Since the early 1980s, both public and private organizations have been assessing mathematics and science programs in the nation's schools. These efforts have resulted in a call for significant reform of the curriculum and methods used to deliver science and mathematics education, and several national groups are developing standards for curriculum, assessment, instruction, programs, teacher training, and equity.
The "new reform" movement is more than another phase in the cyclical examination and review of science and mathematics learning. Only major, systemic change and the participation of all stakeholders will satisfy this movement. This atmosphere provides an opportunity to make needed changes in a "bottom-up" rather than a "top-down" manner.
One of the major national groups developing national standards is the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS's efforts produced Project 2061 and its most significant publication, Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS, 1993). In the preface, F. James Rutherford writes that "[t]his has truly been a grassroots effort" (p. VII). He goes on to describe how the collaboration of teachers, administrators, scientists, mathematicians, engineers, historians, and learning theorists created the final document - not as a standard curriculum to be adopted, but as a powerful tool to be used by those persons responsible for making decisions about what is taught and how it is taught.
The seminal work that supported the development of the Benchmarks is Science for All Americans (Rutherford & Ahlgren, 1990). This book provides the basis for describing a scientifically literate adult. It establishes goals for learning to guide educators in creating standards for curriculum, instruction, and assessment. The book also contains a synthesis of information found in reports prepared by five panels.