History of Science Education


Jacksonian Democracy = new funding support for public education

1820 - 1850

English Classical School :(High School)


The English High School was established in 1821. The establishment of this school is important because it provided a way for children to continue their education. Up until this point in history, the education system in Boston focused only on grammar and Latin studies. The English Classical School brought about the broader fields of study such as math and science to the United States.

Boston English High School


Kalamazoo Decision of 1874--Public tax supported school

1870 - 1890

The Industrial Revolution brought to mind the importance of science and math in a tangible way. A social shift from the US's agrarian society to a technical or industrial society.
Unlike in recent years of that period, faculty at the Colleges and Universities required classes in physics and chemistry for college admission. Even high school texts were abbreviated college texts regarding physics and chemistry. Biology was added, composed of Botany, Zoology, and Physiology. Many schools began to conduct labs in their curriculum.

Second Century--Period of College Domination

1870 - 1890

The science curriculum was greatly shaped by the Industrial Revolution. This shifted education from the agrarian society to a technical or industrial society. There was a massive migration of people to the cities, making aspects of science and math in the work place necessary.
Faculty at the Colleges and Universities required physics and chemistry for college admission. In 1872, Harvard required physics for admission. High School texts were made from abbreviated college texts.

Physics was most important
Chemistry was second
Biology was added, composed of Botany, Zoology, and Physiology
Labs were introduced, but were usually dull and stereotyped

School Reorganization


Development of the 6 – 3 – 3 System

Leonard Dickson advances geometry as scholar


Leonard Dickson became one of the United State’s first leading scholars in geometry in 1893.

More reorganization

1910 - 1930

A surge of new subjects were added to schools in this period. Many students had no previous education in these areas, which means the quality of high school education was vastly expanded upon.
9th grade taught General Science
10th grade taught Biology
11th grade taught Physics
12th grade taught Chemistry

General Science developed very rapidly even moving down to the 7th grade.

Broader Goals


With the de-emphasis of the college curriculum for entrance requirements, education beyond high school became more accessable to all people. The de-emphasis included introducing the less educated members of th US to the higher forms of learning and enrichment. This included classes of General Association of Science and Math Teachers Committee and Unified High School Courses.

Higher social representation,
Knowledge of environment to solve problems of everyday living.
More decent purposeful activities.
Choose future Occupations intelligently.
Methods for obtaining accurate information.
Derive greater clearer, and more intellectual satisfaction from life.

NEA Commission on reorganization of Secondary Schools offered seven cardinal principles as overall goals.


In order to encourage members of society to put their education to a practical use, 7 Principles of Goals we made part of the teacher and advisory aspects of education.
Construction of fundamental process
Worthy home membership
Worthy use of leisure time
ethical character

Committee on the place of Science in Education of the American Association for the Advancement of Science


Genetreports stressed the importance of scientific thinking as a goal for all those who pursued higher education as it came to reflect success for the community in general. Mastery of subject matter is still a number one priority; thus science was highly utilized.

Elbert Frank Cox Inspires Mathematical Studies to African Americans


Cox became not only the first Black in the United States to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics, but the first in the world. This event inspired a whole generation of "minorities" to pursue mathematical advancements.

General Science added to the 7th and 8th grade curriculum.

1930 - 1945

With the advent of World War II, newer forms of chemistry, physics, and biology were being explored. To meet the growing standards and needs of new scientific thinking, advanced science courses were added to the 11th and 12th grade. Aviation, photography, and electricity courses were begun in these upper high school levels. This meant the general science course needed to be introduced earlier.
Biology becomes the basic 9th grade science course requirement.
National Society for the Study of Electives (1932) published a list of 38 generalizations for grades 1-12. Science was still presented as a body of facts.

The post-WWII era

1945 - 1955

In 1945, 75% of boys and girls of high school age were beginning to attend secondary schools.
Science Fairs were popular, with great assistance from the knowledge of the Sputnik launch. Earth Science, Physical Science, General Science, and Biology interest rose up. Interests in chemistry, physics, however, decreased in this time.
Teachers still maintained an important role in teaching all the sciences.

Marjorie Lee Brown earns Mathematics Doctorate


Marjorie Lee Brown becomes one of the first African American women to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1949. She is best known for setting up one of the first electronic digital computers of its kind at North Carolina College.

Dr. Nash's Theories of Noncooperative Games


“Dr. Nash’s theory of noncooperative games, published in 1950 and known as Nash equilibrium, provided a conceptually simple but powerful mathematical tool for analyzing a wide range of competitive situations, from corporate rivalries to legislative decision-making.” - Goode, Erica, May 24, 2015, "Dr. John Forbes Nash, Jr. Dies at 86," The New York Times

Revolution in Science

1955 - 1970

This time frame marks a point where education in the sciences was becoming stale and lacking advancement. Student population increased with the enrollment in science classes. Pressure from outside the school on science was also on the rise as classes lacked vigor, content orientation, and conceptual unity. Much of the science material was outdated and had no bearing on the real world as it now existed.
The reform came from University Science and Math Professors who saw the need to update scientific knowledge and inform their students of advancements.

Little innovation, and some decline.

1970 - 1980

New science courses were too discipline oriented and were dogma and theory based. They were not connected with general education which caused a schism with many students who were not pre-exposed or trained for it. They were simply too rigorous for the average student and difficult to teach.

“A Nation at Risk”


This was the main part of a report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education. The US was simply at risk of becoming "unscientific."

NCTM Develops Educational Math Standards


“In 1989 the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) released a groundbreaking document, Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics.” - Burris, A.C., "A Brief History of Mathematics Education and the NCTM Standards"

Times had changed and the curriculum is shaped to reflect the changes of social and personal needs of science.


The current thinking in the instruction of science includes

Standards and Benchmarks

Project 2061


Project 2061, or Benchmarks for Science Literacy, provides teachers with statements of what students need to know in science, math, and technology by the grades 2, 5, 8, and 12. It gives recommendations at each grade level for reasonable progress toward science literacy in order for educators to design a core curriculum.


2002 - 2005

The Math and Science Partnership Program was run under the No Child Left Behind Act which set many of its guidelines. The MSP increased funding in education focusing on training teachers to teach math and science more efficiently by incorporating the use of math and science lab kits, lowering class sizes, and encouraging science enrichment programs.

Tapping America's Potential


15 business organizations recognized that the United States was falling behind in science relative to the rest of the world's advancements. They collaborated in an attempt to double the number of STEM graduates in the United States with bachelor’s degrees to find better scientific thinkers and better forms of teaching. They decided that they had to improve math and science education, recruit and retain foreign talent, and increase funding in the research of math and science.

American Competitive Initiative


This was President George W. Bush’s original attempt at encouraging competition in the sciences through increased funding in research and education. It committed $136 billion over a period of 10 years for research. This initiative was rewritten in 2007 with more specifics regarding the increase in the funding of STEM education.

A Nation Accountable


This report is a review of the progress education has made since the report A Nation at Risk was written in 1983. It shows that since 1983, while more students have been taking college preparation courses and more money is being spent on each student, national math and reading scores have been staying roughly the same.

America COMPETES Reauthorization Act


The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act was originally signed in 2007 in order to promote and encourage better science education in the United States. It focused on increasing basic research funds in physical sciences and increased educational opportunities in the STEM fields. The Reauthorization Act passed in 2010 further encourages education in the STEM fields, trying to make STEM a priority in the United States.

MAst Program


The MAst Program is a 14-month long post-baccalaureate program designed to help scientists become middle school or high school teachers. In 14 months, these scientists can earn a masters of arts degree with an emphasis in science teaching. This program was launched by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Next Generation Science Standards


The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve are working together to rewrite science standards and curriculum in the United States.