Program standards deal with issues at the school and district level that relate to opportunities for students to learn and opportunities for teachers to teach science. The first three standards address individuals and groups responsible for the design, development, selection, and adaptation of science programs—including teachers, curriculum directors, administrators, publishers, and school committees. The last three standards describe the conditions necessary if science programs are to provide appropriate opportunities for all students to learn science.
Each school and district must translate the National Science Education Standards into a program that reflects local contexts and policies. The program standards discuss the planning and actions needed to provide comprehensive and coordinated experiences for all students across all grade levels. This can be done in many ways, because the Standards do not dictate the order, organization, or framework for science programs.
The science education system standards consist of criteria for judging the performance of the overall science education system. They consider seven areas:
The congruency of policies that influence science education with the teaching, professional development, assessment, content, and program standards.
The coordination of science education policies within and across agencies, institutions, and organizations.
The continuity of science education policies over time.
The provision of resources to support science education policies.
The equity embodied in science education policies.
The possible unanticipated effects of policies on science education.
The responsibility of individuals to achieve the new vision of science education portrayed in the standards.
Schools are part of hierarchical systems that include school districts, state school systems, and the national education system. Schools also are part of communities that contain organizations that influence science education, including colleges and universities, nature centers, parks and museums, businesses, laboratories, community organizations, and various media.
Although the school is the central institution for public education, all parts of the extended system have a responsibility for improving science literacy. For example, functions generally decided at the state (but sometimes at the local) level include the content of the school science curriculum, the characteristics of the science program, the nature of science teaching, and assessment practices. These policies need to be consistent with the vision of science education described in the Standards for the vision as a whole to be realized.
Today, different parts of the education system often work at cross purposes, resulting in waste and conflict. Only when most individuals and organizations share a common vision can we expect true excellence in science education to be achieved.