Instead of trying to cover a huge range of topics, the report says, science educators should focus on deepening knowledge of a limited number of core ideas in four disciplines: life sciences; physical sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology, and application of science.
In the earth and space sciences discipline, for example, students would be required to focus on the core ideas of “Earth’s place in the universe,” “Earth’s systems,” and “Earth and human activity.” Under the new framework, students would increase their understanding of these specified ideas over time and be assessed on benchmarks in grades two, five, eight, and 12.
To further maintain consistency throughout multiple years of schooling, the report recommends that teachers adopt a common language for “cross-cutting concepts” that are relevant in multiple fields. These cross-cutting concepts would serve a purpose similar to the “unifying concepts” or “common themes” included in previous sets of standards.
After hearing the terms used by teachers in multiple disciplines, students would become familiar with common vocabulary such as “cause and effect” and “structure and function.
As students learn the disciplinary core ideas, they should learn not only common vocabulary, but also common practices. The report identifies eight key scientific and engineering practices that should be integrated into science education, including “developing and using models” and “analyzing and interpreting data.”
“To support students’ meaningful learning in science and engineering, all three dimensions [core ideas, cross-cutting concepts, and practices] need to be integrated into standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment,” the report says.