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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.Top button



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:

  • All children need and deserve a basic education in science, mathematics, and technology that prepares them to live interesting and productive lives.
  • World norms for what constitutes a basic education have changed radically in response to the rapid growth of scientific knowledge and technological power.
  • U.S. schools have yet to act decisively enough in preparing young people—especially minority children, on whom the future of American is coming to depend—for a world shaped by science and technology.
  • Sweeping changes in the entire educational system from kindergarten through twelfth grade will have to be made if the United States is to become a nation of scientifically literate citizens.
  • A necessary first step in achieving systematic reform in science, mathematics, and technology education is reaching a clear understanding of what constitutes scientific literacy.

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, overlapping Phase II, 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.Top button



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

  • The President of the United States use this report, along with others, as a basis for speaking forcefully to the American people on the need for scientific literacy; establish scientific literacy as a national goal; and periodically reinforce the priority of the goal.
  • The U.S. secretary of education publicly support and elaborate the theme of scientific literacy; encourage the development of techniques for sampling and measuring meaningful learning that will allow monitoring progress toward scientific literacy; and announce that progress toward scientific literacy will become part of the nation's annual "Report Card."
  • Congress pass a joint resolution indicating to the public its own concern over the weak state of science, mathematics, and technology education in this country; and conduct hearings to identify what steps it might take to help the nation reach the goals of this report.
  • The governors of all of the states issue public statements establishing scientific literacy as a priority and signaling their intention to press for needed reforms; and use the National Governors' Association and the Education Commission of the States to place this report on their agendas for debate.
  • Business and labor leaders of the nation speak out individually and through their organizations on the urgent need for all Americans to have the knowledge and skills set out in this report, and pledge their support of efforts to reform science education.
  • The news media bring the recommendations of this report to the attention of the public by having leading scientists, educators, business and labor executives, military officers, elected officials, and social commentators discuss and debate them on radio and television and in newspapers and popular magazines.

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

  • The secretary of education encourage all state and local education agencies to assign a high priority to the universal attainment of scientific literacy; require the appropriate assistant secretaries in the Department of Education to find ways in which their programs can contribute to that goal; and initiate mechanisms to help states and inner-city districts develop and carry out plans to bring minorities and other educationally disadvantaged youth up to the standards recommended in this report.
  • Each state board of education set up a blue-ribbon panel to examine Science for All Americans and to report on its educational implications to the chief state school officer, the state legislature, local school boards, and to the state's school superintendents, principals, and teachers.
  • All national education associations—including those of teachers, school administrators, school boards and parents—report to their members on the recommendations of this report, promote debate on them, and establish mechanisms for fostering the recommendations that they support.
  • The National Science Teachers Association, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council for the Social Studies, the International Technology Education Association, and allied teaching societies take the lead in fostering the goals of Science for All Americans among teachers of all subjects and levels, administrators, and education policymakers.


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

  • The heads of the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Bureau of Standards, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and other science-related federal agencies and departments impress on their constituencies the need to help educators improve education in science, mathematics, and technology; and require their staffs to develop appropriate ways in which their agencies can contribute to that effort.
  • All national scientific, engineering, mathematical, and medical societies and state academies of science use this report to stimulate discussion among their members on what constitutes scientific literacy; ask their members to work with educators toward shared goals; and use this report in formulating plans for helping educators.
  • The Triangle Coalition, the Coalition for Education in the Sciences, the state alliances for science, and other groups—which already bring together leaders from the scientific, educational, and business communities—determine ways in which this report can be used to further the participation of scientists in their own reform efforts.
  • The National Science Teachers Association, the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and the International Technology Education Association form a joint commission to consider what collaborative actions teachers of those subjects might take to support the recommendations of this report that cut across fields.

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

  • Teachers stand solidly behind efforts—such as those of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the NSTA National Teacher Certification Program, and the Holmes Group—to raise standards for teaching in every field; and call upon those groups to use the recommendations of this report in establishing standards for science and mathematics teachers.
  • The National Science Foundation, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics review the criteria for selecting recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching in the light of the recommendations of this report.
  • Science, mathematics, and technology teaching associations stand behind efforts such as the Stanford Teacher Assessment Project to develop reliable ways for judging the capability of individuals to effectively teach the content outlined in this report.
  • The National Science Foundation and the Department of Education seek budget support to enable them to accelerate the process of bringing the quality of the nation's teachers of science, mathematics, and technology up to the level of understanding set out in this report.
  • The presidents of all colleges and universities establish scientific literacy as an institution-wide priority; and direct their institutions to reshape undergraduate requirements as necessary to ensure that all graduates (from whom, after all, tomorrow's teachers will be drawn) leave with an understanding of science, mathematics, and technology that surpasses what this report recommends for all high school graduates.
  • College departments of science and mathematics use this report as a guide in designing courses for future elementary school teachers and high school science teachers that go beyond, but are in the spirit of, the recommendations of this report; and create and seek funding for the conduct of in-service workshops and institutes tailored to the needs of teachers who wish to attain the standard of excellence implicit in the recommendations presented in this report.
  • Education faculties review the content and pedagogical standards for the preparation of elementary and secondary teachers of science in light of this report; and work with their colleagues in the other departments to institute changes in the way in which future teachers are prepared.

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

  • Textbook publishers convene a national meeting of senior science, mathematics, and technology editors to explore the substance of this report and discuss its implications for the future of the industry; and individually consider the report's recommendations and monitor the developing Phase II curriculum models as they plan future editions of existing books and decide which new ones they should begin to develop.
  • Companies engaged in the production and sale of audiovisual educational materials for school, home, and library use this report as a guide in developing new products.
  • The National Science Foundation again take the lead in supporting research and development on the use of computers and advanced interactive systems for teaching and learning, and significantly increase its budget for that purpose.
  • The National Science Teachers Association, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council for Social Studies, and the International Technology Education Association cooperate in discussing with the developers of computer software what kinds of software teachers will need to teach the ideas and skills recommended in this report.
  • The producers of educational achievement tests review this report with an eye to how the content and style of their instruments would need to be modified so that they could become incentives for purposeful learning of the kind presented here; and invest more heavily than in the past in developing new kinds of tests to provide practical alternatives to tests that reward only the memorization of bits of information.


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

  • Both the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation dramatically increase their support of research related to the learning and teaching of science, mathematics, and technology; increase the proportion of research funding devoted to the support of research teams composed of outstanding natural and social scientists, mathematicians, engineers, cognitive and developmental psychologists, and educators to enable them to pursue productive lines of investigation over an extended period of time; and base their research agendas in part on the vision of scientific literacy presented in this report.
  • The Department of Education make it possible for a few major cities with large populations of disadvantaged youth to redesign and reorganize their school systems radically, completely, and quickly as a large-scale, closely monitored national experiment to determine what is possible when the nation treats school reform with the same intensity, urgency, and application of resources that it applies to other national problems of great consequence.Top button



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,

  • The nation is still paying attention to educational reform in science, mathematics, and technology.
  • Our national leaders are speaking out regularly and forcefully about the need for everyone to continue to pull together in the pursuit of scientific literacy.
  • We have made up our minds about what we want to achieve in science, mathematics, and technology education—an end to which this report is intended to contribute.
  • Educators and education policymakers have begun to develop a strong consensus on what it will take to restructure the school system so that all students—including especially those it has failed in the past—will emerge well educated in science, mathematics, and technology.
  • We find that a large number of educators and scientists are actually collaborating in reform activities in school systems across the land and that their numbers are rapidly increasing.
  • Scientists, educators, parents, and citizens have paid enough attention to this report to have identified its shortcomings and have taken the trouble to advise Project 2061 and other users on how to overcome them as we work together to improve the science, mathematics, and technology education of all Americans.

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.Top button

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