Transforming textbooks: AAAS and partners target K-12 science materials for improvement

October 21, 2002

Transforming K-12 science textbooks--which so often cause student anxiety, parental criticism, and teacher migraines--will be the focus of a new Center for Curriculum Materials in Science, announced today by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and its education reform initiative, Project 2061.

Through the AAAS-led Center--funded by a $9.9 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF)--Project 2061 is now well-positioned to have its recommendations guide science curriculum development and teaching and, as a result, to help all students gain essential science knowledge and skills. The work will be carried out in collaboration with the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and Michigan State University, along with Chicago Public Schools, Detroit Public Schools, and the Lansing School District.

The Center will draw on the materials development and teacher education expertise of the universities to address some of the serious problems previously identified by AAAS in its series of critical evaluations of middle- and high-school science textbooks. The Center's goal is to improve science curriculum materials, making sure they reflect sound research on student learning and take advantage of the most effective teaching strategies and technologies. Yet another goal is to ensure that science curriculum materials support credible standards for what students should know, such as those in AAAS's landmark report Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and in the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards.

Not confined to ivory towers, the Center collaborators will work closely with their local school-district partners to connect university research and teacher training with the realities of the classroom.

A critical national role for the new Center is the development of a cadre of experts in science curriculum materials R&D. To accomplish this, each of the university partners will expand its graduate and postdoctoral programs in science education to include coursework and research opportunities in the analysis, design, and use of science curriculum materials. Recruitment of students for the new programs is already underway, and interested applicants are encouraged to contact the universities directly, or visit the Center web site at

"AAAS has been a leader in identifying shortcomings of science textbooks and working with researchers, educators, and book publishers to improve them," said AAAS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Alan I. Leshner. "Research clearly shows that textbooks and other classroom materials are a lynchpin of effective student learning, yet we know from our evaluations of textbooks that most materials available today aren't serving the needs of students or teachers," he added.

In a series of standards-based evaluations, AAAS's Project 2061 educational reform initiative put educators and parents on notice that textbooks were fatally flawed. Project 2061 rated all popular middle-school science books as "unsatisfactory," and criticized them as "full of disconnected facts that neither educate nor motivate" students. Not one of the 10 widely used high-school biology texts was deemed worthy of a high rating in the rigorous evaluation.

Project 2061 broke new ground in 2001 by bringing together publishers, curriculum developers and educators for the first in a series of three conferences to improve the quality of science textbooks.

The new Center will help jumpstart the textbook transformation process, according to Dr. Jo Ellen Roseman, acting director of Project 2061. The Center will "foster essential research and development aimed at helping all students learn what they need to know to thrive in our science-based world," said Roseman.

Roseman will serve as director of the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science and will chair a Center Leadership Team. Other members of the team are Dr. George DeBoer at AAAS, Dr. Joseph Krajcik of University of Michigan, Dr. Brian J. Reiser of Northwestern University, and Dr. James Gallagher of Michigan State University.
Founded in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has worked to advance science for human well-being through its projects, programs, and publications, in the areas of science policy, science education and international scientific cooperation. With over 134,000 members from 130 countries and 272 affiliated societies comprising more than 10 million individual members, AAAS is the world's largest federation of scientists. The association also publishes Science, an editorially independent, multidisciplinary, weekly peer-reviewed journal that ranks as the world's most prestigious scientific journals. AAAS administers EurekAlert!, the online news service, featuring the latest discoveries in science and technology.

Since 1985, AAAS's Project 2061 has worked to reform K-12 education so that all high-school graduates are science literate--that is, prepared to live interesting, responsible, and productive lives in a world increasingly shaped by science and technology. The project is creating a coordinated set of tools and services--books, CD-ROMs, online resources, and professional development workshops--that educators, parents and families, and community leaders can use to make meaningful and lasting improvements in teaching and learning for all students.


About the Partners

AAAS Project 2061 has been a leader in articulating science standards and developing criteria to analyze the content basis and pedagogical sensibility of science curricula. AAAS as a whole offers rich scientific, technical, and education resources for the Center through its interdisciplinary programs, its worldwide membership, and its expertise working in a variety of formal and informal settings with educators and students who are diverse in ethnicity, culture, language, and gender. Contact: Dr. Jo Ellen Roseman, Director, 202-326-6643,; Dr. George DeBoer, the Center's Associate Director, 202-326-6624,

Michigan State University's elementary and secondary teacher education program has been at the top of the rankings in the U.S. News and World Report survey for eight consecutive years, and its curriculum and instruction program is highly ranked as well. The university has a long history of collaboration with local schools, including a requirement that all prospective teachers complete a full-year teaching internship. In the Lansing School District alone, there are more than 100 interns and 340 seniors working in the classrooms. Faculty and graduate students have also worked with local schools on a number of research projects relevant to the Center's work, including research on teachers' use of curriculum materials in planning and classroom teaching, the impact of curriculum materials on student learning, and the role of materials and professional development on formative assessment. Contact: Dr. James Gallagher, Science and Mathematics Training Center, 517 432 4871,

Northwestern University has been a leader in the field of cognitive science, creating the nation's first graduate program in Learning Sciences. A model for programs at other institutions, this program provides interdisciplinary training in curricular, technological, and social policy innovations aimed at improving education. Education faculty have worked with teachers and administrators in the Chicago public schools to investigate the process of collaborative design and problem-solving. Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy has been ranked among the top schools in the nation for research in the 2002 U.S. News and World Report Graduate School Rankings. Contact: Dr. Brian Reiser, School of Education and Social Policy, 847-467-2205,

The University of Michigan, one of the nation's leading teaching and research universities, is a pioneer in technological development for instruction. Its School of Education has been ranked as one of the top schools in the nation for research in the 2002 U.S. News and World Report Graduate School Rankings. Faculty members have developed strong ties with local school districts and have been instrumental in helping to bring about systemic reform in science education in the Detroit Public School System. Currently, University of Michigan researchers, along with Northwestern University are engaged in a partnership to create science curriculum materials for middle school students that are based on Project 2061's benchmarks and its instructional criteria. Contact: Dr. Joseph Krajcik, School of Education, 734-647-0597,

American Association for the Advancement of Science is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to