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Middle and High School Science Textbooks
A Standards-Based Evaluation

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Does the material provide tasks/questions for students to practice skills or use knowledge in a variety of situations?

Explanation. The purpose of a science literacy curriculum should be to help students learn important science ideas and habits of mind, such as those specified in Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the National Science Education Standards, and be able to draw upon them in a variety of contexts. Among the ways science literate adults use their knowledge and skills are to describe and explain phenomena, to solve practical problems, and to consider alternative positions on issues. Given that students learn well what they practice doing, an important part of learning science consists of giving students several opportunities to exercise their understanding of science, in particular giving them opportunities to practice using scientific knowledge in describing and explaining phenomena, solving practical problems, and considering alternative positions on issues.

Moreover, science literacy means that people will be able to draw upon and use their understanding of science when they encounter events that do not come with labels such as "chemistry," "physics," or "biology"—such as political arguments, discussions of literature, or walks on the beach. Therefore, students will need practice in applying key ideas and skills to new situations. The expectation is that after a few successful transfers of an idea, students would be more likely to scan for it in new situations.

Responding to this criterion involves examining whether the material includes tasks for students to practice using their knowledge to describe, explain, or make predictions about phenomena, to solve practical problems, and to discuss issues (versus just restating information found in the text). For each key idea, the set of tasks provided is examined for sufficiency (in terms of the number and variety of contexts in which the ideas or skills are to be used) and for inclusion of novel tasks (in addition to familiar tasks). When several tasks are provided for a key idea they should increase in complexity (rather than all requiring only simple applications of the key idea or all requiring quite complex applications of it). When several similar tasks are provided, the material is examined to see whether it initially provides feedback to students and then gradually decreases support over the set of similar tasks.

Indicators of meeting the criterion

  1. The material provides a sufficient number of tasks in a variety of contexts, including everyday contexts. (In order to determine whether the task/question addresses the actual substance of the key idea, reviewers will need to consider both the question and the expected response in the teacher's guide.)
  2. The material includes novel tasks.
  3. The material provides a sequence of questions or tasks in which the complexity is progressively increased.
  4. The material provides students first with opportunities for guided practice with feedback and then with practice in which the amount of support is gradually decreased.

Rating Scheme
Excellent: The material meets indicators 1, 2, and either 3 or 4.
Satisfactory: The material provides some tasks/questions, including novel tasks.
Poor: The material provides at best some tasks/questions, but no novel tasks.

Reviewers should proceed as follows:

  1. Identify the key ideas for which there is a content match.
  2. Score the treatment of each idea that results from step a. The overall score for this criterion will be the average of the scores for each idea.


To see the text of an indicator, place your mouse cursor over the relevant indicator number. The explanation will appear on your screen.

Key to Chart Symbols
Example(s) meet(s) the indicator.
Example(s) do(es) not meet the indicator.
Example(s) partially meet(s) the indicator.
  Not used to illustrate the indicator.
Life Science
Examples from
  Food, Energy, and Growth  
Physical Science
Examples from
  Matter and Molecules

  Chemistry That Applies
Natural Selection and Evolution
Examples from
  Evolution Module    

  Material A    

  Material B    

  Material C      

  Material D      

  Material E      

  Material F    

  Material G    


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