A draft of the Standards Framework for national science standards, funded by the Carnegie Foundation and sponsored by the National Governors Association and the US Chamber of Commerce (among others), has been published. The National Research Council drafted the framework, and is seeking comment until August 2, and I’ll have more to say as I work through the draft. Forty-eight states (excluding Texas and Alaska) have agreed to use English Language Arts and Mathematics standards produced through a similar process, and many people see these standards as natural additions to that national common core, so getting them right is important. Good national standards will prevent a host of problems, while bad ones would create colossal problems.
Perhaps the most crucial thing to examine is how the standards define science and present the nature of science. If we get that right, and give teachers good training in teaching the nature of science, it’ll go a long way towards heading off creationism, global warming denial, etc. And the draft does a solid job:
The committee’s vision of science is captured by the view that science is:
A creative and analytic human intellectual endeavor engaging hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to attain shared goals of understanding the material world and application of that understanding to solving real-world problems.
A cumulative and evolving body of knowledge formalized into a rigorously-tested and mutually consistent set of clearly articulated theories.
A set of practices for investigation, model and hypothesis development, theory building, argumentation, analysis, and communication of findings about the material world that support development of new understanding.
A set of cross-cutting concepts and strategies that inform work in all disciplinary areas of the natural sciences.
Not exactly how I’d phrase everything, but the gist is right. This emphasizes that science is a thing you do, first and foremost. The repetition of “material world” is important, as it emphasizes science’s limitation to natural phenomena, and that science class is not a place for discussing religion. That said, referring to it as “material” rather than “natural” or “empirical” makes me think someone on the writing is a fan of Madonna’s ontological claim that “we are living in a material world, and I am a material girl”:
UPDATED 7/13/10 to reflect the Carnegie Foundation’s role in this framework, and to clarify that no states have committed to adopting these standards yet, as they did with ELA and Math standards.