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
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
- 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
peopleespecially minority children, on whom the future of
American is coming to dependfor a world shaped by science
- 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
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.
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
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 automaticallyno 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.
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 educationand then follow up their plans
with actionthe sooner the nation will begin to make progress.
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
- 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
- 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.
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 associationsincluding those of teachers,
school administrators, school boards and parentsreport 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 groupswhich already
bring together leaders from the scientific, educational, and business
communitiesdetermine 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.
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 caseand 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 effortssuch as those of the
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the NSTA National
Teacher Certification Program, and the Holmes Groupto 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
- 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
- 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
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
areto put it starklysimply 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
- 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
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.
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 educationan 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 studentsincluding especially those it has failed
in the pastwill emerge well educated in science, mathematics,
- 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 reasonsintellectual, social, or economicwhy
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.