Did you know that over 92% of high school science teachers report using no comprehensive instructional materials in their classrooms? In fact, 63% depend primarily on supplements, which often fail to align to academic standards and can lead to incoherent student learning experiences.
EdReports is striving to help educators get access to high-quality science curricula so they can focus their time on bringing content to life versus spending 12+ hours a week searching for materials online. After publishing our first middle school science reviews in 2019 followed by K–5 in 2020, we’re excited to release inaugural high school reviews in June 2023.
To be truly prepared for college and careers, high school students need a set of science programs that are both grade-level and engaging and that collectively address modern science standards across a learner’s 9–12 journey. While we may not be able to realize this vision overnight, we can start taking steps in the right direction today.
The high school science landscape
Before reviewing any high school science materials, we conducted an extensive landscape survey and consulted a range of science education experts to discuss our findings, including that:
- There’s huge national variation in what “high school science” means and what’s expected of students; significantly more so than for English language arts or math, for example. This includes differences in how states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) or standards based on “A Framework for K–12 Science Education” (Framework), as well as variations across assessments, graduation requirements, and course pathways.
- Most high school programs aren’t designed to cover all standards. The majority are single-year, single-subject courses (e.g. biology, chemistry, physics) with further variation within those subjects reflecting different state needs. For example, one biology program might include a lot of NGSS earth and space science content while another might not have any.
- High school science programs are most commonly selected by individual teachers and holistic selection processes are relatively uncommon. The widespread absence of coordination around materials within districts and schools means that many students don’t have access to a coherent 9–12 science experience that addresses all standards.
Our solution: “claims-based” review
To help increase students’ access to standards, it was clear we needed a review process flexible enough to account for all the varying needs and program designs we had uncovered. So, alongside our existing evaluations for alignment to modern science standards, we added a method called “claims-based” review. This means:
- We determine which standards are “claimed” for a program by looking at what’s readily accessible in teacher-facing materials—for example, learning objectives stated in textbooks or teacher guides.
- We confirm that those claimed standards are covered in the program.
- We assess whether the content genuinely builds towards the claimed standard.
By evaluating programs on the basis of claims, EdReports shows what aspects of the standards are met in each course that we review. This enables educators to compare courses against one another and against their own needs, helping them make the curriculum decisions that are so integral to teacher and student success.
How to conduct an inclusive and rigorous materials selection process
Consider these four steps when selecting high-quality science materials while leveraging EdReports’ claims-based reviews.
1. Tap into educator expertise
First, identify educators and stakeholders with collective expertise in the standards, your state requirements, and your local context. From this group, assemble a representative adoption committee whose multiple perspectives will enable them to articulate a comprehensive instructional vision for high school science and to make the most informed selection decisions. Engaging teachers as early as possible also helps build the buy-in needed to implement the materials in classrooms successfully.
2. Evaluate your current state
The adoption committee should survey current course offerings to pinpoint any gaps in standards coverage and alignment. EdReports’ claims-based reviews are designed to support exactly this type of analysis; we release our first biology and life science reviews in spring 2023 with other subjects to follow. Sign up for our email list and watch our reports center for upcoming reviews.
3. Select and use coherent materials throughout grades 9–12
With a clear picture of your existing standards coverage and gaps, the adoption committee can work toward selecting a coherent set of high school science programs that best delivers on your instructional vision and students’ needs. District and school leaders must also prioritize upfront and ongoing curriculum-based professional learning so educators can implement materials with integrity, adapting them to local needs and to those of individual students.
4. Seek state-level support
State requirements are not easy to change but neither are they set in stone. From families to teachers to district leaders, all stakeholders can consider ways to make their voices heard, encouraging state education leaders and lawmakers to shape high school science requirements in ways that set educators and students up for success.
For instance, if a state decides to create their own high school standards based on the Framework rather than adopting the NGSS, do high-quality programs exist to support their intended approach? If not, what professional learning will educators need in order to adapt materials? And do state assessments reflect the phenomena-driven instruction, critical thinking, and three-dimensional learning required for instructional alignment to the Framework and NGSS?
The materials students need and deserve
EdReports’ track record is one of continuous learning. Every content area and grade band presents new challenges and opportunities, and we face those head-on in pursuit of our mission. We’re proud to be pioneers in the materials review space and we’re always looking for ways to improve and iterate on what we do.
This is the spirit in which we offer claims-based reviews to the field. Certainly, they make our high school science curriculum review process and reports more complex than other domains and grade bands. But that complexity is absolutely worth it to provide essential information to schools and districts seeking equitable, engaging, high-quality science materials. Those materials are a critical part of helping students learn and grow in their all-important final years before college and careers.