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Evaluating Instructional Materials in Science

Start with a Clear Vision

Before beginning an instructional materials evaluation process, it's essential that the group doing the review fully understands and is invested in the district or school vision for science education. Further, they need to have been through significant learning around that vision, including how the new Wisconsin Standards for Science (or other district standards) truly work in practice to move students toward that vision. One district science coordinator noted that without initial learning and work designing lessons themselves, teachers in her district would not be able to use the materials they purchased in a way that aligns to these standards. It's essential to realize that no materials currently available perfectly align to the WSS or NGSS, so understanding how to adapt, improve, and connect them to local contexts will be critical. For reference, a fall 2017 state survey provided some information on what districts in Wisconsin are using for instructional materials (see columns M-P). 

Wisconsin Created Instructional Materials Review Tool

In conjunction with the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers, a group of Wisconsin educators came together and developed a tool for reviewing instructional materials. Most likely, a district should not use this entire tool as is, but consider local priorities and how evidence from the materials explicitly meets those priorities. 

National Tools on Evaluating Materials

  • NextGen TIME - suite of tools to prepare, screen, pilot and plan through an instructional materials review process, includes leadership PD guides. Requires a free registration. 
  • EdReports - In February of 2019 they released their review tool and process (important to understand first) along with a series of reviews of five grades 6-8 materials. More 6-8 materials and 3-5 materials are in process. 
  • Reviewing Publishers' Claims - tool from Achieve that notes claims publishers often make in relation to NGSS alignment and provides resources for evaluating those claims.
  • EQuIP Rubric - the most common tool used is Achieve's EQuIP rubric, though it focuses more on the level of lesson or unit. This site includes resources on how to use this tool. 
  • PEEC Tool - this tool from Achieve is intended for reviewing full-year instructional materials. 
  • List of "aligned" resources - Achieve published a list in late 2017 of science materials that claim some NGSS alignment - importantly, it's an unverified claim. 
  • BSCS Report - this report by national experts details guidelines for reviewing NGSS instructional materials
  • Iowa's Collection of Resource Review Tools - a useful listing of lesson and larger-scale material review tools from across the country
For questions about this information, contact Kevin Anderson (608) 266-3319