K-8 Instructional Materials Adoption
State board adopts revised materials criteria, declines to limit hands-on materials
In a major triumph for hands-on science advocates, the State
Board of Education at its March, 2004 meeting heeded the call
of science teachers, businesses, and university faculty to
reverse a recommendation of the state's curriculum commission
and approved guidelines for instructional materials that provide
for a minimum of 20 percent hands-on instruction.
The state board approved the criteria to be used in evaluating
the K-8 science instructional materials which will be
adopted by the state in 2006. Publishers are required
to adhere to the guidelines when developing materials
they wish to have considered for adoption by the state.
Only those materials on the state's approved adoption
list may be purchased by districts using state instructional
materials funds (IMF); consequently, the criteria serve
as a critical factor in a district's determination
of what instructional programs it can offer.
The original criteria proposed by the Curriculum Development
and Supplemental Materials Commission contained several
elements that science teachers and others found to be
problematic. First among these was a requirement that
materials, in order to be considered for adoption, had
to demonstrate that "the California Science Standards
can be comprehensively taught from the submitted materials
with hands-on activities composing no more than
20 to 25 percent of science instructional time [emphases
added]." The criterion would have eliminated from
consideration kit-based and NSF-funded materials, most
of which require more than 25 percent of the instruction
to be conducted through investigations and hands-on
After a prolonged public comment period, the state board rejected
this criterion and accepted compromise language, hammered
out days earlier in a meeting between state board staff and
CSTA executive director Christine Bertrand, K-12 teachers, CSU faculty,
CSU deans, California School Boards Association, and California
Teachers Association, which reversed the restriction. Rather
than mandating the 20 to 25 percent restriction as a maximum,
the new language requires publishers to submit materials that
demonstrate that the standards can be taught with hands-on
activities composing at least 20 to 25 percent of
the instructional program. The board heard from 28 individuals
representing businesses, scientists, university deans, teachers,
administrators, local school boards, and parents, all urging
adoption of the revised criteria.
Other language which had provoked criticism from science teachers
and others was also revised, largely at the prompting of CSTA.
a letter to the state board, CSTA president Sharon Janulaw
had pointed out that, "The (original) criteria, taken
as a whole, convey a predisposition to direct instruction
which is dismissive both of the authority of local districts
to make basic instructional decisions and of the expertise
of teachers to understand and meet the specific needs of the
students in their classrooms."
For instance, the criteria submitted by the curriculum commission included
the requirement that each hands-on activity in the submitted
materials be supplemented with suggestions for how they could
be adapted to "direct instruction methods of teaching."
As there is no research to suggest that direct instruction
is superior to any other instructional strategy, CSTA recommended
that, if alternatives to hands-on activities are suggested,
those suggestions should include all possible strategies a
teacher might use to teach a scientific concept. At the meeting
called by the state board staff, that language was changed
to "other methods of teaching, including teacher modeling,
teacher demonstration, direct instruction, and reading,"
as specified in the California Science Framework.
Additionally, the criteria carried an overall tone which conveyed a disrespect
for teachers. One passage required materials to include a
teacher edition that "describes what to teach, how to
teach and when to teach, including ample and useful annotations
and suggestions on how to present the content . . ."
At CSTA's urging, the criterion eliminated the language
"what to teach, how to teach and when to teach."
The outpouring of criticism for the original version came from all quarters
of the science education community, business and industry,
and university faculty and administration. In addition to
letters from CSTA, teachers, and numerous school superintendents,
correspondence to state board members included a
letter from Boeing company president Rick Stephens, and
another signed by the CEOs
of Bechtel, Genentech, Intel, Pixar, The George Lucas Educational
Foundation, Adobe Systems, chancellors of 11 University of
California campuses, and the presidents of CalTech and Stanford.
State board staff indicated that the board had never received
as much correspondence about any one issue as it had received
on this issue.
At CSTA's suggestion, many of the letters were copied to Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Secretary of Education Richard Riordan, State
Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, and State Senator John Vasconcellos.
Representatives of Governor Schwarzenegger's office
were present at the meeting called by state board staff to
reach the compromise language.
CSTA's goal was to get criteria that made it possible for a wide
array of instructional materials to be considered for adoption,
so that districts and teachers would have some real choices.
In that regard, this is a huge victory for science teachers,
who know best how to meet the instructional needs of their
students, and for the right of local districts to be able
to purchase the materials they know will best meet those needs.
The current adoption list includes only three programs for
grades 6-8 and three programs for grades K-5/6 from which
districts may choose.