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Re: Middle School Physical Science Texts: dishonesty

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are a fair number of middle
school science programs just being published or under development - all
research-based programs funded by NSF. Take a look at NSF guidelines for
developing instructional materials for more info on what hoops
they have to
jump through.

Can you predict when they will be available?
Can NSF have significant influence on state criteria for book selection?

Having a good book does not necessarily mean that it will be adopted or

A book will not be used unless it has been approved for adoption by the
state. If a book has been approved for adoption, then schools will be
reimbursed for the purchase. For the most part, schools aren't reimbursed
for purchasing books that are not approved.

I know all too well that the books must be approved. Will the authors be
willing to make the many changes that the states demand, or will they hand
that over to the publishers? If the publishers do it, then we are back
where we started. If they do not make the changes will the state committees
be able and willing to bend the rules to adopt the books? Can the authors
retain enough control to prevent destructive changes from being made?
Research based books often look so different from conventional texts that
many committees will balk at adopting them. And of course will teachers be
willing to use them if they depart too much from the standard didactic
teaching methods? How do we reeducate the state book review committees?

These are all questions that I can not answer, but I suspect that most book
review committees will tend to go for conventional books. Even some of the
reviewers in the Packard report made comments that disturbed me. But,
without the actual books to judge by, I can not judge the comments fully.
An example is that some reviewers note that certain terms have not been
defined. This is not necessarily bad, as it depends on the context.
Undefined terms can be used to help force students to use the glossery.
Terms can also be introduced by usage, and students can and should learn
the usage by example. But extraneous terms should be removed or well

The new books are only a start. An enormous amount of money needs to be
spent on training teachers to use the new material intelligently. Research
shows that short term workshops are extremely ineffective, but that good
material can have some effect by itself. Good teachers guides may help, but
they are not the total answer. Even good books have enough information that
teachers can use as factoids on tests. Students can still be induced to
believe that science is a collection of unrelated useless trivia facts. So
far most teacher education money has induced extremely little change.
Obviously there are some good 2-8 week workshops that have had an effect,
but there are too few of them to have much effect yet.

We are obviously just beginning to nibble at the problem. There is enough
blame (problems?) to go around.

John M. Clement