Does the instruction in Heath Passport provide an opportunity for students to learn the benchmark ideas and skills?

Numerous sightings were analyzed to determine the instructional criteria ratings for Heath Passport. The following chart provides a typical example of the sightings that were analyzed to determine each criterion rating. Looking at these sightings will provide a picture of the overall instructional guidance provided in the textbook.

TYPICAL SIGHTING CHART  pdficon.gif (224 bytes)(Adobe PDF document)

The graph below depicts major strengths and weaknesses in the overall instructional guidance provided by Heath Passport. It does so by showing the average score Heath Passport received on each of the 24 instructional criteria, across all six of the benchmarks used for the evaluation.

INSTRUCTION HIGHLIGHTS CHART  pdficon.gif (224 bytes)(Adobe PDF document)

Overall, analysts rated Heath Passport as unsatisfactory in helping students achieve the number, geometry, and algebra benchmarks used for the evaluation. The following describes the seven instructional categories and their criteria and summarizes the analysts’ justification for their ratings for Heath Passport.


Instructional Category I

Identifying a Sense of Purpose
Part of planning a coherent curriculum involves deciding on its purposes and on what learning experiences will likely contribute to achieving those purposes. Three criteria are used to determine whether the material conveys a unit purpose and a lesson purpose and justifies the sequence of activities.

The goals for each lesson, which are listed in a chapter organization chart and mentioned again at the beginning of each lesson, are comprehensible but not consistently interesting to students. No specific opportunities are presented for students to discuss the purpose in any depth. Most activities are consistent with the stated purpose. The summary at the end of each chapter returns to the purpose and presents what was learned, why it was learned, and how it fits into the bigger picture of mathematics. A rationale for the lesson sequence can be inferred by matching activities with the chapter organization chart.


Instructional Category II

Building on Student Ideas about Mathematics
Fostering better understanding in students requires taking time to attend to the ideas they already have, both ideas that are incorrect and ideas that can serve as a foundation for subsequent learning. Four criteria are used to determine whether the material specifies prerequisite knowledge, alerts teachers to student ideas, assists teachers in identifying student ideas, and addresses misconceptions.

Heath Passport does not indicate the prior knowledge needed by students except in the scope and sequence chart at the beginning of the text, which is not a particularly effective format. Only a few brief mentions of prerequisites appear and only for geometry benchmark ideas. There are sections called "Addressing Misconceptions" and "Common Error Alerts," but they are very inconsistent in addressing specific student ideas about the benchmarks. One example in grade 8 gives a good overview of what the students know and what will be introduced in the unit, but there is not much development or clarification for the teacher on how to use this information.


Instructional Category III

Engaging Students in Mathematics
For students to appreciate the power of mathematics, they need to have a sense of the range and complexity of ideas and applications that mathematics can explain or model. Two criteria are used to determine whether the material provides a variety of contexts and an appropriate number of firsthand experiences.

The material uses a variety of experiences aimed at the benchmarks (worksheets, diagrams, writing, illustrations, calculators, group activities, and tables). These experiences include pictures and paper-and-pencil exercises and a few manipulatives. While the contexts presented are accurate and target the benchmark ideas, they are repetitious across grade levels. The experiences use meaningful connections (such as sports, cars, games), but some of the activities in grade 8 appear to be more appropriate for younger students. There are few novel, hands-on projects, and many of the firsthand experiences do not require the higher level thinking skills needed to understand benchmark concepts.


Instructional Category IV

Developing Mathematical Ideas
Mathematics literacy requires that students see the link between concepts and skills, see mathematics itself as logical and useful, and become skillful at using mathematics. Six criteria are used to determine whether the material justifies the importance of benchmark ideas, introduces terms and procedures only as needed, represents ideas accurately, connects benchmark ideas, demonstrates/models procedures, and provides practice.

Heath Passport uses a variety of examples and exercises to help justify the importance and usefulness of benchmark ideas. While comprehensible, these examples do not engage students sufficiently. Terms and procedures are used appropriately but are not always developed in conjunction with experiences. The material presents formulas and definitions and then applies concepts or skills. Numerous representations are used, which are, for the most part, accurate and comprehensible; however, the text presents an inaccurate definition of ratio (Book 1, p. S261). The text shows connections between some benchmark ideas but often doesn’t make those connections explicit to students. The demonstration of procedures is apparent and comprehensible but lacks supporting commentaries. There are opportunities for students to practice skills in a variety of contexts, but most are pencil and paper activities with occasional calculator applications. There are many routine examples and few opportunities for students to apply their learning in novel ways.


Instructional Category V

Promoting Student Thinking about Mathematics
No matter how clearly materials may present ideas, students (like all people) will devise their own meaning, which may or may not correspond to targeted learning goals. Students need to make their ideas and reasoning explicit and to hold them up to scrutiny and recast them as needed. Three criteria are used to determine whether the material encourages students to explain their reasoning, guides students in their interpretation and reasoning, and encourages them to think about what they’ve learned.

The material offers students some opportunities for expression, but it offers limited opportunities for students to clarify, justify, represent, or share their thinking. Students are asked to explain or define terms, but there are few open-ended questions. There are no suggestions for providing feedback or modifying instruction. Opportunities for feedback and diagnoses are present, but the material misses taking advantage of them. There is little explicit guidance of student interpretation and reasoning. Mid-chapter tests and self-tests may be used to encourage students to think about what they’ve learned, but they are geared toward developing skills rather than monitoring student progress.


Instructional Category VI

Assessing Student Progress in Mathematics
Assessments must address the range of skills, applications, and contexts that reflect what students are expected to learn. This is possible only if assessment takes place throughout instruction, not only at the end of a chapter or unit. Three criteria are used to determine whether the material aligns assessments with the benchmarks, assesses students through the application of benchmark ideas, and uses embedded assessments.

A number of assessment items are aligned to the benchmarks, and some assessment tasks deal with benchmark applications in both novel and familiar situations; however, test questions are weak on application of skills and concepts. Mini quizzes provide a few examples of applying concepts or skills. Mid-chapter tests are the only explicit embedded assessments provided. Other assessments are embedded, but there are no instructions to teachers regarding their use or interpretation.


Instructional Category VII

Enhancing the Mathematics Learning Environment
Providing features that enhance the use and implementation of the textbook for all students is important. Three criteria are used to determine whether the material provides teacher content support, establishes a challenging classroom, and supports all students.

Heath Passport does not support teacher content learning but does make an attempt to include information about the importance of some content ideas. The text includes problems of the day, real life connections, and journal writing, but these are not always challenging enough to encourage risk-taking and questioning. The text usually avoids communicating the message that math is only about applying rules and formulas, but the opportunities for creativity are minimal, even in labs and investigations. Meeting Individual Needs sections are weak and emphasize one right answer. Although the material is not offensive to any particular group, it is weak in recognizing contributions of diverse groups.

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