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The National Academy of Science
Releases Standards

The National Academy of Sciences quietly released the final version of the national science standards in December. The chief difference between this version and the one released last year is size.

The first draft was almost 300 pages and weighed over two pounds. The new version is sleeker, slimmer, and includes colored pictures, graphs, and diagrams for teachers to follow.

The document sets forth "content standards" that spell out what students should learn in grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12. It mandates substantial changes in the way science is taught in the public schools. These new National Science Education Standards place less emphasis on scientific facts and information and on studying subject-matter disciplines (physical life, earth sciences) for their own sake.

Instead, the focus is on "understanding concepts and developing the abilities of inquiry," on "implementing inquiry as instructional strategies, abilities, and ideas to be learned," and on "integrating all aspects of science content."

The new standards were financed by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Institutes of Health. The National Science Teachers Association plans to issue a CD-ROM and a set of guidebooks in March.

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