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ERIC Identifier: ED259937
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Blosser, Patricia E.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.

Some Implications for Science Education from National Reports. ERIC/SMEAC Science Education Digest Number 1.

In 1983 a number of documents were written by groups seeking to improve American education. ERIC users were provided with some insights into a few of these reports in the science education and mathematics education 1983 ERIC/SMEAC information bulletins. This Digest was developed to continue the review process and to examine some common themes from A NATION AT RISK, EDUCATING OUR CITIZENS: THE SEARCH FOR EXCELLENCE, ACTION FOR EXCELLENCE, EDUCATING AMERICANS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY, and IMAGES OF SCIENCE.


All documents urge increased rigor in education: better (higher) achievement, higher standards, tougher grading, increased graduation requirements for high school students, higher standards for admission to college, and increased time for instruction.

The writers of three of the four documents suggest that higher expectations for student academic achievement and conduct are needed. (IMAGES OF SCIENCE is a report of what is, not what should be.) Teachers need to set higher standards in their classes by assigning more in-class work and more homework. Also, periodic standardized testing should take place, especially as students move from one level of schooling to another (elementary to secondary school) and before they graduate. Promotion should be based on achievement rather than social factors.

It does not appear possible to increase the quality of American education within the presently existing time framework of the schools. Increased instructional time is needed. While some time may be found if interruptions are kept to a minimum or if better classroom management techniques are employed, the message appears to be that the school day and/or the school year may have to be lengthened.

Time and curriculum are linked in the 21ST CENTURY document recommendations that "Local school districts should revise their elementary school schedules to provide more time-on-task for the study of mathematics, science and technology...." It is urged that 30 minutes should be the minimal daily allocation for science in grades K-6 and that a full year of science and technology should be required in both grades 7 and 8.

The reports urge colleges and universities to increase requirements for admission under the assumption that high schools will be forced to upgrade course offerings and increase graduation requirements.

Both the ACTION FOR EXCELLENCE and 21ST CENTURY documents contain statements that may be interpreted to mean that non-college bound, non-science-oriented students are not to be neglected. Among the action recommendations in ACTION FOR EXCELLENCE is a statement that the school should "... serve better those students who are now unserved or underserved." Groups that deserve consideration include the academically gifted and talented, women and minority students, the absentees and dropouts, and the handicapped.

One of the recommendations to the National Science Board in the 21ST CENTURY document states that "All schools should provide opportunities for their students to develop their mathematical and scientific skills to the limits of their abilities and should offer appropriate sequences of courses for students at various levels of ability."

Science educators need to carefully consider what the future science curriculum should be. Certainly "more of the same" is not the solution for increasing academic achievement in science or for promoting more favorable attitudes toward science, if we attend to the data reported in IMAGES OF SCIENCE. What the science courses should emphasize and what course options are available to students appear to be open to debate, or at least discussion.

Data reported in IMAGES OF SCIENCE provide evidence that children are gaining science information from television and other informal science education experiences. The 21ST CENTURY report advocates informal science education through the use of science museums so that parents and children can pursue science hobbies and become involved in weekend and evening programs. Libraries, voluntary youth organizations, Boy and Girl Scouts, the Audubon Society, and other science and technology related groups are urged to work with museums and schools to provide an enriched environment for informal learning.

Desired outcomes of science instruction are specified in Exhibit B of the 21ST CENTURY document. Entitled "Suggestions for Course Topics and Criteria for Selection," desired outcomes are identified for grades K-6, grades 7 and 8, and for biology, chemistry, and physics.


--Knowledge of phenomena in the natural environment and opportunities to use applicable arithmetic in the learning of science. In addition, the integration of science with the teaching of reading and writing should be actively pursued

--Growth in the natural curiosity of children about their physical and biological surroundings

--Ability to recognize problems and develop procedures for addressing, recognizing, evaluating, and applying solutions to the problems

--Personal experiences with appropriate level hands-on science activities with both biological and physical phenomena

--Ability to use appropriate level mathematics in describing some science and in solving science problems

--Ability to communicate, orally and in writing, observations of and experiences with scientific phenomena

--Some knowledge of scientific and technical careers and of the necessary background for continued study in these areas


--An understanding of how their own bodies function

--Recognition of societal issues related to science and technology

--Development of greater skill in observing, classifying, communicating, measuring, hypothesizing, inferring, designing investigations and experiments, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and making generalizations

--Growth in problem-solving and decision making abilities

--Ability to ask questions, manipulate variables, make generalizations, and refine concepts

--A beginning understanding of the integration of the natural sciences, social sciences, and mathematics

--Familiarity with the usefulness of integrating technologies (calculator, computer, cable television) with experiences in science

--Appreciation of local resources such as museums, scientists, and specialists to extend learning experiences beyond the school walls and hours

--Continued development of a potential science role in career or life choices


--Understanding biologically based personal or social problems and issues such as health, nutrition, environmental management, and human adaptation

--Ability to resolve problems and issues in a biosocial context involving value or ethical considerations

--Continued development of students' skills in making careful observations, collecting and analyzing data, thinking logically and critically, and in making quantitative and qualitative interpretations

--Ability to identify sources of reliable information in biology that may be tapped long after formal education has ended

--Understanding basic biological concepts and principles such as genetics, nutrition, evolution, reproduction of various life forms, structure/function, disease, diversity, integration of life systems, life cycles, and energetics


--Illustration of how answers to chemical questions are obtained

--Familiarity with the molecular description of matter and implications of such a particulate view

--Understanding of elementary atomic structure and the regularities contained in the Periodic Table

--Understanding of molecules and chemical bonds

--Understanding of reactions (stoichiometry, equilibrium, energetic rates)

--Familiarity with the chemistry of common substances (descriptive chemistry)

--Understanding of the states of matter and the nature of solutions

--Familiarity with applied chemistry (radioactive materials, common poisonous and combustible chemicals, water purification, prevention of food spoilage)

--Familiarity with the variety of chemistry-related careers


--Laboratory experiences including opportunities to acquire information inductively

--Opportunities for continued development of more advanced mathematical techniques as applied to science matters

--Comprehension of fundamental units, derived units, and systems of measurement

--Understanding of the concepts of motion from the smallest particle to celestial bodies

--Understanding of the conservation of mass and momentum, of energy, the kinetic theory of gases and wave phenomena

--Understanding of light and electromagnetism

--Appreciation of atomic and nuclear physics, and of relativity

--Familiarity with a variety of physics-related careers

Can these desired outcomes of instruction be translated into science curricula that will interest the "now unserved and underserved" as well as the other groups within the school population?


NSB Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology. EDUCATING AMERICANS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. Washington, D.C.: National Science Foundation, 1983. ED 233 913.

National Commission on Excellence in Education. A NATION AT RISK: THE IMPERATIVE FOR EDUCATIONAL REFORM. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, 1983. ED 226 006.

Hueftle, Stacy J., Steven J. Rakow, and Wayne W. Welch. IMAGES OF SCIENCE: A SUMMARY OF RESULTS FROM THE 1981-82 NATIONAL ASSESSMENT IN SCIENCE. Minneapolis, MN: Science Assessment and Research Project, University of Minnesota, 1983. ED 234 993.

Task Force on Education for Economic Growth. ACTION FOR EXCELLENCE. Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States, 1983. ED 235 588.

Mondale, Walter F., Alonzo A. Crim, and Dennis P. Doyle. EDUCATING OUR CITIZENS: THE SEARCH FOR EXCELLENCE, ALTERNATIVES FOR THE 1980'S, No. 9. Washington, D.C.: Center for National Policy, 1983.


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