Blueprints for Reform
Science, mathematics, and technology education
If lasting, meaningful reform of the science, mathematics, and technology curriculum is to occur, changes are needed throughout the entire education system. Science educators in many states and school districts are working toward such systemic reform. To help them in their work and to engage educators, families, business leaders, and policymakers in the debate about improving science education, Project 2061 has developed Blueprints for Reform.
Blueprints presents summaries of a dozen papers prepared by experts on aspects of the education system that must change to make Project 2061’s vision of science literacy for all students a reality. Project 2061 has also framed questions that are designed to stimulate dialogue about the issues those papers raise. Blueprints focuses on three major themes:
Central to current efforts to reform science education are high expectations for all students. But before educators can begin to help their students work toward ambitious standards, they need appropriate materials, an understanding of impediments to the attainment of science literacy by all students, and widespread support for the changes that are to take place. Issues of equity, policy, finance, and research affect all areas of education and so must be taken into account when planning reforms to the curriculum. The first four chapters of Blueprints address many topics central to standards-based science education reform:
Equity: How is the attainment of science literacy by all students impeded by policies and practices? How should "all" be defined?
Policy: Do current local, state, and federal education policies help or hinder the realization of science literacy? What changes in laws and regulations are needed and possible?
Finance: What are the costs, in terms of money and other resources, of "science literacy for all"? Where might the needed resources come from?
Research: What kinds of research are needed to improve instruction for science literacy? How can relevant findings be disseminated to influence K-12 educational policies, teaching practices, materials, and curriculum design?
These four chapters also explore how equity, policy, finance, and research relate to the other areas of the education system discussed below.
The School Context
The context in which teachers and other K-12 education staff do their jobs—that is, how schools are organized and managed—will be crucial in determining whether current efforts to improve science education succeed. In laying out the requirements for a setting conducive to reformed curriculum, instruction, and learning, the chapters in this section probe the following topics:
School Organization: What will the realization of science literacy goals require of grade structure, teacher collaboration, control of curriculum materials and assessment, and how time and space are organized?
Curriculum Connections: How can connections among the natural and social sciences, mathematics, and technology be fostered? Between these areas and the arts and humanities?
Materials and Technology: What new resources are needed for teachers to help students become science literate? How can existing resources be put to better use?
Assessment: Do current assessment practices work for or against the kind of learning recommended in Science for All Americans (or other science standards)?
The Support Structure
Significant changes to the K-12 curriculum are more likely to occur and endure with the support and involvement of all who have a stake in education. This section suggests roles that families, teachers, colleges and universities, businesses, and communities might play in reform. It examines some of the difficulties and opportunities in promoting science literacy, addressing such topics as:
Teacher Education: What changes are needed in teacher preparation to produce teachers with the knowledge and skills to implement curricula based on science literacy goals?
Higher Education: What changes in admissions standards might be necessary to support K-12 reforms to promote science literacy? How should undergraduate education build on science literacy goals for K-12 education?
Family and Community: How are families and communities likely to respond to the recommendations in Science for All Americans or the national science standards? Should they (and how can they) help in supporting or implementing local, state, or national standards?
Business and Industry: In what ways can partnerships between business and education contribute to the attainment of science literacy? Does an emphasis on preparation for work help or hinder the implementation of science literacy goals?
Parents, CEO’s, teachers and professors, administrators, and policymakers alike can use Blueprints to provide a context for their involvement in efforts to improve science education. Blueprints contains extensive bibliographic references for each chapter, information for contacting selected agencies and organizations, descriptions of exemplary programs and projects related to the Blueprints topics, and links to dozens of related Web sites. Blueprints is available on Project 2061’s Web site at http://www.project2061.org. It will also be available in print from Oxford University Press in early 1998.
To spark thoughtful debate that can lead to meaningful reform, Project 2061 encourages online users to respond to questions about Blueprints topics and to raise their own. In addition, visitors to the Blueprints Web site will be able to:
Together these features can bring a deeper understanding of the education system to those with a stake in reform.