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

Hugh is partially right. The scientific community in general is too busy
to be interested in this topic because, I think, it is complicated and very
time consuming. Ask a physics professor at a major research university if
they are aware of K-12 issues - most are not. As I pointed out in a
previous post, I led an effort to make the CA state board of education
aware of mistakes in the science standards, science curriculum materials,
and adoption process for K-8 materials.

I become very involved in this process, having testified twice to the state
board of education- once in favor of the FOSS program at the request of the
head of the FOSS program and once to present my petition and to point out
mistakes in science curriculum materials.

Here are some issues that I discovered.

1. When textbook companies are told of errors by a state committee prior to
getting their materials approved for adoption by the state, they are quick
to correct them because they need the state to approve their materials -
it's a matter of economics. If mistakes are pointed out after they are
adopted by anyone, they don't have to correct them - there is no legal or
economic incentive for them to do that.

2. Only two of us showed up to testify to the state board of education when
this issue came up in CA = that is hardly a resounding show of widespread

3. As was done in Feynman's day, textbook companies still wine and dine
those who make decisions important to their economic well being.

FYI, there are a number of NSF supported middle school programs just being
released or under development, including
FOSS (Lawrence Hall of Science)
I was the technical reviewer for their middle school electronics
mini=course if someone is interested in details.
Science and Technology for Children (NSRC)
Insights (EDC)
Fred Goldberg's group at San Diego State
These materials undergo extensive field testing, revisions, and
technical reviews. However, as with all NSF grants, the NSF grants money
and does oversee in detail the technical review process. All these
materials will be available within the next few years. However, they must
all then when to be approved by the state, which in CA won't happen again
for another 7 years.

Here's why the K-6 FOSS program wasn't approved for adoption in CA. When a
state education committee made up the rules on materials adoption, one of
the ironclad rules was that the material must meet every state standard at
the specified grade level. FOSS, an excellent program, met all but about 3
of the standards - so it was not approved. To rectify this issue would
have required lobbying this committee when it was developing these
selection rules. You would have had to know the system pretty well to
exert appropriate influence and the time to do something about it. This
shows how complicated and difficult it is to interact with the educational
system. So if someone hears that FOSS was not approved - who do you
the state board? - no they were just putting their blessing on the rules
developed by "experts" on the rules committee
the committee that made up the rules? - no, they probably were disbanded
shortly after they made the rules
the department of education? - no, they just follow the laws that are passed.
the legislature that made the laws? - no, the laws in this area are quite
general and the specifics are left to the state department of education.

It's complicated, time-consuming, and ever changing.

My approach to this problem has been to work with good programs, such as
FOSS, work with the education department of the APS and other organizations
(OSA), and write my own materials, which I present at local, state, and
national workshops. At least this way I can see positive results from my


At 1:28 PM -0800 2/24/2001, Hugh Haskell wrote:

If the scientific community would take a serious interest in this
problem and apply pressure to textbook adoption committees to reject
books that are full of errors, regardless of how beautiful the
production is, then the publishers would find it to their advantage
to improve the quality of their books. Until that happens, the
situation will not change. The Hubisz report is an effort to move the
scientific community and the public in that direction. It may not be
a perfect vehicle, but right now it is just about the only one we've