NRC Releases New Framework for K-12 Science Education

The National Research Council (NRC) recently released a revised approach to K-12 science education focused on “key scientific ideas and practices” important for all students prior to the end of high school.

This framework, developed by states and coordinated by Achieve Inc., is designed to deepen core ideas in life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering, technology and the applications of science.  “Curricula too often emphasize breadth over depth, and students are rarely given the opportunity to experience how science is actually done,” said, Helen Quinn, the committee chair of this initiative.  “The new framework is designed to address and overcome these weaknesses.  It builds on what is known to work best in science education, based on research and classroom experience both in the U.S. and around the world.  It provides a blueprint that will guide improvements in science education over many years.”

Knowledge in core areas are meant to deepen over time with standards in place for what students should know by the end of grades two, five, eight, and 12.  Broad concepts such as defining problems, analyzing and interpreting data, defining solutions, etc., are meant to be weaved across many levels of education to help students not only develop understanding of rote science concepts but to deepen their knowledge of the core ideas. 

Positions in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) increasingly are forming a basis for our economy but U.S. businesses are frequently voicing concern over the availability of well-prepared STEM workers.  The U.S. Commerce Department recently showed that over the past 10 years, growth of STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs, STEM workers earn on average 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts and STEM joblessness is half that seen in non-STEM positions.    

Reforming how we teach science is necessary for preparing students to replace an aging STEM work force.  As a vital part of the U.S. economy, it is incredibly important not only to lay a better educational foundation for the next generation of scientists but also to excite students to continue in the STEM fields into college and beyond.