History of Science Education


Golden Age of Science / The Sputnik Era

An increase in the focus of science education was started by the Sputnik launch in Russia
because the United States were embarrassed to be so far behind in science education compared to the Russians. During this period of time, many national science programs were started in an attempt to encourage science education in the United States including the Biological Science Curriculum Study, Earth Sciences Curriculum Project, Introductory Physical Science, Chemical Education Materials Study, INtermediate Science Curriculum Study, and Physical Science Study Committee.

A Nation at Risk

A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform was written during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and includes many studies displaying academic underachievement in the United States and 38 recommendations to improve education in the United States with 5 major categories: content, standards and expectations, time, teaching, and leadership and fiscal support. The report opposes several of President Reagan’s policies in education.

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.


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 world. They collaborated in an attempt to double the number of STEM graduates in the United States with bachelor’s degrees. 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.