Science Teachers' Group Offers Standards Guide
The national standards drawn up by the National Academy of Sciences take a big-picture view of science education, but they still needed an instruction manual.
So the National Science Teachers Association has published a guidebook to help high school educators assemble outstanding science programs based on the draft standards released late last year. (See Education Week, Dec. 7, 1995.)
"This is an interpretive document," said Bill G. Aldridge, the N.S.T.A.'s executive director, who edited the guidebook. "It takes those standards and it explains what they mean and at what grade level they ought to be taught."
The national standards are designed as a philosophical statement for policymakers about what students should learn and be able to do. But, Mr. Aldridge said, "that document is not very user-friendly, and it's not intended to be."
The N.S.T.A. guidebook, "A High School Framework for National Science Education Standards," is meant to fill that void by providing a practical guide to standards-based curriculum development.
Although published independently by the N.S.T.A. as part of its Scope, Sequence, and Coordination Secondary School Science project, the guidebook was developed at the same time as the national standards and with the academy's cooperation.
The draft of the standards is being reviewed by teachers and educators in the field.
Reshaping the Curriculum
The guidebook, which follows the outline of the standards document, is divided into two main sections: one on subject matter and another on "applications and processes," such as "science as inquiry" and "science in personal and social perspectives."
The subject-matter section contains generalizations reprinted from the standards. It then describes the concepts needed to understand the material, the empirical laws or concepts involved, the theories or models central to that concept, and the sequence of lessons students should follow.
The scope and sequence project, largely the brain child of Mr. Aldridge, aims to restructure the existing science curriculum so that students study each branch of the natural sciences every year.
Mr. Aldridge is overseeing development of a high school curriculum that conforms not only to the precepts of the Scope, Sequence, and Coordination project, but also to the national standards.
As part of that project, 15 high schools will begin to put the guidebook's framework in place in the fall and will also test lab activities, an anthology of readings, and student-assessment items tied to the standards.