Science Content Standards

Science Content Standards



A Message from the State Board of Education and the
State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
In 1998 California adopted academically rigorous content standards in science. The adoption of standards in each core subject area marked a turning point in the education reform movement that began in 1983 with the report A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, by the National Commission on Excellence in Education. Until then, the reform movement had focused on important but largely structural improvements, such as more instructional time, minimum course requirements for high school diplomas, and an emphasis on local planning efforts to promote efficiency and effectiveness. The desire to improve student achievement was there, but the focus on content-that is, a comprehensive, specific vision of what students actually needed to know and be able to do-was lacking.
Standards are a bold initiative.
Through content standards in the core subjects, California began to redefine the state’s role in public education. For the first time, the knowledge and skills that students needed to acquire were explicitly stated for the most part by grade level, although science standards at the high school level were organized by discipline. The standards are rigorous. Students who master this content are on a par with those in the best educational systems in other states and nations. The content is attainable by all students, given sufficient time, except for those few who have severe disabilities. We continue to regard the standards as firm but not unyielding; they will be modified in future years to reflect new research and scholarship.
Standards describe what to teach, not how to teach it.
Standards-based education maintains California’s tradition of respect for local control of schools. To help students achieve at high levels, local educators-with the full support and cooperation of families, businesses, and community partners-have taken these standards and designed the specific curricular and instructional strategies that best deliver the content to their students. Their efforts have been admirable.
Standards are here to stay.
Since the science content standards were adopted, much has been done to align all of the state’s efforts in curriculum, instruction, assessment, teacher preparation, and professional development to the standards. Educators now see these science content standards as the foundation for their work, not as an additional layer.
Standards are a continuing commitment to excellence.
The adoption of science content standards and the work to align the whole of the educational system to them have placed our state on the path to success in science education. The standards have brought certainty of knowledge and purpose to all. They are comprehensive and specific. They reflect our continuing commitment to excellence.
Reed Hastings
President, State Board of Education
Jack O'Connell
State Superintendent of Public Instruction




Introduction
Science Content Standards.
The Science Content Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve represents the content of science education and includes the essential skills and knowledge students will need to be scientifically literate citizens in the twenty-first century. By adopting these standards, the State Board of Education affirms its commitment to provide a world-class science education for all California students. These standards reflect the diligent work and commitment of the Commission for the Establishment of Academic Content and Performance Standards (Academic Standards Commission) and the commission's Science Committee to define the common academic content of science education at every grade level.
Glenn T. Seaborg, one of the great scientific minds of this time and of all times, chaired the Academic Standards Commission's Science Committee. In "A Letter to a Young Scientist," Dr. Seaborg said, "Science is an organized body of knowledge and a method of proceeding to an extension of this knowledge by hypothesis and experiment."1 The National Science Education Standards reflects this view of science and the balance between the "body of knowledge" and the "method" of scientific inquiry.2 The standards provide the opportunity to make substantial and significant improvements in California's education system.
The standards include grade-level specific content for kindergarten through grade eight. A significant feature is the focus on earth sciences in the sixth grade, life sciences in the seventh grade, and physical sciences in the eighth grade. The standards for grades nine through twelve are divided into four content strands: physics, chemistry, biology/life sciences, and earth sciences. An Investigation and Experimentation strand describes a progressive set of expectations for each grade from kindergarten through grade eight, and one set of Investigation and Experimentation standards is given for grades nine through twelve.
The elementary and middle school standards provide the foundational skills and knowledge for students to learn core concepts, principles, and theories of science at the high school level. The standards are organized in sets under broad concepts. This organization is intended to help the reader move between topics and follow them as the content systematically increases in depth, breadth, and complexity through the grade levels.
The Science Content Standards serves as the basis of statewide student assessments, the science curriculum framework, and the evaluation of instructional materials. The Science Framework for California Public Schools aligns with the standards. The framework suggests ways in which to use the standards and make connections within and across grades; it also provides guidance for instructional planning. However, the standards do not prescribe the methods of instruction. Students should have the opportunity to learn science by receiving direct instruction, by reading textbooks and supplemental materials, by solving standards-based problems, and by doing laboratory investigations and experiments. The Investigation and Experimentation standards should be integral to, and directly and specifically support, the teaching of the content strands and disciplines.
Development of the Standards
The California State Board of Education and the Academic Standards Commission reviewed the National Science Education Standards, the Benchmarks for Science Literacy,3 and science standards and frameworks from numerous local school districts in California, from around the country, and from other nations with successful science education programs. In addition, hundreds of pages of written recommendations and hundreds of hours of testimony were considered. The Academic Standards Commission hosted nine community meetings, and the State Board of Education held five public hearings throughout California. Families, educators, and business and community leaders participated and helped define key issues. Expert reviewers around the nation submitted formal comments on the drafts and also participated in invited public testimony.
Their ideas contributed substantively to the final standards adopted by the State Board of Education.
Highlights of the Standards
These science standards challenge not only California's students but also the entire kindergarten through grade twelve education system. The elementary school standards call for early introduction of science facts and terms and ask the multiple-subject teacher to find time in the school day for science education. Quality textbooks and reading materials in science are now available to support students in mastering these standards as they develop their reading skills and vocabulary. The Investigation and Experimentation standards allow students to make a concrete association between science and the study of nature as well as provide them with many opportunities to take measurements and use their basic mathematical skills.
The middle school science standards, with emphasis on the disciplines at each grade level, raise the bar substantially for students. Many teachers, schools, and districts have restructured their curriculum to meet these standards. The Science Content Standards make the middle school curriculum more rigorous in response to a national call for excellence and prepare students for in-depth study of science at the high school level.
The high school science standards require more than two years of science courses for students to achieve the breadth and depth described. Schools and districts have strengthened the science curriculum, providing students the maximum opportunity to learn the standards while encouraging students to study further in science. In grades nine through twelve, standards that all students are expected to achieve in their science courses are unmarked; standards that all students should have the opportunity to learn in those courses are marked with an asterisk(*). Those opportunities should be offered at every high school.
The Science Content Standards reflects the desired content of science curriculum in California public schools. This content should be taught so that students have the opportunity to build connections that link science to technology and societal impacts. Science, technology, and societal issues are strongly connected to community health, population, natural resources, environmental quality, natural and human-induced hazards, and other global challenges. The standards should be viewed as the foundation for understanding these issues.
Time and considerable resources continue to be needed to implement the Science Content Standards fully. But the goal remains clear, and these standards are the foundation for increasing the scientific literacy of all students.
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1 Gifted Young in Science: Potential Through Performance. Edited by Paul Brandwein and others. Arlington, Va.: National Science Teachers Association, 1989.
2 National Academy of Sciences, National Science Education Standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1995.
3 American Association for the Advancement of Science staff, Benchmarks for Science Literacy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.





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