Chapter 15: NEXT STEPS




Chapter 15: NEXT STEPS

Science for All Americans has little to say about what ails the educational system, points no finger of blame, prescribes no specific remedies. Rather, it attempts to contribute substantially to educational reform by serving as a starting point for two sets of critical, reform-oriented actions.

One set is based on use of the report as the first step in a multistage, long-term developmental process. Science for All Americans should be used as the conceptual basis for recommendations for change in all parts of the educational system.

The other set of actions is based on the fact that the report provides a new and unusually substantive opportunity for everyone who has a stake in educational reform to reappraise the progress made so far, redirect their efforts as needed, and recommit themselves to fundamental reform goals.

This final chapter of Science for All Americans starts with a brief outline of the next steps toward reform being taken by Project 2061. It then explores some of the ways in which the report can be put to work by educators, policymakers, and the interested public.



As one response to the challenge of reforming science, mathematics, and technology education, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has initiated Project 2061, a long-range, multi-phase effort designed to help the nation achieve scientific literacy. It was started in 1985, a year when Comet Halley happened to be in the earth's vicinity. That coincidence prompted the project's name, for it was realized that the children who would live to see the return of the comet in 2061 would soon be starting their school years.

Project 2061 is based on these convictions:

Because the work of Project 2061 is expected to span a decade or more, it has been organized into three phases.

Phase I of the Project has attempted to establish a conceptual base for reform by defining the knowledge, skills, and attitudes all students should acquire as a consequence of their total school experience, from kindergarten through high school. Drawing on ideas proposed by panels of prestigious scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, this book, Science for All Americans, is the culmination of that effort.

During Phase II of Project 2061, now underway, teams of educators and scientists are transforming this report into blueprints for reform. The main purpose of the second phase of the Project is to produce a variety of curriculum models that school districts and states can use as they undertake to reform the teaching of science, mathematics, and technology. Phase II will also specify the characteristics of other reforms needed to make it possible for new curricula to work: teacher education, testing policies and practices, new materials and modern technologies, the organization of schooling, state and local policies, and research.

In Phase III, the Project will collaborate with scientific societies, educational organizations and institutions, and other groups involved in the reform of science, mathematics, and technology education in a nationwide effort to turn the Phase II blueprints into educational practice.

Curriculum Models

The main creative activity of Phase II of Project 2061 is to develop, in five school districts across the nation, alternative K-12 curriculum models for education in science, mathematics, and technology. The development team in each district will include teachers from all grades, from the physical, biological, and social sciences, and from mathematics and technology. The new curriculum models will all be aimed at achieving the recommendations of this report, but they will differ from one another in other ways. They are expected to vary in emphasis, style, and degree to which they diverge from current models.

As the models are being created, a standard format will be developed for describing K-12 curricula in science, mathematics, and technology. If successful, this will make it possible, as it is not now, to characterize and compare the curricula of different school districts by highlighting their key features.

Blueprints for Action

New curriculum models by themselves can no more bring about actual reform than can a consensus on learning goals. Both are necessary, but not sufficient. Consequently, in Phase II, the project members will work with others to create blueprints for achieving national reform in science, mathematics, and technology education. In a series of reports, they will offer recommendations concerning the education of teachers, policies and instruments to be used in testing, educational materials and technologies, the structure of schooling and the organization of instruction, education policy, educational research, and implementation strategies.

Curriculum Reform Experts

It takes people to change systems. Actually changing curricula in science, mathematics, and technology to reflect the goals of this report will not happen automatically—no matter how appealing the new Phase II curriculum models may turn out to be. Successful implementation, in Phase III, will depend upon the existence of a cadre of committed, knowledgeable, and experienced leaders. Accordingly, one of the goals of Phase II is to create a pool of educators and scientists who are broadly conversant with the contents of the national council's recommendations and are also skilled in translating such material into actual curricula.

Promoting Reform

During Phase II, various steps will be taken to foster discussion of the need for reform in science, mathematics, and technology education and of what has to be done to achieve it. These steps will include the widespread dissemination of Science for All Americans; articles in professional and popular journals; workshops and seminars at professional meetings; the dissemination of the blueprint-for-action reports to educators, scientists, and the media; and the preparation of a series of papers directed to the attention of particular audiences, such as primary grade teachers, middle school principals, high school social studies teachers, or school board members.



The following comments are meant to provoke action and debate. The greater the number of individuals, institutions, and organizations that become engaged in discussing what they can do to contribute to the reform of science education—and then follow up their plans with action—the sooner the nation will begin to make progress.

Public Support

Truly fundamental reform in science, mathematics, and technology education is possible only if there is widespread public support for it. This report can be used to help secure such support and to cast it in the context of desired goals rather than particular mechanisms. To that end, Project 2061 recommends that

Educational Leadership

Reform also depends on the readiness of teachers, school administrators, and education policymakers to support it and to provide leadership. They will do so only if they become convinced that scientific literacy should be a basic requirement for all children and that the goals defining scientific literacy make good educational sense. This report is well suited to serve as the vehicle for getting educators behind a national effort to reform science, mathematics, and technology education. Accordingly, Project 2061 recommends that


Educational reform must be collaborative to succeed. In the case of science, mathematics, and technology education, the scientific community must enter into partnership with the education community. Although several hundred scientists, engineers, and mathematicians participated in framing the recommendations of this report, it will take the involvement of many more as the reform movement gains momentum. To that end, Project 2061 recommends that

Qualified Teachers

The scientific literacy goals of this report can be reached only if students in elementary and secondary school have teachers who are fully qualified to teach. Sad to say, that is all too often not now the case—and all the more regrettable in light of the breadth and depth of understanding of science, mathematics, and technology called for here. Thus, Project 2061 recommends that

Instructional Materials

For teachers to be able to bring all students to the level of understanding and skill proposed in this report, they will need a new generation of books and other instructional tools. As in other complex undertakings, reaching demanding goals in education requires having access to appropriate technologies. Textbooks and other teaching materials in current use are—to put it starkly—simply not up to the job; and the potential of computers and other modern technologies has yet to be realized. Because this report is intended to add new dimensions to what teaching is supposed to achieve, and therefore to what kinds of materials will be needed, Project 2061 recommends that


Finally, it ought to be understood that too little is known about how different kinds of children learn and about how to organize instruction for optimal effectiveness for anyone to be able to prescribe how best to achieve the goals presented in this report. For that reason, it is recommended that



What will this all add up to? Where will the nation be in a few years, as Phase II comes to an end? Certainly none of our major educational problems will have been completely solved. Most students will still not be emerging from our schools well educated in science, mathematics, and technology. The nation's curricula will not be very different from what they are now. Nor will the textbooks, tests, and the rest of the components of education have been radically changed. And yet the need for scientifically literate citizens will surely be greater than ever by then.

But progress will have been made if in a few years,

There are no valid reasons—intellectual, social, or economic—why the United States cannot transform its schools to make scientific literacy possible for all students. What is required is national commitment, determination, and a willingness to work together toward common goals. We trust that Science for All Americans clarifies those goals.