I have always loved science, and inspiring that same passion in others was one of the greatest joys of teaching. As a high school biology teacher, I saw the power that science had for developing the critical thinking and problem solving skills students need to shape our future. I saw the excitement of discovery, and the pride students felt when they came up with solutions to challenges in the community around them. In the classroom, I felt deeply how important instructional materials were to supporting science learning.
However, I also experienced how inaccessible high-quality resources are for so many students. At my school and in my district, the science curriculum we use is all teacher created. Not only does this mean hours and hours spent developing content, but our content can vary in quality from classroom to classroom. This kind of creation puts so much pressure on teachers, and I found myself struggling to understand how to ensure quality materials for all of my students.
That’s why when I saw an EdReports presentation at the National Conference on Science Education, so many of the data points resonated with me—in particular, the fact that teachers spend an average of 7–12 hours each week searching for or creating materials. I was also struck by the fact that even if teachers have a core science program to work with, an astounding 65% of them only receive zero to five hours of professional learning to support implementation of their materials. At that moment, I knew I had to get involved with improving future science materials. Knowing what a difference having an aligned curriculum would have made for my own classroom, I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about what quality science materials look like and to contribute to reports that could shape current and future programs.
Last fall, I joined a review team for EdReports’ inaugural high school science reports. Our team of five met weekly over the next five months to review a high school biology program. The process was more comprehensive than I could have imagined as we looked at every single page of the materials, collecting exhaustive evidence for each indicator then working together to come to a consensus around final scoring.
I can’t say enough about what I gained from my experience reviewing science instructional materials. The initial training on EdReports’ review tools, as well as all I learned about what quality science materials should and could look like, shapes my practice as an instructional coach to this day. The support I am able to offer teachers about what to include in science classrooms and science content is directly connected to my own learning as a reviewer.
I also benefited from joining an entire network of educators from across the country. I have reviewed with teammates from Detroit, D.C., and New Mexico—all working in larger school districts than my small rural one. We were able to learn together and share different perspectives. There was power in exploring new ideas while at the same time knowing we were all rowing in the same direction. We all believed that materials matter, and we all were striving to ensure students have access to them.
A better understanding of high-quality science materials has also influenced how I envision my career in education long-term. I can no longer simply consider my school or my district. I now fully understand the opportunity and charge we have to improve science education for all students, all teachers, all schools.
And that’s the point, isn’t it? While I’m grateful for what I’ve gained personally through the experience of reviewing, this isn’t really about me. The potential impact of these reports go beyond my small high school in Iowa. The evidence and information can empower any educator accessing EdReports’ free reviews as well as provide feedback to publishers about the product they’ve created.
That’s what I’m most proud of when I think about all the hours that went into just one review of high school science materials—knowing that my fellow educators and I are part of a process that will make a difference for students now and in the future.
Katie Miller is a high school science reviewer for EdReports. She has been a high school science teacher and now works as a science instructional coach in Eldridge, IA