The National Research Council has released what they call a conceptual framework for new standards in science (read the whole thing here), and a quick read of the document has left us concerned. The writers stress that “th[e] framework is intended to guide the development of standards, curriculum, and assessments for science” by providing “a broad description of the content and sequencing for student learning and skill development in science, but not at the level of detail of grade-by-grade standards.”
Broad, indeed. The NRC’s insistence on vague, big-picture thinking about science has created a document that is practically useless. To provide a “broad description” of science knowledge, the writers identify core ideas so general (e.g., “What is energy?”) that it’s possible to imagine any quality of standards, curriculum, and assessments (everything from excellent and clear to shoddy and vague) spinning off of this framework. When it comes down to it, the NRC document’s just a list of stuff. And maybe not all of the most important stuff, either. We’ve caught wind of concern among some of the nation’s most prominent scientists that sections of the framework are not current with the latest science. And by “latest” we mean knowledge that has already been around for a hundred years or more.
So broad and full of holes. We hope NRC’s next draft is better.
Lynne Munson and James Elias