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Re: Review of Middle School Physical Science Texts (part 2)

Hi all-
On Sat, 24 Feb 2001, Jane Jackson wrote:

On Feb. 20 I posted excerpts from the introduction to John Hubisz'
report on widely-used middle school texts in physical science. John and his
team of physics teacher reviewers find ALL of them UNSATISFACTORY.
So did the AAAS' PROJECT 2061 (see; click on
"evaluation of science & math textbooks online", then click on "ratings of
instructional quality" to download a pdf chart).
Below are excerpts of John's team's reviews of 2 textbooks. Tomorrow
I'll post 2 more. John's team reviewed a dozen texts. The titles are listed
at the end of this post, in case you want to read about them in his
complete document.
If any of these 12 textbooks are being used in your community, I
encourage you to forward these excerpts to your school administrators,
school board members,
My experience is that talking to school board members about quality of
education issues is a total waste of time. School board members sign
checks put before them by administrators. They (the board members)
become unpopular when they ask questions.
Criticizing a teacher's textbook is tricky business, you are often
seen to be criticizing the teacher. The teacher, being a public official,
is presumed by the public to be correct. Letters to your local paper may,
just may, have some effect.
high school and middle school science teachers, so
that better books can be selected next time.

Final Report: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Grant #1998-4248
The full report (about 100 pages) is at

John L. Hubisz, Ph.D.,, (919)515-2515

Excerpts from Reviews of widely-used texts:

Glencoe: SCIENCE INTERACTIONS - Course 1, 2, & 3, Teacher Wraparound
Edition, 11 authors, Glencoe/ McGraw-Hill, 1998, ISBN0-02-828055-5

The stated objective of this program is to produce an integrated approach
to the different sciences. ... The integrated approach amounts to verbal
descriptions without enough depth to understand what the disciplinary
connection really is. The impression is that "integration" was used as a
sales pitch more than showing real interconnections among disciplines.
General Conclusions:This text contains a very large number of errors
ranging from misleading statements and figures to incorrect science. (A
3-page sampling of errors and suggestions are given)
... All too often teachers at this level have had minimal training in
physics, so it is doubly important that the physics, in particular, in a
text be correct and clear. Textbook publishers and/or authors need to
utilize the expertise of the large number of physics professors who are
available and willing to help with the proper presentation of this science
to our children.

Basic Information: Scattered throughout the text are pieces of
information, references to other material, and suggestions. Some of the
information is wrong, some references are to materials that don't exist,
and some suggestions are out of the range of the abilities of the audience.

General Comments
If one were forced to choose a book to use in Middle School, it is a sorry
state of affairs that among the most used books in the country this one
would have to be it. Our reviews go downhill from here. There is a huge
amount of clutter that detracts on every page from the learning of science.
However it is not only this book, but all the books that fill up the pages
with non-essential information...
SCIENCE INSIGHTS: Exploring Matter and Energy (Teacher Edition), M.
DiSpezio, M. Linner-Luebe, M. Lisowski, G. Skoog, and B. Sparks,
Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Menlo Park, CA 1996

The most important conclusion of this review is that there are an
incredible number of errors of scientific fact as well as things stated in
such a way that they will produce confusion even if they are not
technically wrong.
The pedagogical material in the text is not much better than the reading
material. The questions provided are often poorly worded, address material
not covered, or require an answer that is parroted back from the text but
certainly not understood...

This text has far too few activities in it. There is one major activity
and usually a couple of very short ones per chapter. In no case would we
consider the major activity provided to be the best activity that could
have been done for that set of material. Middle school students should be
experiencing investigative science at least every other class period. In
order to do this, teachers will have to bring in many outside activities
not in the book. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, few
teachers have the time or inclination to do it nor do most have the
background for accomplishing this. Thus, students are much more likely to
have an appropriately hands-on science class if the activities are included
in their textbook.

The pedagogical materials provided for the teachers are inadequate in a
number of ways. Most importantly, many, many answers to the questions in
the student text are incorrect....

In general many more ideas on special projects and connections to other
fields are provided than any teacher will ever be able do and most of them
are not particularly exciting. It is as if they had to have something to
fit in that box for that chapter so they came up with something to fill the
space. It would have been much better to have fewer and better ones.
...Each chapter also begins with a section entitled "Directed Inquiry".
This turns out to be a series of questions the teacher is to ask the
students about a photograph. This bears little relation to scientific
inquiry. It is also apparent that the authors of these materials do not
know what "operational definition" means in science. They have included it
in their process skills list as it should be, but apparently they think it
means giving everyday examples of a concept. Both these errors arise out
of trying to include every possible educational buzzword in the book.
In summary, no student will increase his or her understanding of science by
using this text. At best they will memorize some facts and at worst they
will become convinced that they are not capable of understanding science.

Textbooks reviewed in detail:

*Addison-Wesley Science Insights: Exploring Matter and Energy M. DiSpezio,
M. Linner-Luebe, M. Lisowski, G. Skoog, and B. Sparks (1996)
*Carolina Academic Press Integrated Science (2000) 3 Volumes for 6th, 7th,
& 8th Grades (1995) (1990
*Glencoe/McGraw-Hill Science Interactions Course 1 - 3 (1998)
*Glencoe/McGraw-Hill Glencoe Physical Science Charles W. McLaughlin and
Marilyn Thompson (1999)
*Harcourt Brace & Company Science AnyTime (1995) 6th Grade
*Holt, Rinehart and Winston/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Science Plus:
Technology and Society (1993)
*Merrill Publishing Company Focus on Physical Science (1989) (1987) (1984)
(1981) (1977) (1974) (1969)
*Prentice-Hall Science Explorer Volumes A-O (2000)
*Prentice-Hall Exploring Physical Science Second Edition (1997) (1995)
*Prentice-Hall Prentice-Hall Science (1994) (1993) 6 Volumes
*Scott, Foresman and Company Discover Science (1991) (5th grade only!)
*South-Western Educational Publishing Science Links (1998) Volumes 1-14
(9th grade)

Jane Jackson, Co-Director, Modeling Instruction Program
Box 871504, Dept.of Physics & Astronomy,ASU,Tempe,AZ 85287
480-965-8438/fax:965-7331 <>

While [Jane] Austen's majestic use of language is surely diminished in its
translation to English, it is hoped that the following translation conveys
at least a sense of her exquisite command of her native tongue.
Greg Nagan from "Sense and Sensibility" in
<The 5-MINUTE ILIAD and Other Classics>