News: News Archives
AAAS Develops New Center
for Science Education Reform
In an effort improve science education, the AAAS education reform initiative, Project 2061, has launched a center solely focused on transforming K-12 science curriculum.
Branded the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science (CCMS), the project is in keeping with AAAS goals to increase public understanding and appreciation of science and technology, and to foster education of science and technology for everyone.
"We have an obligation to provide people the tools they need to succeed in a modern world," said Alan I. Leshner, CEO and executive publisher for AAAS.
CCMS is a partnership of AAAS, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, and the University of Michigan. Additional collaborators will include the Detroit Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, and the Lansing School District.
The Center will concentrate on the analysis, design, and use of science curriculum materials. Funded by a $9.9 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), CCMS is part of a comprehensive effort to enrich and diversify the national infrastructure for standards-based science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education through research, graduate education, and professional development for K-12 teachers, said David B. Campbell, program director in NSF's Division of Elementary, Secondary and Informal Education.
According to Joseph Krajcik of the University of Michigan, who participated via videoconference in a Washington, DC, announcement of the Center on October 22: "The main focus [of CCMS] is not to produce more science materials, but to produce the knowledge needed to develop better ones, and to prepare leaders to do this."
The Center's university partners are expanding their doctoral and postdoctoral programs in science education to include coursework and research opportunities in the analysis, design, and use of science curriculum materials, explained Jo Ellen Roseman, director of Project 2061 at AAAS. The graduate programs will operate as tracks or specializations within existing science education programs at each university, she noted during the press and public briefing.
Research is lacking on science curriculum design and use, Roseman said. Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and Center faculty will look into what makes materials effective, how to improve them, and how to help teachers use them well. Part of this research will result in curriculum units (not necessarily full-blown textbooks) on key scientific topics.
Further, through the new Center, doctoral programs at the three universities will share core courses, research expectations, and experiences in analyzing and designing curriculum materials. In the postdoctoral program, fellows will participate in research projects alongside Center faculty, participate in collaborative design and analysis efforts, work with teachers attempting to use the materials, and learn about science education policy at the national and state levels.
Much of the CCMS design work is likely to concentrate on the middle-school level because this is a time when many key science ideas and skills come together as students gain a more sophisticated understanding of larger concepts. Additionally, these years may be the last time many students will have such an in-depth exposure to science content, before they begin to evaluate career options or to choose their high-school courses. In addition, important work will take place to analyze existing K-5 science materials and consider how they can be revised to provide students with experiences that contribute to their achieving science learning goals.
The Center is being launched at a critical time for science education in the United States, experts said. In a series of standards-based evaluations, Project 2061 investigated the most popular middle-school science textbooks and rated them all unsatisfactorycriticizing the materials as "full of disconnected facts that neither educate nor motivate students." In addition, according to the website for the government initiative, No Child Left Behind, fewer than 20 percent of our nation's 12th graders score proficiently in math, and, among the industrialized nations of the world, our 12th graders rank near the bottom in science and math.
Ultimately, the new Center will help ensure that science curriculum materials support credible standards for what students should know, such as those in Project 2061's landmark report, Benchmarks for Science Literacy.
24 October 2002
See related article on No Child Left Behind.
For more information on the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science, see AAAS News and Notes: "AAAS Chosen to Lead Effort to Improve Science Education."