Teaching & Learning

April 25, 2001 3 min read
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Review Finds Biology Textbooks Making Strides on Standards

High school biology textbooks “have made significant efforts and have had considerable success” integrating national science education standards into their current editions, but they still haven’t finished the job, concludes a review by a professional science group.

Key biology concepts are “well represented” in nine of the 10 textbooks reviewed by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the report released this month says. But many fall short in helping teachers learn how to teach the material and in giving students a full understanding of it, it says.

For More Information

Read the AIBS “Review of Biological Instructional Materials for Secondary Schools.” (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

“As the review process progressed, the team became increasingly convinced that the authors/publishers have a responsibility for not only guaranteeing that the standards ‘content’ is present somewhere in the text, but that it is accessible, extractable, and coherent,” says the review, which was conducted by nine members of the Washington-based organization of research and teaching scientists.

While acknowledging the textbooks need improvement, the review is more positive than one conducted last year by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The AAAS’ Project 2061 gave 10 texts—seven of them also reviewed by the institutefailing grades because they did not explain the scientific principles underlying the content in the standards. (“Science Group Bemoans Quality of Biology Textbooks,” July 12, 2000.)

The biological institute’s panel agreed that the texts emphasized content over principles, but found that a few books offered enough conceptual learning.

The panel found Biology: A Human Approach, published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., scored the best on the review because it offers inquiry-based projects that help students understand the concepts as well as the facts.

Other books, such as Modern Biology, from Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, and BSCS Biology: An Ecological Approach, another Kendall/Hunt product, are heavy with facts or don’t encourage students to learn through experimentation, according to the review.

Low Levels for Latinos: Latino students in four Massachusetts cities don’t take the same challenging courses as their non-Hispanic white peers, partially explaining the high failure rates of Latino children on state tests, a report suggests.

For More Information

Read “Access to Educational Opportunities for Latino Students in Four Massachusetts School Districts,” from the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Latino high school sophomores in Boston, Framingham, Springfield, and Worcester were 20 percent less likely than non-Hispanic whites to be at or above grade level in science and mathematics, according to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

In all four cities, Hispanic enrollment in grade-level or advanced math and science courses was significantly lower than that of non-Hispanic whites.

Also in the four cities, Latinos failed the state assessment at rates between 78 percent to 95 percent in math and between 73 percent and 85 percent in science, says the report by the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy at the university.

Show It With Pride: Teachers in New Mexico have succeeded in their bid for a state license that’s suitable for framing.

Largely at the prodding of the National Education Association of New Mexico, state education officials have agreed to begin distributing teachers’ licenses in an 8-by-11-inch diploma-like format that includes a gold state seal. Previously, the state issued smaller credentials.

Mary Lou Cameron, the president of the union, said she began thinking about the change when she noticed that even manicurists in New Mexico had handsome licenses hanging in their shops. If people who do nails for a living are honored with such certificates, she reasoned, then surely so should those who teach New Mexico’s children. “I thought, I am as proud of what I do as they are,” she said.

State officials last week were unable to say how much the change will cost.

Along with giving out the documents to all newly licensed teachers, the state is offering a free copy to any currently licensed teacher who asks for one.

Aside from the issue of pride, Ms. Cameron sees another reason for encouraging teachers to hang their licenses in their classrooms. Doing so, she said, will call more attention to the extensive use of teachers who lack the proper credentials. “We need to do all we can to bring that awareness to the public,” she said.

—David J. Hoff and Jeff Archer

A version of this article appeared in the April 25, 2001 edition of Education Week as Teaching & Learning


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