Astronomy in the National Science Education Standards
The NRC National Science Education Standards provide a framework to design curriculum for K-12 astronomy education. At grades K-4, students should be learning about the objects and motions in the sky from a geocentric perspective. At grades 5-8, students should be learning about the motions of the solar system from a heliocentric perspective. At grades 9-12, students should be learning about stellar evolution and the structure of the Universe. In support of instruction, an extensive review of the literature demonstrates that existing research on student learning addresses only a small subset of the astronomy objectives prescribed by the NSES and does not address age-appropriate conceptual development. A need exists to develop and rigorously assess a collection of age-appropriate assessment instruments based on research into student understanding of fundamental astronomical concepts. These instruments would serve to clearly define the expected cognitive levels of the specific NSES objectives and provide a means of assessing curricular materials that claim to be aligned with the NSES. Because of the complex nature of these concepts, the scientific community must be active participants in this process.