The content standards, organized by K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 grade levels, are found in Chapter 6. These standards provide expectations for the development of student understanding and ability over the course of K-12 education. Content is defined to include inquiry; the traditional subject areas of physical, life, and earth and space sciences; connections between science and technology; science in personal and social perspectives; and the history and nature of science. The content standards are supplemented with information on developing student understanding, and they include fundamental concepts that underlie each standard.
Chapter 7 contains the program standards, which provide criteria for judging the quality of school and district science programs. The program standards focus on issues that relate to opportunities for students to learn and teachers to teach science as described in the Standards.
The system standards in Chapter 8 consist of criteria for judging the performance of
components of the science education system beyond the school and district: the people and entities, including education professionals and the broader community that supports the schools.
Throughout the Standards, examples have been supplied that are based in actual practice. These examples demonstrate that the vision is attainable. Each example includes a brief description of some of its features and lists the standards that might be highlighted by the example. Many of the examples are appropriate only if students have been involved in the type of science education described in the Standards. For instance, the assessment exercises are appropriate if students have had the opportunity to gain the understanding and skills being assessed.
The National Science Education Standards are standards for all Americans: Equity is an underlying principle for the Standards and should pervade all aspects of science education.