

The aaas launched Project 2061 as a response to recent critical reports on the teaching of science and mathematics in the nation's schools. The reports have "stopped short of saying exactly what students should be learning in these areas," according to the association.

Mr. Rutherford announced the project at the aaas's first National Forum for School Science, held here this month. (See related story on this page.)

Halley's Comet

The project, named for the year when Halley's Comet will next be visible from earth after its appearance this year, will begin with a two-year study to recommend "what science and mathematics should be learned by elementary and secondary students to live successfully in their rapidly changing world," according to the aaas

During this first phase, panels will determine goals for learning in five areas: the physical and engineering sciences, the biological and health sciences, the social and be-havioral sciences, technology, and mathematics.

The panels will be advised by a national council for science and technology education, appointed by the aaas and chaired by William O. Baker, former chairman of the board of at&t's Bell Laboratories, and Margaret L.A. MacVicar, professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mr. Rutherford will serve as the council's executive director.

A 'Lasting Reform'

The five panels will develop, according to Mr. Rutherford, "an elegant statement, a statement in Eng-lish, for people to say: 'Yes, that's what we want to achieve for our young people."'

"We want to start at the level of vision for a reform that's going to be fundamental and lasting," he said.

Curricular recommendations based on the learning goals will be developed in the second phase of the project, expected to last another two years. The third phase of the project, which may take three years, will focus on how to put the curriculum changes into practice in schools, Mr. Rutherford said.

"It is not our idea to step in and declare a national curriculum," said Andrew Ahlgren, associate director of Project 2061. "We see this as a statement by the scientific community that school boards and teachers can take as recommendations."

In describing the project at the Washington conference, Mr. Rutherford emphasized its "long-range nature," symbolized in its name. "The things that distinguish the world this year from the world in 1910," he said, referring to the year Halley's Comet was last visible from earth, "have to do with science and technology."

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