Two Recent Reports Examine Science Education FYI No. 5, January 13, 1994 In two recent rep

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Two Recent Reports Examine Science Education FYI No. 5, January 13, 1994 In two recent reports, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET) provide advice and suggestions on improving the nation's science, math, engineering, and technology (SMET) education. A June 1993 report by FCCSET's Committee on Education and Human Resources, entitled "The Federal Investment in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education: Where Now? What Next?" critiques the federal government's efforts in these areas. "Benchmarks for Science Literacy," released this fall by AAAS's Project 2061, sets out specific goals that all students should master by certain grade levels. Ten years after the landmark report by the Commission on Excellence in Education, "A Nation At Risk," the FCCSET report concludes that "the nation remains at risk of losing its competitive edge" due to inadequacies in education. The committee finds that while the core federal investment in SMET education was over $2.2 billion in 1993, the programs are fragmented and uncoordinated, and goals "continue to elude the nation's grasp." In January 1993 the FCCSET committee implemented a five-year plan to improve the federal effort. One of the first steps was to convene a 15-member expert panel to review federal programs and assess current evaluation practices. The panel presents its findings and recommendations for prekindergarten through graduate school in the 41-page report. Among its principle findings, the panel concluded that the lack of coordination and coherence among federal programs makes it "next to impossible to maintain fidelity to the overarching national goals" for SMET education. It also found that current evaluation practices are inadequate for purposes of strategic planning and program improvement, and funding for evaluation totals less than 0.5 percent of the core federal investment in SMET education. Recommendations by the panel include better management to align federal programs with overall goals, better coordination among agencies, more effective dissemination of results, and rigorous evaluation. The report states, "The Federal Government lacks basic needs assessment data that would enable it to determine how much to invest and how the investment should be distributed across various agencies, fields, programs, strategies, and educational levels." Project 2061's report, "Benchmarks in Science Literacy," runs 418 pages and provides explicit benchmarks for what every student should know upon completing grades 2, 5, 8, and 12. Developed over four years by a team of 150 practicing teachers and administrators from around the country, the report does not advocate any single curriculum. Instead, it is intended as "a tool to be used by educators in designing a curriculum that makes sense to them." "Benchmarks" is part of a reform effort by Project 2061 that will include curriculum models, principles for designing curricula, and a database of teaching and learning materials. The premises behind Project 2061 materials include emphasizing lasting knowledge and skills, reducing the volume of material covered, making connections between various disciplines, and seeking comprehensive, long-term reform. The FCCSET report can be obtained by calling 703-306-1650. The Project 2061 report can be ordered, for $21.95, from the Oxford University Press at 1-800-451-7556. ############### Public Information Division American Institute of Physics Contact: Audrey T. Leath (301) 209-3094 ##END##########

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