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Chiefs' Center Documents State of Play On Math, Science Standards

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A majority of states are drafting or have recently finished work on K-12 curriculum frameworks in mathematics and science, a report by the Council of Chief State School Officers says.

The study offers the first comprehensive look at math and science frameworks across the states, said Rolf K. Blank, the study director and the director of education indicators for the chiefs' state education-assessment center.

It attempts to show where states are in their framework development, give examples of those frameworks, and offer suggestions for improvement.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, examined a total of 60 state curriculum documents in math and science. Forty were written between 1990 and 1994, and 20 were completed before 1990.

The documents the C.C.S.S.O. obtained represent most of what is available: There are 74 math and science curriculum documents in existence in 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to the study. The 60 documents studied came from 39 of these states and the district.

Of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, only six did not have either a math or science document as of last December. At that point, 32 states reported having a state framework or "content related" document in math, 32 had one in science, and 10 had a document that combined the subjects.

'Model Documents'

The documents the council studied range in length from fewer than 20 pages to more than 500.

Most of the 40 newer frameworks relied on "model documents," including the national standards adopted by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 1989, the American Association for the Advancement of Science's science-literacy benchmarks, published in 1993, or other states' frameworks.

While most of the state math frameworks are closely linked with the N.C.T.M. standards, the study found that the N.C.T.M.'s emphasis on problem-solving and higher-order thinking skills was articulated more clearly in frameworks for the elementary and middle grades. High school frameworks, meanwhile, continued to place more emphasis on content, the study says.

The report notes that most of the science frameworks were written before the 1993 publication of the A.A.A.S. benchmarks or the draft science standards published by the National Academy of Sciences last year. Consequently, it says, some states omitted or de-emphasized topics that received great attention in the two documents, such as the use of inquiry in science, and applications of science in society.

The report recommends that states refer to the national science documents and examine how they treat such issues. After looking at the national documents, many states may decide to revise their own frameworks accordingly, Mr. Blank said.

As of last year, 21 states were drafting new math frameworks, 25 were working on science frameworks, and four were creating frameworks that combined math, science, and other subjects.

One area where states can improve, Mr. Blank said, is to use the frameworks to better link educational goals with specific strategies to achieve those goals. For example, he said, many states set the goal of improving the curriculum for all students but do not offer ways teachers can reach low-achieving students.

Staff writer Lynn Schnaiberg contributed to this story.

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