The Science Content Standards for California Public Schools,
Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve represents the content
of science education and includes the essential skills and knowledge
students will need to be scientifically literate citizens in the
twenty-first century. By adopting these standards, the State Board
of Education affirms its commitment to provide a world-class science
education for all California students. These standards reflect
the diligent work and commitment of the Commission for the Establishment
of Academic Content and Performance Standards (Academic Standards
Commission) and the commission's Science Committee to define the
common academic content of science education at every grade level.
Glenn T. Seaborg, one of the great scientific minds of this time
and of all times, chaired the Academic Standards Commission's
Science Committee. In "A Letter to a Young Scientist,"
Dr. Seaborg said, "Science is an organized body of knowledge
and a method of proceeding to an extension of this knowledge by
hypothesis and experiment."1
The National Science Education Standards reflects this
view of science and the balance between the "body of knowledge"
and the "method" of scientific inquiry.2
The standards provide the opportunity to make substantial and
significant improvements in California's education system.
The standards include grade-level specific content for kindergarten
through grade eight. A significant feature is the focus on earth
sciences in the sixth grade, life sciences in the seventh grade,
and physical sciences in the eighth grade. The standards for grades
nine through twelve are divided into four content strands: physics,
chemistry, biology/life sciences, and earth sciences. An Investigation
and Experimentation strand describes a progressive set of expectations
for each grade from kindergarten through grade eight, and one
set of Investigation and Experimentation standards is given for
grades nine through twelve.
The elementary and middle school standards provide the foundational
skills and knowledge for students to learn core concepts, principles,
and theories of science at the high school level. The standards
are organized in sets under broad concepts. This organization
is intended to help the reader move between topics and follow
them as the content systematically increases in depth, breadth,
and complexity through the grade levels.
The Science Content Standards serves as the basis of
statewide student assessments, the science curriculum framework,
and the evaluation of instructional materials. The Science
Framework for California Public Schools aligns with the standards.
The framework suggests ways in which to use the standards and
make connections within and across grades; it also provides guidance
for instructional planning. However, the standards do not prescribe
the methods of instruction. Students should have the opportunity
to learn science by receiving direct instruction, by reading textbooks
and supplemental materials, by solving standards-based problems,
and by doing laboratory investigations and experiments. The Investigation
and Experimentation standards should be integral to, and directly
and specifically support, the teaching of the content strands
Development of the Standards
The California State Board of Education and the Academic Standards
Commission reviewed the National Science Education Standards,
the Benchmarks for Science Literacy,3
and science standards and frameworks from numerous local school
districts in California, from around the country, and from other
nations with successful science education programs. In addition,
hundreds of pages of written recommendations and hundreds of hours
of testimony were considered. The Academic Standards Commission
hosted nine community meetings, and the State Board of Education
held five public hearings throughout California. Families, educators,
and business and community leaders participated and helped define
key issues. Expert reviewers around the nation submitted formal
comments on the drafts and also participated in invited public
Their ideas contributed substantively to the final standards
adopted by the State Board of Education.
Highlights of the Standards
These science standards challenge not only California's students
but also the entire K-12 education system. The elementary school
standards call for early introduction of science facts and terms
and ask the multiple-subject teacher to find time in the school
day for science education. Quality textbooks and reading materials
in science are now available to support students in mastering
these standards as they develop their reading skills and vocabulary.
The Investigation and Experimentation standards allow students
to make a concrete association between science and the study of
nature as well as provide them with many opportunities to take
measurements and use their basic mathematical skills.
The middle school science standards, with emphasis on the disciplines
at each grade level, raise the bar substantially for students.
Many teachers, schools, and districts have restructured their
curriculum to meet these standards. The Science Content Standards
make the middle school curriculum more rigorous in response to
a national call for excellence and prepare students for in-depth
study of science at the high school level.
The high school science standards require more than two years
of science courses for students to achieve the breadth and depth
described. Schools and districts have strengthened the science
curriculum, providing students the maximum opportunity to learn
the standards while encouraging students to study further in science.
In grades nine through twelve, standards that all students are
expected to achieve in their science courses are unmarked; standards
that all students should have the opportunity to learn in those
courses are marked with an asterisk(*). Those opportunities should
be offered at every high school.
The Science Content Standards reflects the desired content of
science curriculum in California public schools. This content
should be taught so that students have the opportunity to build
connections that link science to technology and societal impacts.
Science, technology, and societal issues are strongly connected
to community health, population, natural resources, environmental
quality, natural and human-induced hazards, and other global challenges.
The standards should be viewed as the foundation for understanding
Time and considerable resources continue to be needed to implement
the Science Content Standards fully. But the goal remains
clear, and these standards are the foundation for increasing the
scientific literacy of all students.
1 Gifted Young in Science: Potential
Through Performance. Edited by Paul Brandwein and others. Arlington,
Va.: National Science Teachers Association, 1989.
2 National Academy of Sciences, National
Science Education Standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy
of Sciences, 1995.
3 American Association for the Advancement
of Science staff, Benchmarks for Science Literacy. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1994.