• Many indicators point to severe weaknesses in California’s science education
systems at the kindergarten through eighth grade (K-8) levels.
• K-8 students in California spend too little time studying science, many of
their teachers are not well prepared in the subject, and the support system
for science instruction has deteriorated.
• A proliferation of overly detailed standards and poorly conceived assessments
has trivialized science education.
• Yet there exists a solid base on which to strengthen K-8 science education
in California and across the nation, including a nascent movement toward
common national standards, new research findings on effective educational
practices; the involvement of scientific, business, and philanthropic organizations
in many schools; and the growing realization that science education
must improve to support future prosperity.
• The goal of establishing high national standards often has been mistakenly
interpreted as requiring standardization, but standardization ignores the
differing needs of students, schools, and districts.
• Ideally, the curriculum drives the development of assessments, but today
large-scale assessments often dictate the content of the curriculum and
approaches to instruction.
• Teachers need high-quality professional development to use effective curricula
and assessments to full advantage.
• Avoiding educational failure requires recognizing the factors in the early
grades that influence later student success.
• Linking education in technology, engineering, and mathematics to science
education, thereby creating a truly integrated science, technology, engineering,
and mathematics (STEM) education, could have major implications for
• A demonstration of effective science teaching with a diverse group of fifth
graders and a poster session and demonstration of scientific concepts by
sixth graders showed how engaging and informative science education
• Exemplary programs in California and elsewhere in the nation, several of
which were described at the convocation, demonstrate that highly effective
science education not only can be implemented but also has many
• The Beckman@Science Program in Orange County has provided more
than 1 million students with hands-on, inquiry-based science classes.
• The Merck Institute for Science Education has improved the teaching and
learning of science through an emphasis on student performance and participation,
instructional practice, school culture, and district policies.
• The Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform Program in
Washington state has brought together the stakeholders involved in science
education to pursue a multifaceted agenda of improvements.
• The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation has sought to
strengthen science education through fellowships to undergraduate science
majors intending to become teachers.
• Understanding how effective science education programs can be sustained
requires an examination of the assertions and associated assumptions
underlying those programs.
• Sustainability can be defined as the ability of a program to maintain core
beliefs and values and use them to guide adaptations to internal and external
changes and pressures over time.
• A comprehensive literature review has revealed more than 25 factors associated
with the sustainability of effective science education for grades
K-8, including some that have not been widely discussed before.
• Sustainability requires and expects that a program’s operating principles
are likely to be adapted to different circumstances as they are instituted in
new places, but that its core beliefs and values will remain largely intact.
• Program planning should accommodate future as well as current goals.
• The critical components of effective programs need to be identified in clear
language to learn from innovation.
• Patience, a long-term perspective, and flexibility are all critical to sustainability.
• A statewide coalition dedicated to creating an outstanding science education
system could address the problems facing K-8 science education in
• Each sector represented in the coalition could play a distinct role while
contributing to the coalition’s overall goals.
• Professional development, the time devoted to science in K-8 classrooms,
and the establishment of an infrastructure for ongoing educational improvement
all require special emphasis.
• The time to act is now, while science education occupies a position of
prominence on state and national agendas.