National Science Education Standards

Americans agree that our students urgently need better science education. The National Science Education Standards publication offers a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate, describing what all students should understand and be able to do in science. The volume reflects the principles that learning science is an inquiry-based process, that science in schools should reflect the intellectual traditions of contemporary science, and that all Americans have a role in science education reform.

National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment
National Research Council
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Board on Science Education (BOSE)
Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE)
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

The National Science Education Standards project, and its resulting publication, was directed and approved by the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Major funding was provided by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Institutes of Health. "The National Science Education Standards present a vision of a scientifically literate populace. The intent of the National Science Education Standards can be expressed in a single phrase: Science standards for all students. The phrase embodies both excellence and equity. The National Science Education Standards apply to all students, regardless of age, gender, cultural or ethnic background, disabilities, aspirations or interest, and motivation in science. Different students will achieve understanding in different ways, and different students will achieve different degrees of depth and breadth of understanding depending on interest, ability, and context. But all students can develop the knowledge and skills described in the Standards, even as some students go well beyond these levels." (pg. 2) Essential terms and principles are defined by this publication: Scientific Literacy Inquiry Science and Technology Science Content Standards Changing Emphases/Changing Emphases to Promote Inquiry

What the experts say

The National Science Education Standards is a useful, detailed and comprehensive, visionary, and practical resource for science education in adult education programs. The resource contains standards for science teaching, for professional development of teachers of science, for assessment, for science content, and for program design. It also reflects many of the best practices in adult education theory, such as learner-centered, participatory teaching style, acknowledging and using students' individual strengths and life experiences, and adapting the curricula accordingly. Detailed descriptions of certain teaching techniques are provided along with examples. These can easily be adapted to adult learning situations and to other contextual topics (such as health or financial literacy). The resource shows how to use contexts and references that people are familiar with, and relates scientific inquiry skills to real life. Limitations of this resource include: (1) The material is so comprehensive that a significant amount of time may be needed to read and digest the content; (2) The resource was published in 1996, however, the teaching standards do reflect current best practices, and the science content domains are broad enough that they still encompass recent scientific progress; (3) The resource describes a clear progression of concepts that children should learn in a specific order, based on their developmental level and abilities. Adults would not follow this progression because adult students will have many different starting points in development, education and knowledge of certain information. Nevertheless, parts of this resource are relevant to adult teaching.

Resource Notice

This site includes links to information created by other public and private organizations. These links are provided for the user’s convenience. The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this non-ED information. The inclusion of these links is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse views expressed, or products or services offered, on these non-ED sites.

Please note that privacy policies on non-ED sites may differ from ED’s privacy policy. When you visit, no personal information is collected unless you choose to provide that information to us. We do not give, share, sell, or transfer any personal information to a third party. We recommend that you read the privacy policy of non-ED websites that you visit. We invite you to read our privacy policy.