JANUARY 8, 2007 -- The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today applauded a bipartisan proposal for voluntary nationwide standards to ensure that all American children receive a high-quality education in mathematics and science.
AAAS further urged planners to base new nationwide standards on existing, well-tested and widely accepted guidelines -- set forth by Project 2061, the science-education reform initiative at AAAS, as well as the National Research Council, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
"AAAS believes that all children, whether they live in Louisiana, Connecticut or Michigan, or any other part of the United States, deserve the best possible education in science and mathematics," said AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of the journal Science.
"We must provide American children with the educational edge they will need to forge a positive path toward solving the global problems of the future, and the SPEAK Act is an important step towards this goal," Leshner wrote in a January 8 letter to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), co-authors of The Standards to Provide Educational Achievement for Kids (SPEAK) Act.
Jo Ellen Roseman, director of Project 2061 at AAAS, added that the Dodd-Ehlers proposal is well-timed. "As a nation, we're in an excellent position to identify a uniform and coherent set of science and math standards because a sound knowledge base already exists, and AAAS stands ready to help," Roseman said. "Fortunately, planners won't need to start totally anew."
Under the SPEAK Act proposal, voluntary, nationwide U.S. content standards in science and math would be developed by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), with public input. States choosing to adopt the new standards would then receive federal funds to implement them and to enhance data systems related to No Child Left Behind goals. The initiative will be launched Monday, January 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the New American Foundation, Washington, D.C.
Currently in the United States, academic standards and learning goals differ from state to state, noted Shirley Malcom, director of Education and Human Resources at AAAS. Consequently, she said: "A child who is considered to be proficient in science and math in one state may not meet expectations if the family moves across state lines. As American families become increasingly mobile, the current patchwork approach to education is placing our young people at a disadvantage as they prepare to compete in a global economy."
Nationwide science and math standards might be particularly important beginning in the 2007-2008 school year, when the No Child Left Behind law will require school districts to test students in science at least once in each of three grade spans: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.
The goal of the new science-testing requirement is admirable, Roseman said. Unfortunately, she added, tests in some regions are not well-aligned to the key science concepts that students need to know at each grade level. In some regions, for example, the integrity of science education has been eroded by efforts to insert non-scientific concepts such as "intelligent design" into science curriculum.
While supporting a single, nationwide set of science and math standards, AAAS -- the world's largest general scientific organization -- urged policy-makers and educators to begin with existing guidelines, which already provide a model for the nation's best state-level standards. For example, existing guidelines include standards set forth by Project 2061's Benchmarks for Science Literacy, the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards (NSES), and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. The 2009 NAEP Science Framework synthesizes and updates the physical, life, and earth science standards found in Benchmarks and NSES and could serve as a starting point in science.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.