First of all, the two documents cover some very different territory. NSES includes standards not only for natural-science content, but also smaller sections of standards for teaching, professional development, assessment, program, and systems. (And, even within content sections, there are essays on appropriate teaching, vignettes, and example assessments.) Benchmarks is mostly about content, but content for social science, mathematics, and technology as well as for natural science. (It also contains brief essays on teaching within content sections; Its parent document, Science for All Americans, includes a chapter on Effective Learning and Teaching.) The drawing in Figure 1 attempts to portray (impressionistically) the content overlap in the larger context of Project 2061 and NSES. For the purposes of this analysis, attention was restricted to the overlap of the two content circles.

Even within the common territory, however, the task of describing correspondence between NSES and Benchmarks is difficult and time consuming. It involves extensive familiarity with both documents. The task is made more difficult because of the differences in the organization of the two documents and the differences in aggregation of similar ideas. Ideas contained in a single item in NSES may be distributed among as many as four or five benchmarks. Similarly, ideas contained in a single benchmark may be distributed among several items in NSES. Here is an example:

In this extreme example, not only are the ideas distributed among different benchmarks, but NSES explicitly states a relationship that would have to be inferred from the benchmarks.

As will become evident in studying this report, the agreement of the two documents is very strong, but quantifying the degree of agreement precisely -- such as, say, 90% -- is hardly possible. A better frame of mind would be to give special credibility to the massive agreements and consider how the residual differences could be further reduced.


Figure 1
Common Ground: Project 2061 and NSES

Return to TOC