Published to glowing praise in 1990, Science for All Americans defined the science-literate American--describing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes all students should retain from their learning experience--and offered a series of recommendations for reforming our system of education in science, mathematics, and technology. Benchmarks for Science Literacy takes this one step further. Created in close consultation with a cross-section of American teachers, administrators, and scientists, Benchmarks elaborates on the recommendations to provide guidelines for what all students should know and be able to do in science, mathematics, and technology by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12. These grade levels offer reasonable checkpoints for student progress toward science literacy, but do not suggest a rigid formula for teaching. Benchmarks is not a proposed curriculum, nor is it a plan for one: it is a tool educators can use as they design curricula that fit their student's needs and meet the goals first outlined in Science for All Americans. Far from pressing for a single educational program, Project 2061 advocates a reform strategy that will lead to more curriculum diversity than is common today.
IBenchmarks emerged from the work of six diverse school-district teams who were asked to rethink the K-12 curriculum and outline alternative ways of achieving science literacy for all students. These teams based their work on published research and the continuing advice of prominent educators, as well as their own teaching experience. Focusing on the understanding and interconnection of key concepts rather than rote memorization of terms and isolated facts, Benchmarks advocates building a lasting understanding of science and related fields. In a culture increasingly pervaded by science, mathematics, and technology, science literacy require habits of mind that will enable citizens to understand the world around them, make some sense of new technologies as they emerge and grow, and deal sensibly with problems that involve evidence, numbers, patterns, logical arguments, and technology--as well as the relationship of these disciplines to the arts, humanities, and vocational sciences--making science literacy relevant to all students, regardless of their career paths.
If Americans are to participate in a world shaped by modern science and mathematics, a world where technological know-how will offer the keys to economic and political stability in the twenty-first century, education in these areas must become one of the nation's highest priorities. Together with Science for All Americans, Benchmarks for Science Literacy offers a bold new agenda for the future of science education in this country, one that is certain to prepare our children for life in the twenty-first century.