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N.R.C. Official Joins Standards Project on Science Assessments

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WASHINGTON--A National Academy of Sciences official who has been central to its efforts to devise national standards for science content, teaching, and assessment has resigned to develop the science component of a national curriculum-reform initiative.

Elizabeth K. Stage, who has directed the review and synthesis of comments by educators on the academy's standards-setting efforts almost since the project's inception early last year, left the academy's National Research Council last month to join the New Standards Project.

New Standards is a partnership of six school districts and 16 states that aims to promote reform by developing a stringent system of outcomes-based examinations in such core subjects as mathematics and English and then creating a challenging curriculum to prepare students to succeed on the exams.

It has headquarters here and field offices in other cities that focus on curriculum issues.

Ms. Stage, who was instrumental in developing the nationally recognized California science-curriculum framework, said she decided to leave the N.R.C. for both personal and professional reasons.

She said she has long been an advocate of New Standards' goals and philosophies, which she said should work well in supporting the development of challenging, performance-based science examinations.

"Imagine the best science fair ever, where children are doing 'exhibitions' that show what good science should look like,'' she said.

'Unique Challenges'

Kathleen Holmay, an academy spokeswoman, said that no one will be hired to succeed Ms. Stage, but that "we'll be doing that same function with a team of people.''

The "critique and consensus'' process Ms. Stage headed is considered a vital component of the standards-setting process. Academy officials believe that the forthcoming standards will be successfully implemented only if educators in the field accept them.

And the comments of thousands of scientists and educators who have seen the several drafts, or "samplers,'' of prototype standards that the academy has circulated over the last 18 months have been collected in a data base, Ms. Holmay said.

Now, as the academy prepares to release its first draft of actual standards early next year, the time has come to de-emphasize the critique-and-consensus effort, she said.

Ms. Stage's departure marks the second major personnel change in the academy's standards-setting process.

Earlier this year, Henry Heikennen, who headed the 19-member content-standards panel, stepped down to help guide science-education reform in his home state of Colorado.

He was succeeded by Rodger Bybee, the president of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, a nationally known curriculum-development project based in Colorado Springs.

Shirley Malcom, the director of education and human resources for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will be co-director of the New Standards science initiative while retaining her position at the A.A.A.S.

The new initiative, she said, will most likely be housed at the A.A.A.S. headquarters here, but it will remain independent of the association's own long-range Project 2061 science-education-reform effort.

While New Standards officials said the two women's backgrounds and experience should help speed the development of the science initiative, Ms. Malcom noted that the creation of effective science assessments poses some "unique challenges.''

For example, she said, "by the time you [reach] the high school level it is possible for a student to engage in activities that far exceed the knowledge base of their teachers.''

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