important, salaries for science, mathematics, and technology teachers need to reflect what they could receive in the private sector and be in accord with their contributions to society, and teachers need to be treated as professionals and as important members of the science and engineering communities.
Since the early 1990s, states have been developing academic standards in mathematics, science, and technology education based in part on national standards developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other organizations. The use of these standards in curriculum development, teaching, and assessment has had a positive effect on student performance and probably contributed to the recent increased performance of 8th-grade students in international comparisons.14
But standards still vary greatly from state to state and across districts and often are not well aligned with the tests used to measure student performance. In addition, many sets of standards remain focused on lower-level skills that may be easier to measure but are not necessarily linked to the knowledge and skills that students will need to do well in college and in the modern workforce. A common flaw in mathematics and science curricula and textbooks is the attempt to cover too much material, which leads to superficial treatments of subjects and to needless repetition when hastily taught material is not learned the first time. Standards need to identify the most important “big ideas” in mathematics, science, and technology, and teachers need to ensure that those subjects are mastered.
The No Child Left Behind legislation requires testing of students’ knowledge of science beginning in 2006-2007, and the science portion of the NAEP is being redesigned. Development of such assessments raises profound methodologic issues, such as how to assess inquiry and problem-solving skills using traditional large-scale testing formats.
Several federal initiatives can serve the national interest in establishing and maintaining high educational standards while respecting local responsibility for teaching and learning:
Help colleges, businesses, and schools work together to link K–12 standards to college admissions criteria and workforce needs to create a seamless K–16 educational system.15