|Earth Science||Life Science||Physical Science|
1. About this Evaluation Report 2. Content Analysis 3. Instructional Analysis
|[Explanation] This section examines whether the curriculum material's content aligns with the specific key ideas that have been selected for use in the analysis.|
|[Explanation] This section examines whether the curriculum material develops an evidence-based argument for the key ideas, including whether the case presented is valid, comprehensible, and convincing.|
|[Explanation] This section examines whether the curriculum material makes connections (1) among the key ideas, (2) between the key ideas and their prerequisites, and (3) between the key ideas and other, related ideas.|
|[Explanation] This section notes whether the curriculum material presents any information that is more advanced than the set of key ideas, looking particularly at whether the “beyond literacy” information interrupts the presentation of the grade-appropriate information.|
|[Explanation] This section notes whether the curriculum material presents any information that contains errors, misleading statements, or statements that may reinforce commonly held student misconceptions.|
b: Plants make their own food, whereas animals obtain food
by eating other organisms. However, other places in the text that involve students
in identifying producers and consumers and in examining
or constructing food chains were not considered to be content
matched because they do not involve students in making explicit
the distinction between producers and consumers—the
heart of this key idea.
Discuss with students what plants need,
and compare their needs to those of animals. (Plants don’t
need food as such. They need water, carbon dioxide, and
sunlight to help them make their own food. Animals must
consume food that is produced by plants or eat other animals
that have eaten plants.) (p. 45t)
However, other places in the text that involve students in identifying producers and consumers and in examining or constructing food chains were not considered to be content matched because they do not involve students in making explicit the distinction between producers and consumers—the heart of this key idea.
Idea c: Matter is transformed in living systems.
c1: Plants make sugars
from carbon dioxide (in the air) and water.
Idea c2: Plants break down the sugars they have synthesized back into simpler substances—carbon dioxide and water—and assemble sugars into the plants' body structures, including some energy stores.
c3: Other organisms break
down the stored sugars or the body structures of the plants
they eat (or in the animals they eat) into simpler substances
and reassemble them into their own body structures, including
some energy stores.
c4: Decomposers transform
dead organisms into simpler substances, which other organisms
Idea d: Energy is transformed in living systems.
Idea d1: Plants use the energy from light to make "energy-rich" sugars.
d2: Plants get energy
by breaking down the sugars, releasing some of the energy
d3: Other organisms get
energy to grow and function by breaking down the consumed
body structures to sugars and then breaking down the sugars,
releasing some of the energy into the environment as heat.
e: Matter and energy are transferred from one organism
to another repeatedly and between organisms and their
Teacher’s notes at the beginning of each book describe how the program integrates the sciences:
Instead of limiting the study of a topic or concept to one science, students make the connections to other science contexts. By exploring these connections, they are able to understand the topic or concept in more depth. [Simple Organisms and Viruses, p. T–6]
However, while the textbooks reviewed treat other, related, benchmark ideas, they rarely make definite connections between them and the ideas serving as the basis for this analysis. In a couple of instances, connections are noted but are not well developed. For example, in The Plant Kingdom, the connection between plants making food and systems is noted. Students are told: “In this lesson, you'll learn how plant cells work together as systems to produce and use food” (The Plant Kingdom, p. 32s). The teacher’s notes suggest that students be asked how other systems interact, but no guidance is given about what should come out of the discussion (The Plant Kingdom, p. 32t). Furthermore, no link is made to the related idea that “thinking about things as systems means looking for how every part relates to others” from Benchmarks for Science Literacy (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993, p. 265).
The teams’ collective findings, presented below, should be taken as having general applicability to all of the evaluated materials, not complete and specific applicability in toto to any one of them.
Identified errors occur most frequently in drawings and other diagrams. They take the form of representations that are likely to either give rise to or reinforce misconceptions commonly held by students. Following are life science examples of the kinds of misleading illustrative materials of most concern to the evaluation teams:
- Diagrams of energy pyramids that indicate decreases in energy (without indicating that the energy is given off as heat) can reinforce students’ misconception that energy is not conserved.
- Diagrams and explanations that show the reciprocal nature of respiration and photosynthesis can reinforce the misconception that only animals respire—and that plants do not. Furthermore, emphasizing the notion that these processes are reciprocal or balance one another fails to convey that the rate of photosynthesis is far more than that of respiration. Consequently, plants produce enough food (and oxygen) during photosynthesis both for their own needs and for the needs of other organisms.
- Diagrams of nutrient cycles in biological systems, such as the carbon-oxygen cycle or the nitrogen cycle, often misrepresent the transformation of matter—showing, for example, atoms of carbon in one form but not in others. By failing to show a particular element throughout the cycle, a text can reinforce the misconception that matter can disappear in one place and reappear in another, as opposed to simply changing forms.