and provide multiple samples of their wares, as well as professional development for teachers if the materials are chosen. Small vendors often lack the resources to provide such services and are therefore virtually excluded from consideration. However, small suppliers may offer quality science instructional materials. The effect of these practices is to limit the availability of materials that could substantially contribute to attaining the learning goals.

Common Considerations in the Local Selection of Science Instructional Materials

In the 29 states where there are no state-level policies for selection or recommendation of instructional materials, the challenge of finding appropriate instructional materials falls entirely on individual districts or schools. Local school districts may receive some assistance from the state educational authorities. The amount and kind of support, which varies from state to state, may include technical support from state science supervisors or state science consultants, who bring varying degrees of science content expertise to the selection. In comparison to state selection committees, the district or individual school selection committees may be less familiar with standards, and they often lack sufficient human and financial resources for establishing a well-informed and thorough selection procedure.

In these 29 states, publishers play a lesser role. Those charged with making selections can make use of various publications that describe and, in some cases, evaluate instructional materials. Among these are the guides published by the National Science Resources Center (NSRC, 1996, 1998), Project 2061 (Roseman, Kesidou, and Stern, 1997; Roseman, 1997a,b; Kesidou, 1999; AAAS, forthcoming a,b,c); and the National Science Foundation (NSF, 1997).

Just as there is great variation across states regarding the policies and practices for selecting science instructional materials, each local context is different in terms of culture, capacity, and process. Nevertheless, there are several issues that arise repeatedly during local decision-making:

  • What is the budget for the review and selection process?

  • From whom can the committee obtain current information about expenditures for such items as instructional materials and professional development?

  • What student performance and enrollment data are currently available? From whom can the committee get additional data?

  • Does the district have in place the facilities and systems to support a standards-based science program?

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