A CASE STUDY:
THE ORIGINAL INTENTIONS OF THE DESIGNERS OF THE
SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS
Penelope Hudson Eucker
B.S., University of Georgia, 1978
M.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1992
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
2004 by Penelope Hudson Eucker
All rights reserved.
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Penelope Hudson Eucker
has been approved
H -/6 (>/
Eucker, Penelope J (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
A Case Study: The Original Intentions of the Designers of the Science Content
Thesis directed by Professor Michael Marlow
This case study research examined the original intentions of the
designers of the science content standards in the historical context of educational
reforms and legislation. The content standards are the keystone of standards-
based education. Originally, national science content standards were part of a
cohesive program to increase the occurrence of quality science K-12. Through
assessment policies set into motion by state and federal legislation, science
curriculum is increasingly fixed and standardized. Scripting teachers is
becoming more common. Unintended outcomes of standards-based education
are prevalent in all classrooms. Recording the original intentions of the
designers of the science content standards in a historical context is significant to
document their beliefs and purposes.
The shared beliefs of the six scholars included: (a) science had become
overstuffed curriculum with students learning very few concepts; (b) science
teachers required assistance to decide which concepts are most important for
students to learn; (c) standards-based education will most likely endure for a
very long time; (d) science is a specific way of knowing and inquiry must be
part of science instruction; (e) few teachers teach to the science content
standards. The scholars disagreed about whether the power to decide what to
teach had moved from the classroom to the legislators and if standards-based
education has preferentially helped some groups of students while diminishing
the science education of others.
Implications from the findings reveal the tension between a defined
science content and the resultant assessment template that further trims the
instructional range offered. Foreshadowing of increasing trend toward profits
made from testing companies as state and federal legislation increase mandated
assessments. Significantly, the educational research that clearly demonstrate
many pathways lead to educated students such as the Eight-Year Study were
suppressed in favor of the bi-partisan supported standards-based education. One
of the stated goals of standards-based education was equity. With documented
corrupted curriculum sometimes devoid of all science, equity remains an elusive
goal. This research documents the original intentions of the designers of the
science content standards. The story continues to unfold with new state and
federal legislation as teachers attempt to teach the mandated content standards.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
This research is dedicated to all who participate in the unique and
honest process of science and science education.
As I reflect back on this long journey, it is clear that what began as an
independent course of study evolved into a community project. Without the
generous support of my family, my dear friends and my wise committee, I
would never have crossed the finish line. I am deeply grateful.
I thank my advising professor Mike Marlow who encouraged me to
continue when I lost my way. His kindness is matchless. Dr. Marlows
expansive thinking encouraged me to consider possibilities. Dr. Marie Wirsing
has the exceptional power to move students to new understandings. Her
contributions to this research are profound. Dr. Nancy Shanklin has the gift of
clarity of language and thought. Her advice and encouragement were
transforming. Dr. Doug Dyckes provided wisdom and perspective when
conflicting advice was presented. He is a true scientist with clear rational
thinking. His clarity of understanding often kept my research on track.
Dr.Randy Sinisi was willing to focus on my small successes that encouraged me
to press on. Her professionalism and thorough reading of many drafts improved
the final draft immeasurably. Collectively, my committee made all the
difference. Without the generosity of the six scholars, this research could not
have been completed. To each, I am indebted.
My family cheered every small victory. My sons, William and Thomas,
and my husband, Bill, made a great team. Without their support, the challenges
would have been insurmountable. To my parents, Will and Bettie Hudson, I
thank them for encouraging me. To Marion, your kindness always lifted me. To
my brothers, Larry and Mark, and my sisters, Nancy and Cindy, and their
spouses, I thank each of them for love and support through the years. To my
close circle of friends, Bridget, India, Ravelle, Sondra, Barbara, Hope, Gloria,
Peg, Charlene, Mary, Becca and Pam, words cannot express my gratitude.
1. THE RESEARCH PROBLEM......................1
The General Problem....................4
Background to the Problem..........6
Specific Problem and Methodology......17
Structure of the Dissertation.........19
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Historical Pathway to Content
Standards in the United States........21
The Committee of Ten...............23
The Committee on College
The College Board..................31
The Progressive Movement...........34
The Eight-Year Study...............36
Sputnik Era as Educational Reform.38
The Sixties and the Civil Rights
The Sixties and Course-taking
The Scholastic Aptitude
Test as an Indicator of
A Nation at Risk...................44
The Science Standards..............51
Concerns About the Concepts of
Political Implications and Allocation
Of Monetary Resources.................58
No Child Left Behind..................60
Common Public Misconceptions about
the State of Education in America.....61
Historical Emergence of
ECS Embraces Systemic Change
New Standards Project and
Issues with Assessment................72
Review of the Research Methods........74
Research on the Development of the
3. RESEARCH METHODS
Selection of the Six Scholars......85
The Colorado Education Laws...........85
Methods of Data Collection............85
Methods of Data Analysis..............89
Reporting of the Qualitative
Other Archived Material...............92
Means of Displaying Data..............93
Profile of Each Scholar...............97
Rodger Bybee-Strong Content
Mary Gromko-Colorado Science
Nancy Kellogg- The Science
Paul Kuerbis- Leader in Grants....101
Harold Pratt, The Team Player.....102
Questions Asked of Each Scholar...103
5. CONCLUSIONS, SUMMARY, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Revisit Original Question.............180
Supporting Data and Interpretation....180
Potential Future Problems..........185
Overstuffed Science Curriculum.....187
A Quality Product..................187
Politicized Content Standards......188
Beliefs Shared by Each of the
Limitations of Findings...............198
B. National Science
C. Colorado Model Content
Standards for Science.............236
THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
Most U.S. public schools follow a standards-based education (SBE)
approach with their curriculum. Twenty years ago, most educators had not heard
of SBE. In le-s than two decades SBE, and more importantly, the content
standards to which SBE are anchored, moved from obscurity to the keystone of
American public education. The remarkable changes in American education
during this time period have many areas in need of research.
Like democracy itself, education traditionally was left to communities to
define. The federal government defined overarching basic rights, but states rights
and local control encouraged diverse educational experiences for K-12 students.
The shift in control of education from educators to legislators happened swiftly
(Colorado House Bill 93-1313; National Education Goals Panel; Goals 2000
Educate America Act; Gromko; Heikkinen; No Child Left Behind Act of2001,
Public Law 107-110).
We may not currently recognize the significance of this decade (1993-
2003). Over time, I believe the past decade will be referred to as the most
significant time in educational history in the United States. Not only did education
align, but it aligned to content standards. The alignment was legislated and tied to
both state and federal funds that guaranteed compliance of any public schools
receiving state and federal funds by requiring standardized testing of every
student. Two significant historical events: aligning all public schools to content
standards and state and federal laws mandating the alignment resulted in the
transformation of every' classroom. Educators may not understand that these two
historical events profoundly changed education. Sweeping education policy
became law with the No Child Left Behind Act of200: (Public Law 107-110). The
decisions about what is taught in American public schools moved from the state
and local communities to Washington, D.C.
As a participant in the science content-writing process in Colorado from
1993-96,1 observed how our standards were designed and the way our capacity to
create the content standards was supported by national science content writers. I
knew history was being made and I collected many artifacts of the process. I just
didnt know at that time how to conceptualize the significance of the events. Over
time, I came to understand the role of national and Colorado legislation. I came to
understand the way the whole educational system aligned to content standards.
Each content area was unique but science was a transparent process that could
serve to help understand how standards came into existence.
Although not widely recognized, Colorado science educators and
politicians led the way both in Colorado and nationally to usher in a new way of
curricular reform tied to clearly defined academic standards (Education
Commission of the States, Heikkinen, Kuerbis, Gromko, Bybee, Kellogg and Pratt,
personal communication). These Colorado science educators simultaneously held
key leadership positions nationally and in Colorado that transformed the way
education is practiced in classrooms across the country. Because the National
Research Councils science content standards and the simultaneously drafted
Colorado model science content standards mirrored the work that transpired
nationally in other content areas along with the standards drafting in many states, I
have chosen these documents and the scholars who designed them as the focal
point of this research.
Given the significance of the role of national content standards, it was
apparent that the thoughts, beliefs and goals of those who came together to draft
the content standards should be recorded and documented. To give meaning to the
interviews, the political setting in which they worked had to be reconstructed. The
legislation was influenced by the educational climate of the country. All of these
strands were woven in to tell the story.
The pathway leading up to the demand and creation of the science content
standards has been traced through two primary pathways: historical educational
reforms and legislative history. The science standards were written as a
culmination of many factors. In order to understand this context, the way standards
were defined through United States history were researched and recorded.
Legislative history followed an increasingly prescriptive path that was also
researched and recorded.
The rapid alignment of a complex and unwieldy educational system with
guaranteed local control in Colorado into a highly centralized system was a
testimony to the convergence of many factors. This study recreated the backdrop
of these factors around the central research question, What were the original
intentions of the Colorado men and women who wrote the science content
The General Problem
Educational reform based on standards developed at the national level began
to transform the loosely coupled educational system in the late 1980s (McLeod,
Stake, Schappelle, Melissinos and Gierl, 1996). The complaint from educational
critics was that a Chaotic, multi-layered, and fragmented educational governance
system in the USA has spawned mediocre and conservative curricula and
instruction in our schools (Smith and ODay, 1990). Although this statement and
the generalizations about failing schools had been refuted by research-based
statistics from Gerald Bracey and others, public sentiment leaned toward the belief
that schools were broken and needed a massive overhaul (Bracey, 1997). The
answer suggested was one of systemic reform anchored to the promotion of
ambitious student outcomes for all (U.S. Dept, of Ed., 1996). The suggestion that
the entire loosely coupled educational system realign to a system of content
standards began the transformation of the U.S. educational system.
The keystone of standards-based education became the content standards.
According to the original chair of the national committee responsible for the
science content standards, the intention was never to lead with the content
standards (Heikkinen, personal communication). He stated that the current climate
with content standards pulled out of context is down right dangerous. The
content standards were one component of a cohesive plan to guide our nation
toward scientific literacy (NRC, 1996).
The educational community has been leveraged by federal funds to have all
components of the system aligned with content standards. To this end, the National
Research Council has published a series which includes titles such as Improving
Teacher Preparation and Credentialing consistent with the National Science
Education Standards and Classroom Assessment and the National Science
Education Standards: A guide for Teaching and Learning. Federal funds can be
withheld if school districts do not identify, test and report progress toward national
science content standards (NCLB).
If the entire educational system is anchored to content standards written for a
specific purpose, the purpose held by the writers of the science content standards
should be recorded for its historic significance. To date, this has not been
documented at the individual level. Official positions, which missed much of the
contextual and implied purpose held by the writers have been reported.
Background to the Problem
The historical pathway to content standards in the United States began in the
early colonial period when communities debated Latin schools or general
curriculum for students (Chalker, 1994, p. 33). For those few pursuing college
admission, preparation was customized to the desired college as there were
specific works or content standards to be mastered unique to each school (Broome,
1903, p.18). Over the next century until the late 1800s, headmasters of secondary
schools complained about the unreasonable diversity of entrance requirements to
college until finally, in the late nineteenth century, colleges collaborated to create
more uniform entrance exams (Fuess, 1967, p. 6).
The Committee of Ten was commissioned in 1892 to develop a consensus for
1-12 curriculum and college admissions. It was advisory only without any real
power over schools. The historical significance of The Committee of Ten,
empowered with the task to study high school curriculum and to make
recommendations on how to bring order to the course offerings in 1892, cannot be
underestimated. Commissioned by the National Education Association, the
Committee of Tens recommendations influenced education for over a century and
continues into the new millennium (National Education Association, 1893, Sizer,
1964, Cremin, 1961, Ravitch, 1995). It should be noted that none of the efforts at
curriculum reform prior to standards-based education was approached by
mandating predetermined, measurable learning outcomes. The Committee of Tens
recommendations were advisory only without legislated power.
The strategic demand that American students must be first in the world
became a critical mobilizing force during the Cold War after the Soviets launched
Sputnik. Sputnik inspired one of the greatest science and math investment periods
in educational history (R. Bybee, personal communication). The mission was to
identify the best and brightest and to further enrich their experience. The pipeline
of brilliant engineers and mathematicians achieved this goal. The elite cadre came
under attack during the sixties social revolution because few could benefit from
the accelerated curriculum. There were not enough entry points for a variety of
learning styles and abilities (H. Heikkinen, personal communication).
The sixties and seventies introduced a range of educational experiments
designed to meet the needs of all students. The post court-ordered changes resulted
in a white flight from the cities and increased poverty concentrations in the urban
centers. The resultant school curriculum and student achievement, when viewed
collectively, seemed unfocused and diffuse in direction.
The critical point was reached when A Nation at Risk was published in 1983.
The inflammatory rhetoric was similar to the cold-war fears that launched the
Sputnik-educational reform. The document, which was published without the
benefit of research, stated, If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to
impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we
might well have viewed it as an act of war. The recommendations to remedy the
dismal state of education included the adoption of more rigorous and measurable
standards K-16. Data refuting the vague and alarming statistics were ignored.
Significantly, the U.S. Government suppressed a publication from Sandia National
Laboratory clearly refuting the statements made in A Nation at Risk (Sandia
National Laboratory, 1991).
A Nation at Risk served as a catalyst to accelerate the public demand for
change. Public education became the number one issue in the political arena.
Although based on unsubstantiated rhetoric, the general public believed the
educational system was broken and in need of sweeping change.
First to initiate standards, The National Council of Teachers of
Mathematics (NCTM) began an internal review to define mathematics and how it
should be taught in K-12 schools. This organization was the most recognized
professional math teachers association. Unlike The Committee of Ten, the NCTM
was inclusive of all stakeholders. University math professors, K-12 teachers,
professional mathematicians and others convened to define what every child
should know and be able to do with regard to a variety of mathematical domains
Prior to this document, according to Dr. H. Heikkinen, math had been
reduced to a set of procedural exercises lacking the necessary depth needed to
pursue authentic math understanding. The document included skills not usually
taught at the K-8 levei to include estimation, statistical analysis, and
communication about results and probability. Teachers began the dialogue in 1989
around the NCTM math standards.
In 1989, the National Governors Association held an educational summit
with the first President Bush in Charlottesville, Virginia. Six national educational
goals were announced by President Bush and later adopted by Congress in 1994 as
Goals 2000, Educate America Act under President Clinton.
The national educational agenda had become bipartisan which guaranteed
congressional support, as political parties changed in Washington, D.C. Education
became the top concern of the voting population by 1995 (Gallop Poll, January 5-
7, 1995). Playing into the voting populations top concern, campaign platforms
voiced strong positions. President Clinton squarely supported raising academic
achievement through content standards. As the former chair of the Governors
Association during the emergence of educational standards, he was an early
advocate with a strong personal investment. Clinton clearly understood the
advantage of building upon the initial work of his predecessor, George Bush,
The assumed control of education by politicians was new. Educators who
had felt largely ignored by their politicians perceived the attention with initial
delight (H. Pratt, personal communication). The language of making U.S. students
first in the world in math and science by 2000 seemed naive to educators but
hugely attractive as a lofty goal. Colorado Governor Romer stated that all students
can learn more. It was language that educators could understand and embrace.
Suddenly education was the primary platform for politicians, in Colorado and in
In Colorado, legislated educational mandates tripled comparing 1975-85 to
1985-95. The trend has continued. Assessments aligned to standards are now
mandated in Colorado for every7 public school student in grades 3-11. Dr. N.
Kellogg (personal communication) estimates that many students lose over two
weeks of instructional time because of state mandated testing.
President George W. Bush made the suggestion that every public school
student should be tested every year in literacy, math and science. CTB/McGraw-
Hill responded that the testing industry cannot begin to test that size of population
at current level of capacity. CTB/McGraw-Hill has the exclusive contract in
Colorado to develop and score the CSAP (Colorado Student Achievement
Program). New companies have emerged to help districts report CSAP scores to
their constituents. The results are compiled to inform and compare multiple years
by a variety of indicators. In addition, companies have emerged to support raising
CSAP scores through primers, teacher workshops and educational materials.
The costs of standards-based education are high. The 377 billion dollars
spent on public elementary and secondary schools in 1997-98 represents 4.3% of
the US gross domestic product. This percentage held relatively steady for the
decade of the nineties. The eighties held approximately at 3.9% (National Center
for Education Statistics, 2000). In Colorado, CTB/McGraw-Hill has a sixteen-
million dollar contract to create and score the CSAP. In addition, school districts
purchase test preparation materials from this private contractor. The total costs are
difficult to measure but the amount spent on standards-based education is rapidly
With the new alignment of all K-12 education to national and state content
standards, the question must arise about the strength of the standards to support the
entire educational system. The content standards were never intended for this role.
The content standards were one part of a coherent plan to change instructional
The opposition to mandated standards has not been well organized. Not
only was it politically unpopular to stand against national and state politicians but
now that the entire educational system has aligned to standards, to change the
direction would require overcoming a powerful force. Governor Romer sold the
idea of content standards in Colorado with public meetings and a video. He was
compelling in stating that all children can learn more when clear statements of
what every student should know and be able to do are understood by the student,
parents and educators for grade levels fourth, eighth and tenth. At the time,
Colorado only had content standards and the message was understood and
embraced. Pedagogy, assessment and delivery standards were never developed.
This was also true in most other states.
Nonetheless, many professional educators voiced strong opposition to
standards. Theodore Sizer stated, The ideas to which our children are exposed are
important. Our right to control many, if not all, of these ideas deserves to be a
fundamental American freedom. Arrogation of this right by central governments is
an abridgement of freedom. The myriad, detailed, and mandated state curriculum
frameworks, of whatever scholarly brilliance, are attacks on intellectual freedom.
High-stakes tests arising from these curricula compound the felony. It is the
apparent readiness of contemporary government to reach beyond this that signals
governments failure to respect and trust its own people. Without such trust, there
can be no democracy. (Meier, 2000).
Linda Nathan, the co-founder of the Center for Collaborative Education-
Metro Boston, has been vocal in her opposition of mandated standards. I think
we, as parents and educators, have allowed the politicians and policy makers to go
too far. Rather than demanding that the state take responsibility for establishing
minimum standards in literacy and mathematics, we have allowed the state to
declare war on all schools and all teachers (and all students.) I am not interested in
schools that take the most important decisions about learning out of the hands of
those closest to the learners: the teachers. When the state gets in the business of
giving schools endless laundry lists that must be taught, we lose our ability to
teach well.' (Meier, 2000).
Jonathan Kozal worried that standards will script journeys where there is
no room for whimsical discoveries and unexpected learnings. Great teachers, he
asserts do not wish for outcomes to be defined in advance nor do they agree with
goals that include efficiency and economic productivity. Great teachers have their
standards; but their standards may resemble those of Thomas Merton, or Thoreau,
or Toni Morrison, more than of a market analyst or business CEO. The best
teachers of little kids I know are poets in their personalities: they love the
unpredictable. That's why they are drawn to children and not business school. If
we force them to be little more than floor managers for industry, they wont
remain in public schools. The price will be too high. The poetry will have turned to
prose: the worse kind too, the prose of experts who know every single thing there
is to know except their own destructiveness. In this way, well lose the teachers
who come to the world of childhood with ministries of love and, in their place,
well get technicians of proficiency. (Meier, 2000).
Schools of education have been targeted in Colorado to align programs of
instruction to the K-12 content standards. The Colorado Commission of Higher
Education (CCHE) slashed forty-six majors previously available to University of
Colorado students planning to become elementary school teachers. Included in the
cuts were psychology, physics and foreign languages. The CU-Boulder education
dean resigned over the politically influenced decision. The schools of education
were required to cut theory-based education courses in favor of methodology
courses under the premise that the emerging teachers need more hands-on
instruction. Without the theoretical grounding, the teachers may become floor
technicians, as predicted by Kozal.
Colorados largest school district, Jefferson County, requires all elementary
school teachers to follow the district developed science program. The heavily
scripted program of instruction guarantees alignment to the state and national
standards. Almost 90,000 students will experience similar science instruction.
When Nancy Kellogg, a key leader of the science standards document in
Colorado, was asked to comment on teacher scripting in science, she thoughtfully
reflected that she wouldnt like it. Her instruction needed to reflect freshness each
year that could dynamically respond to current students interests and
opportunities for science learning. She saw the need for novice teachers, especially
those with weak backgrounds in science, to have access to a scripted science
program. Dr. Kellogg thought three years of scripting would suffice to launch any
teacher in a strong science direction. At a recent NSTA (National Science
Teachers Association) national meeting in Atlanta, many experienced science
teachers reported daily scripting and feelings of powerlessness to teach thoughtful
When interviewed, the science leaders in Colorado who heavily dominated
the state and national scene during the eighties and nineties, collectively voiced
strong insights about how their work in creating the state and national science
standards had been used for purposes not intended. Some had been predicted such
as the creation of science assessments that would eventually drive instructional
practices. The promised assessments were to be performance based with the time
on task contributing to the knowledge base of the student. The science assessments
have been administered to the eighth grade only in Colorado with fifth and tenth
grades to be added by the year 2007 (Colorado Department of Education, NCLB).
The anecdotal evidence from science supervisors such as Dr. M. Gromko
(personal communication) was that science is not being taught with any
consistency in the elementary schools of Colorado with the full approval of the
school and district supervisors. Science, along with reading, writing, mathematics,
history and geography were first priority areas defined by Colorado House Bill 93-
1313. Standards-based education was given a boost in Colorado with the ten
million-dollar National Science Foundations systemic grant to increase math and
science participation in 1994 eventually called CONNECT. Political, economic and
educational resources supported the drafting and implementation of the science
standards. The unanswered question was the intention and understanding of the
task by the men and women who wrote the content standards. Their work became
the marching orders and focus for public education in the United States.
Similar to the dominating influence of The Committee of Ten who met in
1892, the men and women who drafted the content standards in science may
influence education for the next century and beyond. Therefore, the ideas and
beliefs they held must be recorded and documented. Each of the interviewed
science leaders provided a candid and open analysis of their personal beliefs as
well as their role in the state and national drafting of content standards. The
insights of these remarkable leaders clearly answered the research question. The
stories were similar in factual knowledge and reconstruction of events but deviated
substantially in personal reflections about the implications and beliefs with regard
to the future of public education in Colorado. All felt the early nineties marked a
golden age for the fortunate few who were part of the exciting dialogue with
regard to what every child should know and be able to do in science.
My research study reported here is a case study of standards-based
education using the science content standards as the focal point of the
investigation. The scope of the work was daunting from the beginning because
many factors that had contributed to the creation of the science content standards
had to be identified and recorded.
Using a symbolic interactionist theoretical framework, I focused on how
the six scholars found meaning in the work of generating science content standards
for a nation and a state. This theoretical framework helped to guide how I
understood the variety of interview responses to build a thematic protocol that was
validated by each of the scholars as being correct and true. The goal of a symbolic
interactionist theoretical framework is to understand how individuals interpret and
give meaning to their experiences, to other people, and to objects such as the
science content standards (Blumer, 1969).
Specific Problem and Methodology
The origins of the national standards educational movement in America
began with specific beliefs about the role of defining content standards. Over time
the original intended role of the content standards has shifted. Documenting the
original intent has been accomplished with this research.
The question of original intent was a significant area to define before the
memories of those who drafted the content standards altered to new perspectives.
This research was a qualitative case study of the designers of the science content
standards. Primary source materials were both published and unpublished from a
variety of repositories including collections from the interviewed scholars, the
library of the Education Commission of the States, which was located in Denver,
and the repository located in the basement of the Colorado State Capitol, which
archived the political pathway of numerous legislated bills on education. The six
Colorado scholars interviewed were key science leaders responsible for drafting
and promoting both the national and the Colorado model science content
standards. Research questions addressed in this qualitative case study were the
1. What were the historical influences leading up to the call for
science content standards?
2. What were the original intentions of the Colorado scholars who
made up almost a third of the National Research Councils science
content standards working group including the chairperson?
3. How did all the strands come together which permitted content
standards the premier role of aligning education in the United
4. What were the historical legislative influences leading up to and
mandating science content standards in Colorado and in the
The legislative path that led to content standards was investigated,
categorized and graphed. All education-related legislation was recorded but only
the bills related to standards were included for in-depth analysis. Legislation
regarding handicapped students, finance, discipline and other areas not directly
related to content standards were recorded but eliminated for further research.
Structure of the Dissertation
The work has been divided into five chapters. Chapter One defines the
problem and the scope of the work. Chapter Two, the literature search, chronicles
the history of educational reform in the United States as well as the political
climate associated with these reforms. In this chapter, the emergent concept of
systemic reform as a means to get educational reforms to stick has been included
as a significant factor in how the content standards aligned standards-based
education. Legislative strands were identified and graphed. Chapter Three reports
the methodology used as well as the instruments and methods of data analysis.
Chapter Four describes the data and findings. Chapter Five summarizes the
findings and discusses of the implications of the research, draws conclusions and
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
The research question driving this study focused on what were the
original intentions of the men and women who drafted the national and Colorado
science content standards. Standards-based education emerged in the late 1980s as
policy and was put into practice in the early nineties (NCTM, 1989).
Understanding the political and educational climate required a review of literature
of the historical context of standards and how standards became the answer to the
question of what would be the unifying vision that would align systemic reform.
Reconstruction of the educational climate, in which the men and women of this
study worked and created the science content standards, necessitated the review of
educational history in the United States, legislative history and systemic change in
Historical Pathway to Content Standards in the United States
The Massachusetts Law of 1642 ordered local leaders to provide learning
for every child, beginning the practice of compulsory education in the United
States (Chalker, 1994, p. 33) Some communities chose to offer only Latin schools
preparing boys for higher education while other communities offered only a
general curriculum for every child. Free public education was eventually
guaranteed by all states beginning with Massachusetts in 1837.
In the early colonial period, secondary schools prepared college-bound
students for specific colleges. College entrance requirements had not been
formally developed. Each college devised its own entrance exam. The first
entrance exam to Harvard in 1642 read: When any scholar is able to read Tully
or such classical Latin Author ex tempore, and make and speak true Latin in verse
and prose, suo (ut aiunt) Marte, and decline perfectly the paradigms of nounes and
verbes in ye Greeke tongue, then may hee bee admitted into ye College, nor shall
any claime admission before such qualifications. (Broome, 1903, p. 18) To this
curriculum of the classics, arithmetic was added later in colonial times.
As time passed, entrance exams became less comprehensive and more
specific. In 1785, Columbia College defined their entrance exam with specific
works to be mastered. No candidate shall be admitted into the College... unless
Shall be able to render into English Caesars Commentaries of
the Gallic War; the four Orations of Cicero against Catiline; the four
first books of Virgils Aeneid; and the Gospels from the Greek; and to
explain the government and the connections of the words, and to turn
English into grammatical Latin, and to understand the four first rules of
Arithmetic, with the rule of three. (Broome, p. 34)
These were explicit content standards. Students, who wished to be granted
admission, presented themselves for examination. Because each college had
specific requirements, headmasters of secondary schools complained of
unreasonable diversity (Fuess, 1967, p. 6). In response, colleges collaborated to
create more uniform entrance exams in the late nineteenth century. This
empowered colleges to directly influence secondary education.
Although states and local school districts have retained autonomy over
curriculum, resources such as textbooks remained remarkably similar. As early as
the 1830s, school reformers complained about the number of textbooks in every
field. The similarity of the nineteenth century readers, history books, geography
texts, and others vying for market share in the same area was striking. The
uniformity found in the reading materials extended to classroom methods, with
few exceptions (Ravitch, 1995, p. 35).
The Committee of Ten
The National Educational Association debated the problems of college
entrance examinations in the early 1890s (Sizer, 1964, p.73). Initially, the
recommendation was made to form a new association devoted exclusively to high
school and college articulation. Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard, argued
against forming a new association and recommended a committee to be formed
with representation of secondary schools and colleges from a variety of geographic
areas. The National Council of Education (NCE) approved the recommendation
that had included the suggestion of ten names.
The Committee of Ten met in November 1892, at Columbia University.
From this meeting the principal subjects to be taught in high school were
determined: 1.Latin; 2.Greek; 3.English; 4.0ther Modem Languages; 5.
Mathematics; 6. Physics, Astronomy and Chemistry; 7. Natural History; 8.
History, Civil Government, and Political Economy; 9. Geography (National
Educational Association Report of the Committee on Secondary School Studies
[NEA], 1893). Each of the nine academic areas had ten members assigned by The
Committee of Ten. The men chosen represented geographic regions, secondary
schools and higher education. The selections were criticized as exclusionary and
too similar to The Committee of Ten (NEA, p.102). The nine academic areas were
The Committee of Ten gave direction to the role of each Conference with a
list of eleven questions to guide the work of each subject area:
1. In the course of study extending approximately from age six years
to eighteen years- a course including periods of both elementary
and secondary instruction- at what age should the study which is
the subject of the Conference be first introduced?
2. After it is introduced, how many hours a week for how many years
should be devoted to it?
3. How many hours a week for how many years should be devoted to
it during the last four years of the complete course; that is, during
the ordinary high school period?
4. What topics, or parts, of the subject may reasonably be covered
during the whole course?
5. What topics, or parts, of the subject may be best reserved for the
last four years?
6. In what form and to what extent should the subject enter into
college requirements for admission? Such questions as the
sufficiency of translation at sight as a test of knowledge of a
language, or the superiority of a laboratory examination in a
scientific subject to a written examination on a textbook, are
intended to be suggested under this head by the phrase, in what
7. Should the subject be treated differently for pupils who are going
to college, for those going to a scientific school, and for those who
are presumably going to neither?
8. At what stage should this differentiation begin, if any be
9. Can any description be given of the best method of teaching this
subject throughout the school course?
10. Can any description be given of the best mode of testing
attainments in this subject at college admission examinations?
11. For those cases in which colleges and universities permit a division
of the admission examination into a preliminary and final
examination, separated by a least a year, can the best limit between
the preliminary and final examinations be approximately defined?
-Report on the Committee of Secondary School Studies, 1893)
The purpose of The Committee of Ten was to make recommendations on
how to reduce the disorder of high school course offerings in 1890. At the heart of
the debate was the value of a classical education including Latin, Greek, and
mathematics compared to the newly emergent modem courses. Given that there
was not any way to mandate uniformity in American education, the issue of
preparing students for college was given considerable thought. Finally, the concept
of offering different course work to different students to prepare some for
university work and other for trade employment was considered (Sizer, 1964).
The guiding questions were indicative of the issues The Committee of Ten
thought were most relevant for the working groups to consider. Question seven
posed the idea of differentiated curriculum. The working groups and The
Committee of Ten unanimously agreed that every subject that is taught in
secondary schools should be taught in the same way and to the same extent to
every pupil. It was understood that not every student would pursue studies in every
subject area, but if they chose to, all students would be treated alike. This was the
strongest indicator of the expansive thinking of each conference and of The
Committee of Ten.
The individual Conferences were specific in defining exactly what they
believed about differentiated curricular offerings. The History Conferences stated:
The Conference believes that such a distinction (between
different groups of pupils), especially in schools provided for the
children by public taxation, is bad for all classes of pupils. It is the duty
of the schools to furnish well grounded and complete education for the
child; it is the duty of higher institutions to accept a well grounded and
complete education as a suitable preparation for entrance upon their
It would appear that the Conferences believed a strong preparation would
suffice for college entrance without additional specialized courses.
The Conferences were given only three days to complete an enormous task.
All convened simultaneously in different areas of the country on December 28-30,
1892. Latin and Greek met in Ann Arbor, Michigan; the sciences and geography
met in Chicago; English met at Vassar, Mathematics at Harvard; History at the
University of Wisconsin and Modem Languages met at the Bureau of Education in
Washington. Woodrow Wilson was part of the History Conference. Each group
elected a chair.
Each Conference recommended specific disciplinary approach unique to
the subject. The English Conference stated:
The main objects of the teaching of English in schools seem to
be two: 1) to enable the pupil to understand the expressed thoughts of
others and to give expression to thoughts of his own; and 2) to cultivate
a taste for reading, to give the pupil some acquaintance with good
literature, and to furnish him with the means of extending that
The Conference on Natural History stated the goals in terms of: Result of
Six Years Work. Pupils are self-reliant and independent: they have a fair
knowledge of the whole plant and its life history.
Each Conference was prescriptive as to the time spent on the content, as
was requested. The time was not available in the school day to meet all the
requests for content area specialization. All the Conferences agreed the time spent
must be sufficient to allow for the training of the mind necessary for the particular
subject. It was noted that when the facts were forgotten, the mental discipline
employed to master the material would remain. The idea of developing critical
thinking skills and judgment were valued for all students regardless of career.
The Mathematics Conference was the only one to suggest a differentiated
curriculum for those who did not plan to attend college. The group recommended a
few weeks of optional commercial arithmetic and bookkeeping.
The Conferences denounced the textbook-recitation-drill tradition in favor
of an inquiry-based approached. The Mathematics Conference stated that more
applied mathematics was necessary with authentic problems. All of the
Conferences wanted a liberalized pedagogy in line with the research ideal of the
society (Sizer, 1964, p. 113).
The criticism of The Committee of Tens report fell into categories:
omission of art, pushing curriculum down to the elementary level, equivalence,
and the amount of work expected of students. Later criticism included ignoring the
dramatic increase of student enrollment in secondary schools, the lack of research
showing that discipline was transferable (the concept that learning one area to a
high degree would prepare a disciplined mind that could transfer the same
discipline to another field), and the omission of ethics.
One of the members of The Committee of Ten was James Hutchins Baker.
In 1892, he was the president of the National Council of Education that sponsored
The Committee of Ten. He had been chairman of the National Education
Association. He was 44 in 1892 and had been the principal of the Denver City
High School. In January 1892, he became the president of the University of
Colorado, which had 66 students. He was critical of the final report of The
Committee of Ten because he felt President Eliots views dominated the report.
President Eliot spent enormous efforts to build a school schedule 1-12
incorporating the recommendations of the Conferences. He found it almost
impossible and had to alter the recommendations. Many criticized the report
because the perception was The Committee of Ten were predominantly from
higher education. President Eliot responded that they each had spent considerable
time in secondary schools.
The Committee of Ten stated that, .. .every subject which is taught at all in
secondary school should be taught in the same way and to the same extent to every
pupil so long as he pursues it, no matter what the probable destination of the pupil
may be, or at what point his education is to cease. Public response was
accusatory against the committee with complaints of an elitist group of men
ignoring the needs of the majority by only promoting a newly proposed liberal
education. In fact, this was the first time a policy was stated that held high
expectations for all children without regard to expected vocation. Few went to
college in 1892 and the recommendation for college preparatory course work for
every student was disturbing to the general population because the assumption was
that all students had the intellectual capacity to benefit from such an education.
During this period, many students left school after the second year of
high school. For this reason, electives and Greek began in the junior year. The
premise was that a core curriculum would be achieved before the students left. The
idea of pursuing a topic to the disciplinary core in order to receive the discipline of
the mind was fundamental in every aspect of The Committee of Tens
recommendations. They all held the belief that this training of the mind would
serve students in every career choice.
The concept of disciplinary and informational courses emerged in
discussion. President Eliot embraced the idea of equivalents. He argued that any
subject studied with rigor and discipline would train the mind in ways appropriate
for higher education and for those entering the work force. He believed that
academic subjects should be pursued long enough and with a depth of
understanding resulting in a disciplined and trained mind. He stated that this goal
could be achieved to an equivalent degree following the pursuit of a variety of
equivalent subjects. The classicists disagreed. Many confused the concept of
equivalents. His faculty at Harvard struggled with the concept.
The Committee on College-Entrance Requirements
A new committee was formed as a result of the report published by The
Committee of Ten. The Committee on College-Entrance Requirements,
established by the National Education Association established a common
framework for college entrance. They proposed a common unit that was later
referred to as a Carnegie unit (after the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement
of Teaching) defined as a course of five periods each week for one academic year
(Ravitch, 1995, p. 39). The Carnegie Unit remained in place for almost 100 years
as the standard of educational measurement in the United States.
The College Board
The College Board was also established as a result of The Committee of Ten.
The chairman, Charles W. Eliot, sponsored the work to fulfill his vision of
uniformity of standards and flexibility of programs. The standards for the
examination in nine content areas were established by standards set by the
recognized professional organization of each subject. A uniform exam assisted
secondary schools in preparing students for multiple colleges while preserving the
autonomy of each college to establish entrance criteria.
Each year secondary school teachers and college-level educators would meet
in New York to read the examinations. This meeting would result in setting
performance standards. The standards would be revised yearly and previous exams
would be available to secondary schools for the purpose of preparing students
The Committee of Ten championed high academic standards for all students.
The public never accepted that all students should receive the same educational
experience. Educators rejected recommendations by The Committee of Ten
because of the implications of college dominion over secondary school curriculum.
The National Education Association sponsored a Commission on the
Reorganization of Secondary Education (CRSE) that addressed concerns of high
academic standards for all students. Their report in 1918 focused upon the utility
The CRSE report stated the main objectives of education which were health,
citizenship, command of fundamental processes, worthy home-membership,
vocation, worthy use of leisure and ethical character (CRSE, 1918). Differentiated
curricula were endorsed as the efficient model to educate larger numbers of
children and the influx of non-English speaking immigrants. Schools would make
decisions about placement into the curricular path. Efficiency was the goal to
produce citizens able to immediately function in a society where few needed
advanced skills (Sizer, 1964, p. 209-71).
Although The Committee of Ten and the CRSE report were separated by
twenty-five years, there is often confusion about the goals of each. Both
championed the education of children to fulfill the needs of a democratic society.
Both groups identified the needs of children and made recommendations to meet
those needs. The results were diametrically opposed.
component would return in the 2005/6 school year resulting in a possible 2400
score instead of the current maximum of 1600.
The College Board continued to refine the exam and offered Brigham a
permanent position in 1930. The College Board tested linguistic power and
mathematical reasoning free of any curriculum. Secondary schools, for the first
time in U.S. history, were free to teach any curriculum. The College Board
developed advanced placement exams to support academic standards in content
areas. The SAT became the guardian of standards in the 1960*s and 70s (Ravitch,
The Progressive Movement
The United States had become the dominant industrial economy of the
world by 1890 (Berube, 1994, p.2). The progressive movement reflected the
expansive thinking of an affluent society ready for social change. Between 1890
and 1907 the population of the United States increased by almost a third with over
18 million European immigrants coming with hopes of sharing the wealth
(Cashman, 1988, p.20).
John Dewey opened a laboratory school at the University of Chicago in
1896 to promote a child-centered democratic education (Cremin, 1961; Tanner,
1997). Deweys ideas about education were tested through research on how
children constructed knowledge and how pedagogy coalesced with childrens ways
of knowing (McWilliams, dissertation, 2001). As a result of Dewey's
observations and research, he published How We Think (Dewey, 1910/1997).
Progressive education changed American education. Centrists such as
historian Lawrence Cremin thought the influences of the progressive period were
beneficial (Berube, 1994, p. 26). Diane Ravitch, a neoconservative critic, thought
Deweys vision was incorporated into private schools for the elite but a different
vision of progressive schools was implemented in urban public schools (Ravitch,
2000, p. 63). The leftist revisionist historians reflected that it was not what
progressive education accomplished so much as what it did not accomplish
(Berube, 1994). The harshest criticism came from the conservative right. Critics in
the 1940s and 1950s thought progressive education subverted American
education by not teaching basic skills in favor of more child-centered creative
Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, creator of the atomic submarine,
published a series of speeches in 1959, Education and Freedom, which criticized
progressive education as emphasizing life adjustment and not rigorous content
subjects such as algebra, French or physics (Rickover, 1959, p. 136). Rickover
stated that America could no longer allow education (to) be left to the
professional educators. Similar to the later report, A Nation at Risk, Admiral
Rickovers attack of the then current education took on the tone of strategic
importance that struck at the core of democracy. The understood message for both
was that a nation that could not maintain premier educational status would no
longer maintain world dominance. The 1950s marked the end of Progressive
Education Association. Today, this approach to learning and teaching is found
among devotees of Pragmatism (or Experimentalism) and Constructivists.
The Eight-Year Study
The Progressive Education Association began the Eight-Year Study in
1932. Thirty schools in the U.S. participated in an experiment designed to test the
assumption of The Committee of Ten that there was only one appropriate
curriculum for the nation's high schools. The thirty schools were carefully matched
into three groups of ten to distribute all the measurable variables. The research was
designed by Ralph Tyler. Group I schools followed the traditional program
endorsed by The Committee of Ten. Group II schools followed a somewhat
experiential program. Group HI schools were encouraged to follow a highly
experiential curriculum. Teachers in Group HI were permitted to develop their
own unique curriculum. Higher education participated by agreeing to recognize the
varied course offerings in this experiment. The study was initiated because the
Progressivists thought the traditional fixed curriculum that had been suggested by
The Committee of Ten confined students. By the early 1930s, curriculum
reformers blamed college admissions for impeding change in course offerings.
The results of the Eight-Year Study were published in a five-volume set in
1942. 2,108 graduates were followed through college. The graduates of the three
groups were compared. The students in Group II and especially Group III had
slightly higher grades, specialized in the same fields as traditional students, had
slightly more honors, were more often judged to have clear ideas concerning the
meaning of education and demonstrated a higher degree of resourcefulness in
meeting new situations.
Progressive Education claimed the results a resounding victory for
progressive curricula over the traditional offering. It was clear that curriculum
could vary widely and still produce competitive college-bound students
(Progressive Education Association, 1942, Chamberlain, D., 1942).
The Committee of Ten encouraged actively engaged students conducting
scientific experiments as well as relevant math problems. The Committee of Ten
did suggest a balance across several disciplines but most favored deep studies to
develop habits of mind for all students. Through interpretation by school districts
over several decades, it became a rigid and fixed curriculum that stifled the
infusion of new ideas. The significance of The Eight-Year Study was to validate
curriculum diversity instead of a fixed program of study.
The Eight-Year Study remains the most exhaustive research study ever
conducted in American education. Unfortunately, its findings were overshadowed
by Americas involvement in World War II because the results were published in
1942. Its significance has been lost among todays proponents of standards-based
education- a movement whose roots are decisively connected with Charles Eliots
The Committee of Ten.
Sputnik Era as Educational Reform
The strategic need for advanced math, science, and engineering skills
riveted the nation when the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957, at the height of the
Cold War. Public outcry for American students to be able to compete with the
seemingly more advanced Russians paved the way for a massive influx of public
and private funding of science, math and technology courses (R. Bybee, H.
Heikkinen, P. Kuerbis, personal communication).
Examination of the Sputnik era reform revealed issues pertinent to
standards-based reform that followed three decades later.
1. Replacement of school science and mathematics programs is
difficult at best, and probably impossible. Although leaders in the
Sputnik era used terms like revision and reform the intention
was to replace school science and mathematics programs. Their
zeal and confidence was great. In some sense they approached the
reform as a field of dreams. That is, if they built good
curriculum materials then science teachers would adopt them, thus
replacing traditional programs. Such an approach, however,
confronts pervasive institutional resistance, raises the personal
concerns of teachers, and alarms the public. The need to
understand what happened in the Sputnik era contributed to
research on curriculum implementation, concerns of teachers, and
2. The lesson here is the importance of using our knowledge about
educational change. Not only are new programs important, other
components of the educational system must themselves change
and provide implementation of educational innovations. Those
components include peer teachers, administration, school boards,
the community, and a variety of local, state, and national policies.
3. Reluctance of teachers increases as the innovations vary from
current programs and they lack political, social, and educational
support. Teachers had difficulty with the content and pedagogy of
new programs such as PSSC, BSCS, CHEM Study. SCIS, and
ESS. Lacking educational support within their system and
experiencing political criticism from outside education, they
sought security by staying with or returning to traditional
4. The educational lesson here centers on the importance of both
initial and ongoing professional development and support for the
new programs and practices. In addition, educational reformers
have to recognize that changes in social and political forces have
an effect on school programs.
5. Exclusion of those in the larger science and mathematics
community education community, e.g., teacher educators, science
education researchers, and the public contributed to the slow
acceptance and implementation of the programs, reduced
understanding by those entering the profession, and afforded less
than adequate professional development for teachers in the
6. Here we learned to involve more than teachers. Education is a
system consisting of many different components. One important
component consists of those who have some responsibility for
teacher preparation, workshops and professional development, and
the implementation of school science and mathematics programs.
It is best to work from a perspective that attempts to unify and
coordinate efforts among teachers, educators, and scientists all of
whom have strengths and weaknesses in their respective
contribution to reform efforts.
7. Realities of state and local school districts went unrecognized.
Support from federal agencies and national foundations freed
developers from the political and educational constraints of state
and local agencies and the power and influence of commercial
8. This lesson directs attention to a broader, more systemic view of
education, one that includes a variety of policies. One view of
education suggests it involve policies, programs, and practices.
Usually, individuals, organizations, and agencies contribute in
various ways in the formulation of policy, development of
programs, or the implementation of practices; however, there must
be coordination and consistency among the various efforts.
Designing and developing new programs, such as we did in the
Sputnik era, without attending to a larger educational context to
support the programs and changing classroom practices to align
with the innovative program surely marginalizes the success of the
9. Restricting initiatives to curriculum for specific groups of
students, i.e., science and mathematically prone and college-bound
students resulted in criticism of Sputnik era reforms as
inappropriate for other students such as the average and the
disadvantaged. To the degree school systems implemented the
new programs teachers found that the materials were inappropriate
for some populations of students and too difficult for others.
Restricting policies or targeting programs opens the door to
criticism on grounds of equity. Proposing initiatives for ALL
students also often results in criticism from both those who
maintain there is a need for a specific program for those inclined
toward science and mathematics and those who argue that
programs for all discriminate against the disadvantaged.
10. Examining the nature and lessons of Sputnik era reforms, as well
as those that came before and after, clearly demonstrates that
educational reforms differ. Although this may seem obvious, we
have not always paid attention to some of the common themes and
general lessons that may benefit the steady work of improving
science, mathematics, and technology education. Stated succinctly,
those lessons are: use what we know about educational change;
include all the key players in the educational community; align
policies, programs, and practices with the stated purposes of
education; work on improving education for all students; and,
attend to the support and continuous professional development of
classroom teachers, since they are the most essential resource in
the system of science and mathematics education.
Rodger Bybee, Chair
National Research Council Science Standards Working Committee
Symposium: Reflecting on Sputnik: Linking the Past, Present, and Future of
Educational Reform, 1997
Sputnik era reforms were eventually abandoned. Many remember the
Sputnik era as a time that enriched advanced science and math for the most able
students and left many behind (R. Bybee, H. Heikkinen, P. Kuerbis, personal
The Sixties and the Civil Rights Movement
The egalitarian political climate of the sixties clashed with the
philosophy of teaching to the best and brightest of the Sputnik era reform. During
the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968), Martin Luther King, Jr. had a clear
educational message. Like Dewey, he thought education was an essential part of
social reconstruction. He believed in integrated education and he advocated
remedies similar to the progressive movement.
Brown v. Topeka Board of Education was the Supreme Court ruling that
outlawed segregated schools in 1954 (Kluger, 1976, p. 256). This decision
reversed Plessy v. Ferguson that legalized separate but equal in 1896 (Kluger,
1976, p. 704). Forty percent of public school students attended segregated schools
at that time (Ravitch, 1983, p. 121). School funding was dramatically less for
schools teaching black children as compared with schools that taught white
children. Huge disparities in pay for teachers were based on which school they
taught even in the same district. Thurgood Marshall argued many challenges
against segregation as the chief attorney for the Legal and Defense Fund. The
Brown decision was the first time the Supreme Court based a major constitutional
case on sociological and psychological evidence instead of legal precedent
(Berube, 1994, p. 55).
The Sixties and Course-taking Patterns
The sixties produced students willing to question authority including
institutions of higher education. College students insisted upon relaxing of college
entrance exams and more flexibility in course-taking patterns. Clifford Adelman of
the U.S. Department of Education analyzed high school transcripts from 1964 to
1981 and concluded that students were spending less time in academic courses and
that the curriculum had become diffused and fragmented. He also claimed the
general track became the largest with 42.5% of the students in the late 1970s
compared to 12% in the late 1960s (Ravitch, 1995). Students not planning to
attend college opted for minimal standards for graduation while students preparing
for selective colleges opted for the most rigorous courses offered.
The Scholastic Aptitude Test as an
Indicator of Student Achievement
In 1963, the SAT scores began what was popularly interpreted as a twenty-
year decline. In 1976, the College Board put together a group to look at the then
14-year decline. The former Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz and former
Commissioner of Education Harold Howe headed the group (Bracey, 1997). The
Wirtz panel report, On Further Examination (The College Board, 1977) identified
as the major cause of SAT score decline as an increase in women, minorities and
students with lower grade point averages who were now aspiring to a college
education. Engineers at Sandia National Laboratories (1991) reached a similar
conclusion. In short, there was no decline. Instead, there was an increase in the
numbers of students taking the SAT, which automatically lowered the aggregate
A Nation at Risk
Even with strong evidence to the contrary, the authors of A Nation at Risk
wrote simplistically, The College Boards Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT)
demonstrate a virtually unbroken decline from 1963 to 1980. The demand for
educational standards became strong as a presumed strategic weakness was
Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in
commerce, industry, science and technological innovation is being
overtaken by competitors throughout the world......We report to the
American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our
schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to
the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational
foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of
mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people...
If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on
America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we
might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have
allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains
in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. ...
We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral
Our society and its educational institutions seem to have lost
sight of the basic purposes of schooling...
It is by our willingness to take up the challenge, and our resolve
to see it through, that Americas place in the world will either be
secured or forfeited...
-A Nation at Risk, April, 1983
This inflammatory document went on to recommend that schools, colleges
and universities adopt more rigorous and measurable standards. Further, it was
recommended that standardized tests be administered at major transition points
from one level of schooling to another.
The call for recognizable and measurable standards was heard and understood
by many educators. At this time, Outcome-Based Education (OBE) was struggling
under the criticism of inappropriate and unmeasurable behavioral standards.
Parents voiced concerns that many OBE standards were value-laden and not
necessarily shared values in the community. OBE served to build capacity in the
education community by establishing written standards. When standards-based
education emerged, some communities just changed their OBE to SBE without
altering the language.
In 1989, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics released
Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 1989).
Standards had been used in educational documents but this was the first formal
introduction for practicing educators. The NCTM standards were created within
the organization as a document to guide educators as to the best classroom
practices to enhance mathematical reasoning and to broaden the understanding of
mathematical thinking. Math standards became common lexicon for K-12
educators in the early 1990s.
I think we have to understand that none of the reforms that are
goal centered or standard centered in science would have been possible
if NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) had not
moved forward in the late eighties to establish math standards. I think
that encouraged the science community but I cant imagine the science
community moving first. They really needed the model of the math
work first. Im not sure that is properly credited these days.
In 1989, the National Governor's Association held an educational
summit in Charlottesville, Virginia, attended by President Bush. All fifty
governors were present (ECS) and chaired by then Governor Bill Clinton of
Arkansas. From this meeting, six national educational goals emerged. In 1994,
Congress adopted the six goals and expanded the number to eight, underscoring
the critical roles that teachers and parents play in improving the nations education
performance (Goals 2000, 1994, p. 12). The eight goals adopted by Congress
Goal 1: Ready to Learn
By the year 2000, all children in America will start school ready to learn.
Goal 2: School Completion
By the year 2000, the high school graduation rate will increase to at least
Goal 3: Student Achievement and Citizenship
By the year 2000, all students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having
demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter including
English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government,
economics, arts, history, and geography, and every school in America
will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be
prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive
employment in our Nations modern economy.
Goal 4: Teacher Education and Professional Development
By the year 2000, the Nations teaching force will have access to programs
for the continued improvement of their professional skills and the
opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to instruct and
prepare all American students for the next century.
Goal 5: Mathematics and Science
By the year 2000, United States students will be first in the world in
mathematics and science achievement
Goal 6: Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning
By the year 2000, every adult American will be literate and possess the
knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and
exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
Goal 7: Safe, Disciplined, and Alcohol-and Drug-free Schools
By the year 2000, every school in the United States will be free of drugs,
violence, and the unauthorized presence of firearms and alcohol and will
offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning
Goal 8: Parental Participation
By the year 2000, every school will promote partnerships that will increase
parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional,
and academic growth of children.
In the next administration, President Clinton endorsed the National
Education Goals and added two more (Goal 7 and 8) changing the name to Goals
2000, Educate America Act in 1994. President Clinton had built expertise in the
area of standards-based education while serving on the Governors Education
Committee. Standards-based education has been sustainable largely due to
bipartisan support spanning changing party leadership.
The national goals had to be broad and reasonable statements in order to be
compatible with a local control of education, which is historically a states right.
To educators, the goals appeared naive and impossible to reach. To become first in
the world in math and science achievement by the year 2000 was simply not
attainable given the enormous task with few new resources.
Into the swirling mix of standards and National Education Goals emerged
the concept of systemic reform. During the 1980s, systemic reform ideas began to
circulate (Fuhrman, 1992, p. 1-2). Wayne Martin, Director of Assessment,
Colorado Department of Education, described systemic change of education in
terms of retrofitting the airplane while in flight. According to Fuhrman, systemic
reform takes on one of two meanings. The first is the comprehensive change that is
focused on many aspects of the system. The second meaning stresses policy
integration, coordination or coherence around a clear set of outcomes. Systemic
change was embraced in the early nineties as the only way for educational reforms
to have widespread impact. Systemic change was searching for a clear set of
outcomes in which policy would align. Content standards became the alignment
tool for the new aircraft.
The NCTM standards document was an internal reform developed by a
professional organization to meet identified needs within the educational
community of math teachers. Wisely, the process of development and adoption
included public participation. Given that the National Goals clearly stated
American students would be first in math and science achievement by 2000, and
the world-class math standards were in place, science standards needed to be
developed. Math standards were relatively straightforward because mathematics is
one content area in K-12 and institutions of higher education have one department
on campus labeled Mathematics. There are no science departments on campus.
There are chemistry, biology, physics, geology, etc., departments and as many
professional organizations representing the different science disciplines.
I think it (reason why math standards were developed) was the same
general concerns we have shared for a long time. Math had been
reduced to a set of skills, it was a procedural kind of understanding kids
were getting in math, there was no understanding as to why these things
worked. There was no sense that people could think mathematically,
that there was a way of approaching problems. I think it was the same
general concerns that we have shared for a long time. Math had been
reduced to a set of skills, it was a procedural kind of understanding kids
were getting in math, there was no understanding as to why these things
worked. There was no sense that people could think mathematically,
that there was a way of approaching problems that was mathematical,
and so on.
I think that was the math communitys response to the calls that started
with A Nation at Risk and a lot of national studies that came after that. I
think math is easier in many ways to deal with because, first of all,
nobody argues that it is not a basic: reading, writing and arithmetic.
Math was easier to promote because nobody challenged the centrality of
that to everybodys education. Also, it turns out, that at universities
there is a department called mathematics. The people who would be
involved intellectually were already networked and talking to each
other. There isnt a building or department called science, and so the
science effort was wired for problems right from the beginning because
of turf, intellectual turf. How many expectations should we have in earth
and space science as compared to chemistry or physics? What is our fair
share within our discipline? We can talk about that later, but I think
territoriality within the science was a real problem from the beginning
and remains that way. Mainly, I think, because universities arent
organized that way.
The fact that the sciences could get together at all, I thought, was really
remarkable. The way was paved by math, but it certainly wasnt as easy
as the way the math community made it seem. We know there are
differences even there- Saxon math versus standards-based math. The
math work had to start first.
The Science Standards
Congress set aside money to develop standards in science. Several
organizations lobbied for the privilege to develop the science standards. The
United States Department of Education deliberated on which organization would
be selected for this task. The two primary competitors were NSTA (National
Science Teachers Association) and AAAS (American Association for the
Advancement of Science). NSTA had initiated a standards-like document, The
Content Core (NSTA, 1992), which was billed as a Scope, Sequence and
Coordination Project (Collins, 1998). NSTA was the science sister of NCTM. Both
were the primary professional organization for educators of science and math,
respectively. The second competitor for the science standards was AAAS. Project
2061 (named for the year Halleys Comet returns to Earths sky) was the document
of AAAS to clarify need for learning goals in science. From this document,
Science for All Americans was published in 1989. In this publication, AAAS
defined what every American should know in order to be scientifically literate.
In addition to AAAS and NSTA, other professional organizations such as
the American Chemical Society and private curricular development corporations
such as Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS), Educational Development
Corporation (EDC), Lawrence Hall of Science and the Technical Education
Resource Center (TERC) began to produce classroom materials that emphasized
scientific inquiry or hands-on exploration (Collins, 1998, p. 712). The question
was which group would be granted the right by Congress to develop the science
In the spring of 1991, Bill Aldridge, executive director of NSTA,
reflecting an unanimous vote of the NSTA Board, wrote to the president of
the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) with its operating arm, the
National Research Council (NRC), asking that organization to coordinate the
development of the science education standards (Collins, 1998, p.715). In
a visionary move, the National Research Council (NRC), an agency of the
National Academy of Science was given the charge of developing the
science standards in the fall of 1991.
The NRC was organized by the National Academy of Science in
1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with
the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the
federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies
determined by the academy, the Council has become the principal
operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the
National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the
government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities.
The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute
-Mission Statement of the National Research Council
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-
perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and
engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and
technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority
of the charter granted to it by Congress in 1863, the Academy has a
mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific
and technical matters.
-Mission statement of the National Academy of Science
The NRC and NAS gave instant recognition and prestige to the
goal of developing what every American student should know and be able to do in
science. The project began with the appointment of a member of the NAS as chair
and the selection of a director employed by the NRC. Dr. James Ebert, Vice
President of the National Academy of Sciences, was named Chair of the National
Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment (NCSESA) (NRC,
Oct., 1992 draft). The project leadership and staff were identified and a design for
the project to include both the development of standards for science curriculum,
teaching, and assessment and a consensus-building process was initiated (Collins,
1998, p. 717.). Having learned lessons from the NCTM and AAAS, the NRC put
together a diverse group of leaders from higher education, K-12 educators,
scientists, and engineers.
In 1992, a Chairs Advisory Committee was formed chaired by Richard D.
Klauser, National Institute of Health. In this group there were representatives from
the National Science Teachers Association, National Association of Biology
Teachers, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, American Association for
the Advancement of Science, Project 2061, New Standards Project, American
Association of Physics Teachers, American Chemical Society and a variety of
other organizations. All were either current or former executive directors or
significant leaders of their respective organization (National Science Education
Standards, 1996, p. 248-9). The advisory committee was an attempt to attain
consensus about science education standards. This was the group to provide
mediation for tensions and decision making through almost monthly meetings
(Collins, 1998, p. 717).
The process for choosing the working group members was complex. By
design, at least one third of the members of each working committee were
practicing classroom teachers, recognized for excellence and representing different
science disciplines, grade levels, areas of the country and school settings. The
working committees also included expertise related to the mission of the group. By
the spring of 1992, a process and personnel were in place to begin developing
national science education standards (Collins, 1996, p. 717).
The NRC formed three working groups:
The Working Group on Science Content Standards- 18 members
The Working Group on Science Teaching Standards- 17 members
The Working Group on Science Assessment Standards- 17 members
(The working Group on Science Content standards was originally called the
Working Group on Science Curriculum Standards) (NRC, October, 1991, Draft).
The three working groups totaled fifty-two members. Five from Colorado
were clustered in the content standards group. They were:
Rodger Bybee, Chair of Working Group on Content Standards, Henry Heikkinen,
original Chair of Working Group on Content Standards, Paul Kuerbis, Harold
Pratt, former President of NSTA, and Pat Smith, a retired high school teacher.
There were complaints from states not represented; however, the Colorado
contingency quickly became leaders in the standards-writing process. In addition,
there were five members of the National Science Education Standards
Development team and two were from Colorado, Rodger Bybee and Harold Pratt.
Three periods can be identified in the development of the national
science standards: exploration, writing and formal public review. Exploration
began in the summer of 1992 and continued through the summer of 1993.
Exploration occurred through working group meetings, release of discussion
documents for public reaction and presentations (Collins, 1996, p. 718).
Concerns about the Concept of Standards-Based Education
In 2003, under Colorado SB 154, all schools of education in Colorado, both
public and private were required to teach emergent teachers how to teach to the
Colorado standards. One professor (Shanklin, personal communication) remarked
that graduate students are not questioning the very basis of standards-based
education. They accept the fact that Colorado requires all students be taught
specifically to the standards.
Standards-based education, for the first time in American history, requires all
students to be taught specifically defined material. As Henry Heikkinen stated,
standards get to the very core of what we value in education. It is impossible to
capture all values in any educational belief system. Some are concerned that
standards-based education does not permit dissent.
As Susan Ohanian asserts, ...that is a real problem with literary list
determinists and other Standardises. People reading the lists figure if they know
the items, well then the list must be pretty dam good. ... And we cant keep
making the lists of necessary knowledge longer and longer. Something has to go.
Ohanian is concerned that standardized curriculum gives non-standard kids no
place to go. The people designing ideal curriculum standards have the notion that
knowledge is pure, unrelated to the knowledge seeker. This, of course, is
nonsense. (1999, Ohanian, One Size Fits Few: the Folly of Educational
Lorrie Shepard, Education Dean at the University of Colorado Boulder, has
criticized standards-based education as corrupted curriculum in the effort to raise
school scores on high-stakes state assessments. In Colorado, all public school
students must take the state assessment, the CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment
Program). School scores statewide are reported in the newspapers and on the
Colorado Department of Education website. In an effort to improve student and
school scores, the poorest-performing schools often institute an intensive
reading/writing and math curriculum at the elementary school level. Science,
social studies, art, music, field trips and even recess are eliminated in the effort to
increase test performance (Taylor, CSE Technical Report 588, 2003). Mary
Gromko corroborates this trend in Colorado Springs District 11. Science at the
elementary school level has been eliminated in many of the schools in her district
and the principals condone this as a means to raise scores that are reported by the
CSAP. Henry Heikkinen stated that right or wrong it is human nature to want to
survive. What is tested will be taught.
No Child Left Behind requires science to be tested at the state level by 2007
once in K-5, once in 6-8, and once in 9-12. Colorado currently tests science only at
grade 8. Elementary school principals are looking into reintroducing science in
2005 in order to begin preparation of students in 2007. Principals are highly
motivated as the science scores will be aggregated into the School Accountability
Report (SAR) which gives a score to the school that is published in the local
Lorrie Shepards research found that teachers perceived standards to have a
greater impact of improving instruction than did testing. Data indicated that
attention to the CSAP actually shifted instruction away from science and social
studies, increased time spent on format practice and lowered faculty morale
(Taylor, CSE Technical Report 588, 2003).
Many large districts in Colorado are scripting daily lessons that must be
followed. This trend is being confirmed in several states. Some administrators of
these large districts are evaluating teachers by how well their students tested on
district and state assessments. Some districts are using CSAP scores solely to
determine the ability of a student to move to the next grade. It is clearly stated by
the Colorado Department of Education that the CSAP should not be used for
purposes other than providing one indicator of how well a student has met the
Political Implications and the Allocation
of Monetary Resources
The political implications of standards-based education have only begun to be
determined. Henry Heikkinen likened the writing of standards to giving the
legislators a weapon that has been used irresponsibly. Mandating assessments at
specific grade levels has produced a whole industry of private providers offering
assistance to districts on ways to improve and understand CSAP. The Colorado
Department of Education has published a large volume of work outlining the
various products being used in Colorado by district. Teachers have expressed
dismay that their supply budgets have dwindled to almost nothing as budgets for
increasing test scores are increased to millions of dollars. One high school reduced
the chemistry supply budget from $250 per class per semester to $30 per class per
semester leaving the teacher to remark that perhaps he could purchase paper
towels but not glassware or chemicals. Schools are desperately attempting to
increase CSAP scores at the expense of instructional budgets.
In the mid-nineties Congress considered a bill to establish opportunity to learn
(OTL) standards. It was quietly abandoned, as the costs were determined. It was
feared that OTL standards would become as expensive as the Americans with
Disabilities Act. OTL has become the heart of many criticisms of standards.
Providing the necessary resources for all children to attain the standards has
been historically unattainable (Cuban, 1993). The standards are specific about
certain experiences all children should have at the elementary school level. Many
schools are unable to provide students with the learning experiences demanded by
the standards (Cross, 1997). In Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozal documents the
dismal state of many urban schools. Success is more challenging in schools in
disrepair. The physical setting influences student achievement (Darling-Hammond,
1999). One-third of American schools need extensive repair or replacement.
Fourteen million students attend these schools (General Accounting Office, 1995).
Equity of opportunity to learn has been presented as a reason to have equal
standards for all children. Some argue that standards widen the inequities. The
American Federation of Teachers (AFT, 1998) found that only 20 states were
providing safety nets for students failing to meet the standards, ...standards-based
education becomes a tool to wreak havoc on an educational system already under
duress. (Fuhrman, 1994, p.4). Susan Ohanian has repeatedly discussed individual
students to showcase the fact that many students cannot be expected to learn the
standards on the specified timetable but are fully capable of learning other
valuable skills adapted to their unique personalities. The broad strokes of
standards-based education do not adapt to a significant number of students
Even within the science content standards, it is acknowledged that students
pursuing advanced college work in a field of science must master more standards
than other students. The public in the review process accepted differentiating
expectations based upon future studies.
No Child Left Behind
President Bush signed into law No Child Left Behind Act of2001 (Public Law
107-110) in January 2002. This enormous educational law was unprecedented in
its scope and power. It includes mandates for assessments, the measurement of
AYP (adequate yearly progress), defining and requiring highly qualified teachers,
emphasis on math, science and literacy with grants for each state as well as many
other areas of impact. At the heart of NCLB is the tie to content standards. AYP
measures how many students are proficient in the content standards. Some states
are demanding changes in the law because of perceived inequities in how AYP is
calculated. Colorado set the cut score for proficient much higher than Texas.
Federal law prohibits adjusting cut scores. NCLB includes provisions to penalize
states that fail to demonstrate adequate yearly progress. The full effect of the
mandates will take years to unfold as the timeline stretches into several years.
Common Public Misconceptions about
the State of Education in America
Our best students are as well prepared as any students in the world. The
problem with international comparisons is that all of our students are aggregated.
The difference between scores in Minnesota and Mississippi is larger than the
highest and lowest performing countries. Aggregating all student scores results in
a misconception about how well our students perform (H. Heikkinen, personal
communication). Top tier colleges turn away thousands of brilliant young students.
Harvard reports that only 14% of students applying with perfect SAT scores are
accepted. Far too many exceptionally qualified American students compete for the
same schools. Admission officers report that far more qualified students are denied
admission than are accepted.
The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on Americas Public
Schools (Berliner and Biddle, 1997) documents the crisis in public schools as the
deliberate product of corporate misinformation. They assert that schools are as
successful today as they have been historically.
A Nation at Risk (1983), developed by the National Commission on
Excellence in Education, is often cited as the catalyst for public demand for better
schools. Nothing in the report was based on reliable data. Yet, it captured the
imagination of the public with inflammatory remarks about failing schools causing
vague threats to our national security.
Gerald Bracey began his rise to national attention while working for Cherry
Creek School District in Colorado. Cherry Creek is one of the more affluent
suburban school districts in Colorado. Bracey refuted much of the rhetoric about
failing schools with hard data. The Truth About Americas Schools: The Bracey
Reports 1991-1997 (Phi Delta Kappan, 1997) were published each October in Phi
Delta Kappan. He factually presents data describing the challenging students
schools must now educate. He presents evidence that schools are surprisingly
The system engineers at Sandia National Laboratory support Braceys claims.
Their 1991 analysis of student achievement documented clear evidence that
schools were successful contrary to the image presented in A Nation at Risk.
Internal politics suppressed the report although copies are shared secretly among
researchers (Wirsing, Personal Communication). A much-watered down version of
the Sandia Report was finally published in the June 1993 issue of the Journal of
Educational Researcher. By that time the highly-politicized standards had been
adopted in many states, including Colorado.
With the hope of increasing the knowledge base to sustain educational
reform, Congress requested the Office of Educational Research and Improvement
(OERI) to investigate educational reform in 1991. Systemic education reform was
one of twelve studies OERI identified and funded. The Policy Center of the
Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) and the National Center for
Research on Teacher Learning (NCRTL) were awarded the contract to conduct the
Systemic Reform study (Systemic Reform, U.S. Dept of Education, 1996). CPRE
is a consortium of six research institutions dedicated to improve the quality of
schools. Members are Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, The
University of Southern California, Harvard University, Michigan State University,
Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Fuhrman, 1992).
The Systemic Reform study was conducted in three stages. The first
stage reviewed the emerging literature on systemic reform and commissioned four
papers. Policy linkages between curricular reforms and teacher learning were the
highest priority. This led to a national two-day conference, which was used to
refine the second and third stage of the study. In the second stage, twelve
reforming schools became the target of intensive case studies. The schools were
located in six school districts in the states of California, Michigan and Vermont.
The third stage included state level case studies and the capacity of all levels of the
system to support educational reform.
Results of this intensive study of systemic reform included ten lessons if
a standards-based education approach was to be used for instructional
1. Coherence among the elements of state education policy seems to
facilitate reform in districts and schools.
2. Communication about the reform agenda cannot be accomplished
just from the center. Teachers and administrators who were
knowledgeable about the reform goals were those who were
involved in using them.
3. It takes time for educators to learn new content and approaches and
for institutions to change to facilitate new instruction.
4. The goals of the reform may need to strike a balance between
current and desired practice, between old and new ways.
5. Deliberate, consistent, and persuasive strategies to ensure equity
are necessary if the reforms are to be for all students.
6. Capacity building efforts must take into account the organizational
and systemic needs for capacity as well as the needs of individuals
within the various units, and must address the multiple dimensions
of both individual and organizational capacity.
7. Consistency, alignment and coherence can provide opportunities
for learning throughout the system, but states and school districts
must design and use these systemic tools strategically to increase
their effectiveness for capacity building.
8. Capacity-building strategies need to recognize that there are
multiple levels for involvement of both teachers and
9. Capacity building strategies and activities, like all other aspects of
reform, must pay attention to diversity.
10. Stakeholders and supporters outside the system must also learn and
change if the reforms are to be successful.
-Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1996
The emergent three components that define systemic change are first, the
promotion of ambitious student outcomes for all students; second, alignment of
policy approaches and the actions of various policy institutions to promote such
outcomes; and third, restructuring the governance system to support improved
achievement (U.S. Dept, of Ed., 1996).
Historical Emergence of Systemic Reform
The belief that you cannot change one or two parts of a system and expect
system change began to shape educational policy in the 1980s as a new lens to the
perceived failures of previous educational reforms. System thinking was not new.
Early progressive reforms reflected a belief in systems (Ravitch [Ed.], Brookings
Institution, 1995). Sizer stated that the progressive reforms attempted to create
order out of disorder with the creation of systems.
During the post-Sputnik educational reform of science, many curricular
projects were developed that were rigorous but not promoted as the correct way to
teach a topic. The federal government funded two physics programs, PS SC and
Project Physics. Teachers could choose either coherent program or create their
own. Rigor but not one rigor (Sizer, 1995, Bybee, NAS, 1997).
Reforms of the 1980s did not have a significant effect on the quality of
education in the 100,000 public schools in the nation. The creators of systemic
reform argued that a chaotic multi-layered and fragmented educational governance
system has spawned mediocre and conservative curricula and instruction in
schools (Smith, ODay, 1990). It was suggested that states would design and
orchestrate the implementation of a coherent instructional system with the
cornerstone featuring a set of challenging and progressive frameworks. The
frameworks, it was suggested, would be a collaboration of master teachers, subject
matter specialists, and other key members of the state community. The frameworks
would provide a substantive structure for teacher professional development and
student assessment (Smith et ah, 1990).
In 1986, the National Governors Association released a report Time for
Results. Typical of politically generated reforms, it lacked educational
cohesiveness of philosophical grounding. John Goodlad (1992) responded that it
was seven branches in search of a trunk. The Consortium for Policy Research in
Education (CPRE) reviewed educational reforms in the 1980s and found lack of
coherence with multi-level fragmented governance structure and the tendency to
address each problem in education with a distinct special program (Fuhrman,
1992). Marshall Smith and Jennifer ODay (1990, p. 254) conceptualized systemic
reform, which would pair ambitious, coordinated state policies with restructured
governance. The National Governors Association embraced this concept. The
content standards became the answer to John Goodlads stated need for a trunk
for the seven branches.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) decided to
raise the bar for students by broadening the understanding of mathematics because
it had been diminished to procedural knowledge (Heikkinen, personal
communication). In the mid-1980s, the NCTM began an internal review of
defining mathematics. The process was broad-based and was inclusive of teachers,
mathematicians and parents. In 1989, NCTM published Curriculum and
Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics.
This landmark publication answered the call for ambitious, common
goals of student learning and achievement and close coordination of policy
infrastructure around outcome expectations that was outlined in systemic reform.
The National Governors Association and Goals 2000 looked to the model created
by the NCTM standards to define what standards for each content area might look
like and to define what all American children should know and be able to do.
Four major challenges were identified in achieving systemic change:
1 Curricular challenges, including lack of curriculum alignment
across grade spans, a tension between presenting curriculum in a
disciplinary or interdisciplinary structure, and implementing
multiple curricular reforms at the elementary level.
2. Aligning curriculum taught and the assessments used to measure
students knowledge of that curriculum.
3. Linking teacher preparation and professional development with
other reform activities.
4. Creating the stable political environment necessary to nurture and
maintain state reform efforts.
(U.S. Dept of Education, 1996)
The quest for alignment between curricular goals, instruction and
assessment has roots in the 1970s (S. Cohen, 1987). During the 1970s and early
1980s, instructional alignment tended to take a more behaviorist, technical
approach. This behaviorist approach was mandated in South Carolina. It was
challenged and research disputed any advantage to the defining of behavioral
objectives for students in every lesson. This approach helped standards-based
education by preparing educators for specific statements about students. As
standards-based education began to identify components of systemic change,
alignment of all components became the goal to efficiently change the entire
ECS Embraces Systemic Change as Policy
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) is a nonprofit,
nationwide interstate compact formed in 1965 with the primary purpose of helping
governors, state legislators, state education officials and others to develop policies
to improve education. In 1992, ECS published Introduction to Systemic Education
Reform, Restructuring the Education System. The John D. and Catherine T.
MacArthur Foundation and the UNUM Life Insurance Company sponsored this
publication. Maine Governor John R. McKeman, Jr. was the ECS chairman at the
time of publication. This publication outlined three critical components of a
comprehensive reform plan: 1. Create a vision. 2. Develop and link policies and 3.
Lay out strategies for implementation.
Systemic change, according to ECS, begins with a clear sense of what
students should know and be able to do when they leave school. It must encompass
new, higher standards for everyone in the system. This language (... what students
should know and be able to do) became the definition of a content standard.
In order to develop and link policies, the ECS vision of systemic change
called for the creation of new standards for what students should know and be able
to do, development of frameworks to link curriculum to the standards,
development of assessments that are tied to the standards and reinforce the
curriculum, and the creation of environments that allow and support reform. In
addition, schools and districts must be held accountable for results, professional
development must support restructuring, the public must be involved, higher
education must be included, education finance must be restructured, incentives for
other support agencies to support the restructuring, and the state education agency
must restructure to support the reform.
The ECS strategies for implementation included business/community
coalitions, establishment of benchmarks for the measurement of progress, review
of existing policies, and public debate and communication. ECS stated that no
state had put all the elements together as of 1992 (Education Commission of the
New Standards Project and Systemic Reform
Responding to the need for a systemic reform approach, Lauren
Resnick and Mark Tucker launched the New Standards Project, which was
privately funded (Finn, The Brookings Institute, 1995). The purpose was to create
a voluntary national set of standards that would be linked with innovative
assessments and seamless with curriculum and instruction. The idea was to have
assessment itself be instructional and not time spent apart from learning. Several
states were selected to launch the New Standards Project, including Colorado. This
program with its beautiful samples such as the math aquarium problem assisted
teachers in Colorado to understand some of the newer ways envisioned of linking
assessment with instruction. Fran Berry was the Colorado leader for the New
Standards Project and she also served on CONNECT, the systemic initiative to
increase math and science participation of Colorado children.
Colorado was one of twenty-four states receiving a National Science
Foundation grant to implement systemic reform (Stotsky, 2000). It was widely
kinds of kids minds are destined to lead different kinds of adult lives. It
is taken for granted in adult society that we cannot all be generalists
skilled in every area of learning and mastery. Nevertheless, we apply
tremendous pressure on our children to be good at everything. Every
day they are expected to shine in math, reading, writing, speaking,
spelling, memorization, comprehension, problem solving, socialization,
athletics, and following verbal directions. Few children can master all of
these trades. And none of us adults can.
Mel Levine, M.D., Pediatrician
Director of the Center for Development and Learning
New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills announced before
statewide testing that he didnt think fourth-graders would do well on the high-
stakes test the state purchased from CTB/McGraw-Hill. He stated that subjecting
9-year olds to a test they cannot pass is one of the better strategies to change
things for the better. (Ohanian, 2000 p. 351).
During the three-week CSAP testing window, newspapers report stories of
students compelled to attend and test despite illness and personal issues. For
example, one boy was faced with attending the send-off ceremony for his father to
Iraq or miss one day of CSAP. He reported that if he missed the CSAP, his teacher
could be fired and so chose to not attend a significant event needlessly. The CSAP
does permit make-up testing but schools promote 100% attendance by a variety of
CSAP permit teachers to code why students could not test including too
stressed by the testing process. Teachers in stress are also reported. Teachers have
been put on administrative leave for inappropriate testing behaviors. Because of
the high-stakes nature of CSAP, some districts do not permit teachers to proctor
the tests to their own classes.
The testing culture has elicited unusual student, teacher, parent and
administrator behaviors. Dr. Mel Levine, pediatrician, has publicly stated that
students have been seriously wounded by testing. The stakes are becoming
higher each year. Those far removed from the classroom are making decisions
without experiencing the stress of working under these decisions. The mental
health of all the participants is yet another dimension that requires much more
Review of the Research Methods
The study of the original intentions of the writers of the science content
standards was a case study with some similarities to historical research.
.. .historical study can be uniquely rewarding for both the author and reader, in
that it takes as its subject matter any material evidence-written, printed, visual,
statistical and oral- within a given period that might illuminate its theme.
(McCulloch, 2000, p. 125). The complexity of historical research has been likened
to looking through a telescope backwards. Memories fade, documents are
destroyed and the context for understanding is changed by time and experience.
John Keeves commented that the fast changing configuration of
educational research requires understanding of humanistic research methods and
critical theory, policy research and evaluation in ways that changed between the
eighties and nineties (Keeves, Ed. 1997). This research question clearly falls
within humanistic research and is further defined as ...educational history that
provides understanding and an interpretive account of educational phenomena."
The boundaries of this research were chronological (1971-2001),
spatial (Colorado) and conceptual (science content standards and all that led to the
development). The complexity of the research question required political,
historical and educational contexts in which to reconstruct the setting in which the
writers of the science standards worked in 1992-94.
The sources available include interviews of the six Colorado education
leaders including the four selected by the National Research Council, a branch of
the National Academy of Sciences, to write the national science standards as part
of a team of seventeen. Two served on the smaller committee of five, which
provided oversight, and actual writing of the drafts. This group of four helped
shape the Colorado standards by providing early-unpublished drafts of the science
standards. The other two scholars led the drafting of the Colorado Model Content
Standards. Each of the six openly discussed the original intentions and their
Other original sources are unpublished documents from the Education
Commission of the States with regard to the policy position of the governors
during the time of standards writing and the push for public support and
understanding, unpublished personal files from those interviewed, legislative
actions around standards in Colorado and nationally, and interviews of other
Colorado state leaders.
The purpose of this case study research is to establish and illustrate the
significance of the beliefs held by the leaders who drafted the national and
Colorado science content standards. The published product (science content
standards) of these men and women has been used for many purposes. Their work
launched over a decade of curricular reform and continues to affect every
dimension of science instruction in the United States and has been scrutinized
abroad (Chalker, 1994). Clearly recording the original intentions will significantly
support further research as standards-based education continues to impact
classrooms for the next decade.
Research on the Development of the Content Standards
Few studies have been conducted on the actual development of the content
standards in any content area. Collins (1995) recorded her memory of the political
context in which the National Research Councils working committees came
together. Placier (1998) and Massed, Kirst, Hoppe (1997) researched the
development of standards. Massed et al. have conducted a series of case studies of
the standards process in several states. Placiers study was not content specific and
generalized over ad content areas.
Placier (1998) analyzed Missouris standards documenting the concerns some
had over the specificity of the content standards. Teachers made up most of the
writing committees and built in flexibility conducive to local control. Some
thought the standards were too vague with too much emphasis on process skids
and not enough on content. The constructivist approach was not wed received and
the standards were rewritten to reflect a more traditional document emphasizing
content knowledge. Teachers on the writing committee reported feeling their
professional integrity had been compromised.
Massed et al (1997) conducted a case study of standard setting in nine states
over five years. Massed reported standard writing required political compromise
like Missouris. Massed found the following similarities across the states:
1. A11 states called on teachers as writers.
2. A11 states revised the standards.
3. A11 states required more time than originally planned.
4. A11 states debated having content and pedagogy standards merged or
5. The standards drafted were fairly broad despite the request from school
districts to have more specific guidance at the state level (This was more
prevalent in states with assessments tied to the standards)
6. Equity was most often reported as a primary reason for the development of
standards even though most states have not provided pathways for
students to achieve the standards.
7. Special education teachers were usually not invited to participate in
standards writing. Massed reported that general education teachers seemed
to prefer a constructivist approach while special education teachers prefer
a more behaviorist approach.
Massed found many areas in the development of content standards setting
remaining in need of research. Finn (1990) thinks educators and policy makers
must be clear and precise about what is intended for students to learn. Ohanian
(2001) cautions that most students are not standard and will be left behind if ad
students are expected to master the same narrowly defined content. She favors a
broader approach to education that customizes for each students unique profile.
Nelson (2001) researched the conflict that emerges in standard setting
when ideology is not fully addressed. In his dissertation, he thinks most of the
conflict over the history standards was actually rooted in ideology. The history
standards came undone after a very public attack by Lynn Cheney. Nelsons
research was also a case study.
Thompson (1999) researched the development of Floridas mathematics
standards as part of his dissertation. He used a case study format to document the
debate and resolution in the state-level development of content standards. This
case study focused on the conflicts and emergent standards from entrenched
mathematical ways of knowing. He recommends as a next step in research to
compare the use and interpretation of the standards with original writing
teams rationales behind the development of the standards (p. 431).
Standards have always been present in U.S. schools. Higher Education often
set the standards with admissions criteria. All previous reforms that attempted to
alter standards were advisory. For the first time in U.S. history, federal and state
funds are mandating a specific educational program. The boundary between
mandating standards-based education and states rights has not been delineated nor
challenged in the courts to date.
The Committee of Ten unanimously agreed that subjects must be pursued to a
depth that imparts a training of the mind. The National Research Council in 1993,
developed science content standards that defined the depth in which a student
should acquire knowledge and skills in order to be world class. The assumption
was made that defining the target would increase the number of students that
would meet or exceed the stated goals. Neither intended a fixed and rigid
curriculum that unfolded subsequently.
Critics of standards-based education question the concept of defining specific
knowledge and skills to be mastered at specified grade levels. According to some
educators, students master knowledge and skills on different timetables and not all
students can master all the standards. Sanctions against the teachers and students
for this perceived failure are not productive.
Critics also cite the loss of educational opportunity for students and teachers.
Defining the content became a template for schools. All programming that fell
outside of the tested content was systematically eliminated in many schools. In the
poorest performing schools, everything was cut except what was specifically
tested. Science was totally extinguished from many elementary schools,
completely contrary to the intended goals of the science content standards.
Significant education reforms in U.S. history have often been influenced by
calls for strategic need for excellence in math and science. In standards-based
education, the catalyst is widely recognized as A Nation at Risk. This publication
influenced education in profound ways despite no research basis.
The legislated pathway to federally mandated standards-based education
began in Colorado with The Accountability Act of 1971. Ever increasing education
laws culminated with the complex No Child Left Behind federal law in 2001. The
shift of classroom control quietly moved from educators to legislators.
The research focus was to reconstruct the original intention of standards-based
education in science. Exactly what were the intentions of the authors of the science
content standards and where, in their opinion, did standards-based education shift
from the original intentions? This research question has significant meaning as
educational resources are being invested in the newer interpretations of standards-
based education, which was not the original vision.
In Colorado, science assessment has been reduced to one exam at eighth
grade. Only literacy and math are currently assessed in addition to the one science
assessment. No Child Left Behind legislation has mandated all states assess science
in elementary, middle and high school by 2007. History, geography, physical
education, the arts, technology, and foreign language aspire to be included in the
CSAP as this statewide exam legitimizes the instruction of these areas.
Understanding the original intentions of the writers of the science
standards will perhaps refocus the standards-based education reform back to its
roots. Colorado was a leader in standards-based reform for the United States. The
Colorado leaders are the keepers of information that has not been recorded prior to
This research was a qualitative case study of the designers of the science
content standards. Primary source materials were both published and unpublished
from a variety of repositories including collections from the interviewed scholars,
the library of the Education Commission of the States which was located in
Denver, and the repository located in the basement of the Colorado State Capitol
which archived the political pathway of numerous legislated bills on education.
The six Colorado science scholars interviewed were key science leaders
responsible for drafting and promoting both the national and the Colorado model
science content standards. Research questions addressed in this qualitative case
study were the following:
1. What were the historical influences leading up to the call for
science content standards?
2. What were the original intentions of the Colorado science scholars
who made up almost a third of the National Research Councils
science content standards working group including the
3. How did all the strands come together which accorded content
standards the premier role of aligning education in the United
4. What were the historical legislative influences leading up to and
mandating science content standards in Colorado and in the
The design most suitable for this research was the qualitative case study.
Qualitative research is ideal for understanding how participants perceive their roles
or tasks in an organization and in determining the history of a situation (Merriam,
1993, p.l). Qualitative research gives meaning and understanding to events. Case
study research requires flexibility of interpretation. Understanding of emergent
themes requires inductive analysis not previously decided upon before data
Before the first interview was conducted, a list was made of questions that
elicited generalized reconstruction of the events around the creation of national
and Colorado science content standards. Case studies permit researchers to make a
flexible list of questions and to use the questions as a guide in deciding whom to
interview and what to observe (Stake, 1995). The initial questions were broad and
aided in defining the types of data to be collected. The emergent information was
gathered and reported to the dissertation committee. The interview questions were
then refined in the desire to elicit specific information about the scholars beliefs,
role and understanding of science content standards.
Changing the questions and rethinking the type of information to be
collected is progressive focusing. The research progressively redefines important
information to gather and provides flexible opportunities to learn the unexpected
The original research was broadly conceived to explore the development of
state and national science content standards. As the key participants were
interviewed, it became apparent the data generated was significant enough to
answer the research questions.
Ultimately, the research narrowed to understanding the role, the beliefs and
the predictions for the science content standards by the six scholars. The
supporting matrix for the scholars was reconstructed to give contextual meaning to
their work. It was through the combination of these strands that the rich qualitative
case study could be reported as a significant contribution to the understanding of
the science content standards.
Selection of the Six Scholars
The six Colorado scholars were selected because they were from Colorado
and either served on the seventeen-member National Research Council (NRC)
Working Committee on Science Content Standards or provided the leadership for
the Colorado Model Content Standards development. Four were in leadership
positions of the NRCs science content working group.
The Colorado Education Laws
The Colorado legislative path that led to content standards was
investigated, categorized and graphed. All education-related legislation was
recorded but only the bills related to standards were included for in-depth analysis.
Legislation regarding handicapped students, finance, discipline and other areas not
directly about content standards were recorded but eliminated for further research.
The legislation was analyzed for linguistic change over time as well as for content.
All forms of information were used to reconstruct a timeline of events.
Methods of Data Collection
In a study to reconstruct the original intentions of participants, it was
necessary to hone the focus as broad themes emerged from the initial interviews.
Decisions were made in the context of the dissertation committee as to how to
narrow the study to elicit the most meaningful data. Guided by the theoretical
perspective and the methodology selected, the interview process evolved.
A theoretical framework can be explained as a way of looking at the world,
the assumptions people have made about what is important. Researchers must be
aware of their theoretical base and use it to collect data. This theory provides a
systematic organization of coherent data (Bogdan and Biklen, 1982).
Using a symbolic interactionist theoretical framework, I focused on how
the six scholars found meaning in the work of generating science content standards
for a nation and a state. This theoretical framework helped to guide how I
understood the variety of interview responses to build a thematic protocol that was
validated by each of the scholars as being correct and true.
The goal of symbolic interactionist theoretical framework is to understand
how individuals interpret and give meaning to their experiences, to other people,
and to objects such as standards (Blumer, 1969).
Symbolic interactionists assume that individuals experiences are mediated
by their own interpretations of experience. These interpretations are created by
individuals through interaction with others and used by individuals to achieve
specific goals. Symbolic interactionists are interested in understanding how these
interpretations are developed and are used by individuals in specific situations of
interaction (Jacob, 1987, p. 27).
I was interested in how the scholars found significant meaning in the work
of developing standards. I asked each one to report out on the meaning and the
significance of their work.
Bogdan and Biklen (1992) report
The meaning people give to their experience and their process of
interpretation are essential and constitutive, not accidental or secondary
to what the experience is. To understand behavior, we must understand
definitions and the process by which they are manufactured (P.36).
The individual and the society are inseparable to the symbolic
interactionist. To understand the meanings, interpretations, and experiences of the
participants in this research required a reconstruction of the historical, political and
personal contexts within which each of the six scholars worked to develop the
science content standards.
Each of the six scholars received the list of questions before the interview.
The interviews primarily were conducted in their office or in an adjacent
conference room. The interviews were recorded using two audiocassettes.
Transcription of the tapes was completed soon after the interview. Each
interviewee was given a copy of the transcription to review for errors,
misunderstanding or clarification. The interviews were analyzed, correlated
between the interviews and with outside data.
Qualitative case studies traditionally have the researcher in an observation
and recording only role. Mary Gromko requested that I serve on her Blue-Ribbon
Committee charged with the development of the Colorado Model Science
Standards in 1993. In this role, I observed first-hand many of the events reported
by the six scholars interviewed. Because the work was clearly historically
significant, I retained most of my working drafts from these early days.
According to Yin (1994, p.29), one of the benefits of participant observers
is access to events and groups that are otherwise inaccessible to scientific
investigation. By building on the working relationship forged almost a decade
before, I was able to elicit thoughtful and charged memories from the six scholars.
It is my belief that these interviews were candid and revealing because of my
history with each member and this information would be denied to a researcher
without similar background.
Because of my personal role, I was able to shape the initial questions to
better capture the thoughts of the scholars. The strength of the participant-observer
as a researcher is the opportunity to perceive reality from the viewpoint of
someone inside the case study rather that external to it. (Yin, 1994, p.93).
Methods of Data Analysis
Symbolic interactionism does not attempt to test or prove a hypothesis;
rather, the goal is to formally identify themes (Bogdan and Taylor, 1975, p.79-80,
Jacob, 1987, p.30).
The interviews were transcribed from audiotape onto computer files. The
interviewee had the opportunity to review and make corrections to the
transcription. The results were compiled and reported in Chapter Four.
Common themes emerged as the interviews were analyzed. These themes
were re-tested by another iteration of comments from the six scholars. The
transcriptions were searched for support and for evidence against each emergent
theme. Through comment from the scholars, the themes were refined and found to
have agreement with each scholar.
Each interview was color-coded for the emergent themes. I searched for
patterns and general topics consistent across the interviews. I also documented
topics where diametrically opposed views were expressed. The emergent themes
are discussed in Chapter Five.
The emergent themes were highly consistent across all six scholars. The
scholars were each given several opportunities to comment and make corrections.
Responses were noted, incorporated and archived. Qualitative case studies provide
depth of understanding not evident in other methods of research. This research
achieved the depth of understanding while maintaining rigorous standards of data
Reporting of the Qualitative Case Study
Originally I reported the data in general themes that were color-coded. The
result was confusing because of the volume of information. With my committee, it
was decided that using the interview questions would best document the data
collected. Under each question, each of the six interviewed responded in the first
person. Although not exactly raw data, the responses were pulled from the
transcripts. Extraneous comments were removed.
The legislative pathway in Colorado leading up to Colorado House Bill 93-
1313 that mandated standards-based education was thoroughly investigated. Using
the legislative archives at the State Capital, every educational legislative bill that
had passed between 1971-2001 was indexed. The topics were sorted into twenty-
five general areas. The trend of ever-increasing rate of passing educational
legislation was readily apparent and the field of more intensive focus was
narrowed to educational legislation that directly influenced or was affected by
standards-based education. The field of twenty-five was narrowed to nine areas of
legislation. They were:
The areas of educational legislation eliminated included topics such as
suspensions/behavior, attendance, finance, drug abuse, child abuse, handicapped
children and teacher tenure. The standard applied to eliminate areas of legislation
was whether or not the bill was influenced by standards-based education. Although
handicapped children are affected by standards-based education, the bills
eliminated were in areas not affected.