Alignment: Overall Summary

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations for Alignment to NGSS, Gateways 1 and 2. Gateway 1: Designed for NGSS; Criterion 1: Three-Dimensional Learning does not meet expectations. The materials do not engage students through the integration of the DCIs, SEPs, and CCCs or engage students in sensemaking. While each lesson includes learning objectives, very few of the lessons have three-dimensional learning objectives; often the CCC is missing from the learning objectives. Every unit includes summative assessments as well as a culminating project. Each unit includes Performance Expectations (PEs) as the three-dimensional learning objective but often the summative assessments only assess a portion of that PE. 

Criterion 2: Phenomena and Problems Drive Learning does not meet expectations. There are few opportunities for students to engage in phenomena and/or problems throughout the series. The majority of the phenomena are seen in Grade 6 and are within the physical science and earth and space science domains. While students engage in problems throughout each grade level, there are few opportunities to engage in problems; when problems are present they are seen in the physical science and earth and space science domains. When phenomena and problems are present, they meet expectations of being connected to grade level DCIs and are presented as directly as possible to students. However, science topics typically organize student learning, as opposed to phenomena or problems driving student learning. Additionally, the materials do not leverage students’ prior knowledge or experiences related to the phenomena or problems.

Alignment

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Does Not Meet Expectations

Gateway 1:

Designed for NGSS

0
12
22
26
6
22-26
Meets Expectations
13-21
Partially Meets Expectations
0-12
Does Not Meet Expectations

Gateway 2:

Coherence & Scope

0
29
48
56
N/A
48-56
Meets Expectations
30-47
Partially Meets Expectations
0-29
Does Not Meet Expectations

Usability

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Not Rated

Not Rated

Gateway 3:

Usability

0
16
23
26
N/A
23-26
Meets Expectations
17-22
Partially Meets Expectations
0-16
Does Not Meet Expectations

Gateway One

Designed for NGSS

Does Not Meet Expectations

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Gateway One Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations for Gateway 1: Designed for NGSS; Criterion 1: Three-Dimensional Learning does not meet expectations and Criterion 2: Phenomena and Problems Drive Learning does not meet expectations.

Criterion 1a - 1c

Materials are designed for three-dimensional learning and assessment.

2/16
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Criterion Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations for Criterion 1a-1c: Three-Dimensional Learning. 

The materials do not engage students through the integration of the DCIs, SEPs, and CCCs or engage students in sensemaking. While each lesson includes learning objectives, very few of the lessons have three-dimensional learning objectives; often the CCC is missing from the learning objectives. Every unit includes summative assessments as well as a culminating project. Each unit includes Performance Expectations (PEs) as the three-dimensional learning objective but often the summative assessments only assess a portion of that PE.

Indicator 1a

Materials are designed to integrate the Science and Engineering Practices (SEP), Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI), and Crosscutting Concepts (CCC) into student learning.

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Indicator Rating Details

Indicator 1a.i

Materials consistently integrate the three dimensions in student learning opportunities.

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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 partially meet expectations that they are designed to integrate the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs), Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs), and Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs) into student learning opportunities.

The series contains 18 units with six units per grade level. Each unit is divided into nine lesson sequences for a total of 162 lesson sequences (learning sequences) across the grade band. The number of lessons (learning opportunities) in each lesson sequence varies from one lesson to 10 lessons. 

Across the series, nearly half of the learning sequences have at least one learning opportunity that integrates all three dimensions, resulting in over 80 opportunities across the series for students to engage with all three dimensions. Many of the remaining learning sequences were two dimensional, with a DCI with an SEP, or a DCI with a CCC. Several lesson sequences contain lessons that focus on only the DCI, SEP, or CCC or focus on ETS DCIs without connecting to content in life, earth and space, or physical science. 

Examples of learning sequences that integrate all three dimensions within at least one learning opportunity: 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.4-1.7, students participate in experiments that demonstrate heat transfer. Students investigate the observed rate of dye spreading in containers of hot and cold water. They explain the difference in the rate of spreading in terms of the temperature of the water and the energy of motion of water molecules. In Lesson 1.6, students track the transfer of energy in a system. Students record the starting temperature of the hot tea and the cold tea in degrees Fahrenheit. Students record the change in temperature in degrees Fahrenheit every minute for a period of 20 minutes until both containers reach ambient temperature. They graph the data, analyze it, and explain the energy transfer into or out of the cup of tea (DCI-PS3.A-M3, SEP-INV-M2, and CCC-EM-M4).

  • In Grade 6: Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.8-1.10, students engage in activities to explore the concept of the greenhouse effect. In Lesson 1.10, students determine the rate of temperature change of gases, comparing containers of air and air plus added carbon dioxide (SEP-INV-M2). Students conduct an investigation to explore the relationship (CCC-CE-M1) between greenhouse gases and temperature. After the investigation, students discuss the results to conclude that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts as an insulator and keeps thermal energy from transferring from earth's surface out to space (DCI-ESS3.D-M1).

  • In Grade 6, Unit 6: Scientific Storytelling, Lessons 6.2-6.4, students investigate responses to stimuli. In Lesson 6.3, students explore and gather information (SEP-INFO-M3) about their responses to different stimuli and investigate their reaction time for catching a ruler. These investigations provide evidence that shows the relationships (CCC-CE-M2) between information received by sensory receptors and behavior, both immediate and over longer time periods (DCI-LS1.D-M1).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 1: Minerals, Lessons 1.14-1.16, students create models of the rock cycle to demonstrate learning about types of rocks and the energy used to create each. In Lesson 1.14, students learn about igneous rocks, observe a demonstration using sugar to model how igneous is formed, make observations of the properties of their sugar rocks, and describe the processes that created their “rocks.” Then, students use the similarities and differences of their sugar rocks and actual igneous rocks to create a model (SEP-MOD-M5) describing how energy drives the processes (CCC-EM-M2) that lead to the formation of igneous rocks (DCI-ESS2.A-M1).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 6: Ecosystems, Lessons, 6.20-6.25, students explore what it’s like to be an ecologist, how to conduct field research, and how to devise a data collection plan. Students ask and answer questions (SEP-AQDP-M1) based on careful observations of ecosystem interactions to learn more about the relationships between organism populations and the availability of resources. Students take the perspective of an ecologist observing ecosystem simulations and observe patterns (CCC-PAT-M1) in the relationship between organisms and their resources, then use those observations as a basis for making predictions. Students closely examine and question the relationship between a fox population and a rabbit population to understand the dynamics associated with ecosystems. The interaction between the two populations may result in disruptions to a biological component of the system (DCI-LS2.C-M1) that can change the characteristics of the ecosystem over time.

  • In Grade 8 Unit 1: Exploring Early Earth, Lessons 1.4-1.6, students perform an investigation of non-contact forces using magnets, learn about the factors that affect the gravitational force, and construct an explanation (CER) explaining how gravitational force is affected by mass (SEP-CEDS-M3, DCI-PS2.B-M2). Students then watch a video about how celestial objects orbit one another and use a simulation to modify the orbits of celestial objects (DCI-ESS1.B-M1). Students finally create a graphic organizer model of the organizational system within the universe (CCC-SYS-M1). 

Examples of learning sequences that do not integrate all three dimensions within at least one learning opportunity: 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.26-1.27, students reflect on their prototypes of well-insulated homes and take a post-assessment to see what they learned over the unit. None of the lessons provide an opportunity for students to engage in all three dimensions. Students evaluate their solutions then use a gallery walk to evaluate how well their peers’ solutions met the design criteria (DCI-ETS1.B-M2). In the unit assessment, students apply their knowledge of home energy conservation (SEP-CEDS-E4). None of the individual lessons in the lesson sequence integrate all three dimensions.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 2: Home Energy, Lessons 2.3-2.6, students design and test a wind turbine. Students construct and test the efficiency of their prototype wind turbines (SEP-MOD-M7), measuring the speed to lift a paperclip a given distance. In Lesson 2.4, students reflect on the results from testing the original design then modify the turbine blades to increase the efficiency of the turbine at lifting the paperclip a given distance (DCI-ETS1.B-M1, SEP-DATA-M4). In Lessons 2.5 and 2.6, students continue to use the data collected from the first iteration of their designs and tests to modify and further develop more efficient wind turbines. Students test their redesigns and create graphs to report their results (DCI-ETS1.C-M2, SEP-DATA-M4). None of the individual lessons in the lesson sequence integrate all three dimensions.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 4: Protecting Plants and Animals, Lessons 4.1-4.2, students take and review the unit pre-assessment and are introduced to the unit by looking at the Unit Roadmap. Students participate in a class discussion about how earth is like a home then brainstorm ways that human activity impacts the homes of organisms (DCI-ESS3.C-M1). Students do a math activity that shows how quickly people can make a difference by working together. None of the individual lessons in the lesson sequence integrate all three dimensions.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 1: Minerals, Lessons 1.1-1.2, students take a pre-assessment and learn that smartphones are made from earth’s material resources. Students engage in an activity where cookies are unevenly distributed throughout the class. They discuss the cookie-mineral analogy, understanding that minerals are not available everywhere, and using large quantities of minerals deplete the supply. They discuss how the cookie-mineral analogy relates to the unit challenge of building a more sustainable smartphone. None of the lessons in the lesson sequence integrate all three dimensions.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 2: Petroleum, Lessons 2.1-2.4, students write and draw explanations of petroleum formation. Students draw a model of the geological processes resulting in petroleum formation; students do not develop their own model, but rather illustrate the narration read to them (CCC-CE-M2, ESS3.A-M1). None of the individual lessons in the lesson sequence integrate all three dimensions.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 4: Humans and Life, Lessons 4.1-4.2, students complete a pre-assessment about genetic diversity and how traits are inherited from parent organisms to offspring. Students investigate some of their own traits and those of family members (DCI-LS3.B-M1). None of the individual lessons in the lesson sequence integrate all three dimensions.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 6: Future Energy, Lessons 6.1-6.3, students use Google Maps to study local infrastructure. Students define the term sustainability and are introduced to the unit challenge of designing a sustainable community. In Lesson 6.2, students brainstorm local departments or agencies that would be responsible for managing sectors of sustainability that they have studied, e.g., waste removal, water, food, transportation, energy. In Lesson 6.3, students use Google Maps to study the infrastructure and geographical features of their area. Students draw a diagram of how electricity gets to their home (SEP-MOD-M7). Students do a systems analysis; they suggest ideas for different levels of communities and figure out what the boundaries are for their community, beginning with their own homes (CCC-SPQ-M2) and ending with their town's border as the boundary of the system of interest (CCC-SYS-M2). None of the individual lessons in the lesson sequence integrate all three dimensions.

Indicator 1a.ii

Materials consistently support meaningful student sensemaking with the three dimensions.

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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations that they consistently support meaningful student sensemaking with the three dimensions. Across the series, the materials do not consistently engage students in the use of SEPs and CCCs to meaningfully support student sensemaking with the other dimensions. 

The materials integrate the use of the three dimensions for sensemaking in nearly half of the learning sequences. Students often use a claims, evidence, reasoning (CER) framework to develop explanations; when these opportunities are present, they typically engage students with sensemaking using all the three dimensions. 

Across the materials, there were numerous missed opportunities for students to engage with sensemaking with and of a crosscutting concept. When science and engineering practices are used for sensemaking, they frequently support the analysis and interpretation of data. Additionally, several lesson sequences focus on developing understanding of a single dimension or focus on ETS DCIs without connecting to content in life, earth and space, or physical science, resulting in missed opportunities for sensemaking with multiple dimensions.

Examples of learning sequence where students do not engage in meaningful sensemaking with multiple dimensions: 

  • In  Grade 6, Unit 2: Home Energy, Lessons 2.1-2.2, students take the pre-assessment, and watch the Karbon Kombat video as an introduction to the unit. Students discuss systems when looking at wind turbines as a source of energy. They are prompted to think about the home as a series of connected systems. Students take a systems view of energy in the home such as where energy comes from and how energy is used (CCC-SYS-M1). This lesson sequence focuses on introducing the unit and developing an understanding of systems.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 4: Protecting Plants and Animals, Lessons 4.1-4.2, students take and review the unit pre-assessment and are introduced to the unit. Students participate in a class discussion about how earth is like a home. Students brainstorm ways that humans impact the homes of organisms with their actions. Students finish the discussion with a math activity where they use multiplication to show how quickly people can make a difference by working together (one person passes a message to 30 classmates, then those classmates continue to pass along the message). This lesson sequence introduces students to the impacts of human activities. 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 6: Scientific Storytelling, Lessons 6.13-6.18, students use story spine and film producing techniques to brainstorm about solutions to climate change. Students learn about the elements of a story and explore what makes a story more effective or interesting. Students are tasked with creating a story that will change the world (SEP-INFO-M1). Students brainstorm ideas about solutions to climate change, learn basic film techniques, and write storyboards for their proposed film. This lesson sequence focuses on storytelling as a communication strategy for effecting change, rather than elements of the three dimensions.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 4: Soil, Lessons 4.5-4.8, students design experiments to determine the impacts of factors on plant growth. Students first learn how to test the soil to determine the amount of organic matter; they then compare the amount of organic matter in soil samples collected from different areas. Students research different factors that affect soil quality before compiling a class list of the factors that negatively affect soil quality. Students select a factor from the class list, then design experiments to test how their selected variable will impact the growth of a healthy plant (SEP-INV-M1). Students collect and analyze data from their investigations in subsequent lesson sequences. This lesson sequence focuses on strategies for designing and conducting investigations.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 4: Humans and Life, Lessons 4.1-4.2, students recognize that organisms have traits. Students take and review a pre-assessment. Then students participate in a discovery activity during which they investigate some of their own traits and those of family members. This lesson sequence is an introduction to the unit for students to begin thinking about why sexual reproduction results in offspring with genetic variation. 

  • In Grade 8, Unit 6: Future Energy, Lessons 6.1-6.3, students use Google Maps to study local infrastructure. Students define the term sustainability and are introduced to the unit challenge of designing a sustainable community. In Lesson 6.2, students brainstorm local departments or agencies that would be responsible for managing sectors of sustainability that they have studied (e.g., waste removal, water, food, transportation, energy). In Lesson 6.3, students use Google Maps to scope out the infrastructure and geographical features of their area. Students consider their community as a system made up of subsystems that make it work (CCC-SYS-M2). This lesson sequence focuses on introducing the unit and developing an understanding of systems.

Examples of learning sequence where SEPs and CCCs meaningfully support student sensemaking with the other dimensions. 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.4-1.7, students participate in experiments that demonstrate heat transfer. Students observe the rate that dye spreads in containers of hot and cold water; they explain the difference in terms of the temperature of the water and the energy of motion of water molecules. Students use a simulation and manipulate variables to show the movement of neon atoms at different phases of matter. These activities help students understand that temperature is the average kinetic energy of molecules (DCI-PS3.A-M4). Students record the transfer of thermal energy toward chilled student fingers and away from heated student fingers in room-temperature water and track the transfer of energy in a system (CCC-EM-M4), record the data, and graph the data for analysis in order to understand the concept of transfer of energy (SEP-INV-M2, DCI-PS3.A-M3, and DCI-PS3.B-M3). Students track the transfer of energy in a system (cooling tea and warming tea) in a data table, graph and analyze the data, and explain the energy transfer into or out of the cup of tea (DCI-PS3.A-M4, SEP-INV-M2, and CCC-EM-M4).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 1: Minerals, Lessons 1.7-1.9, students learn how to write an explanation using a CER framework. They participate in a skit and create a puzzle of Pangea then write a CER about continental drift. In Lessons 1.8-1.9, students write a CER paragraph (SEP-CEDS-M3) to answer the question: “Were Earth’s continents once joined as a single landmass that moved apart over millions of years?” Students use distribution patterns of fossils and rock types to create a pangea puzzle, then use those patterns as evidence to show that Earth’s continents were once joined (CCC-PAT-M3, DCI-ESS2.B-M1, and DCI-ESS3.A-M1).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 3: Food, Lessons 3.6-3.7, students determine if chemical reactions have occurred. Students measure and record the amount of carbon dioxide in the air before and during photosynthesis then answer the interpretation questions (SEP-INV- M4, CCC-PAT-M1). During the interpretation activity, students explain that planting trees is a potential solution to slow climate change because trees use carbon dioxide from the air and water. Students use their data as evidence that plants take in matter in the form of carbon dioxide and water; energy from the sun helps plants produce carbon-based organic molecules that can be used immediately or stored; and plants release oxygen into the environment through photosynthesis (DCI-LS1.C-M1). Students collect and analyze data (SEP-DATA-M4) on properties of substances before and after an interaction to determine if a chemical reaction occurred (DCI-PS1.B-M1, CCC-PAT-M3).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 6: Ecosystems, Lessons 6.9-6.12, students classify the abiotic and biotic components of an ecosystem and use data to explain how population size changes over time. In Lesson 6.10, students research an ecosystem and an organism within it, collecting data on how the organism’s population changed in response to an available resource in their ecosystem. Students then create triple line graphs (SEP-DATA-M1) and analyze the cause and effect relationship between the organism’s population and the availability of two resources within its ecosystem. Students use this data to explain how the growth of an organism and its population are affected by resource availability and why the population of the organism changed over time (DCI-LS2.A-M3, CCC-CE-M2). 

  • In Grade 8, Unit 4: Humans and Life, Lessons 4.7-4.8, students use Punnett squares to determine the probability of traits. Students watch a presentation that introduces vocabulary and explains the relationship between chromosomes, alleles, genes, and traits. After the initial instruction, students use Punnett squares to model how genes are passed from parent to offspring in sexual reproduction (SEP-MOD-M5, DCI-LS3.B-M1, and CCC-SF-M1). Students predict the probability of inherited traits based on inherited alleles (DCI-LS3.A-M2, DCI-LS3.B-M1) and compare similarities and differences in phenotypes to explain that genetic variation is increased through sexual reproduction (CCC-CE-M2). 

  • In Grade 8, Unit 6: Future Energy, Lessons 6.4-6.6, students use water wheels to investigate the energy transformations that occur within hydroelectric power plants. Students construct models of water wheels to explore energy transformation in a system (SEP-MOD-M6). Students use the water wheel system to make predictions about the amount of potential energy the water has if the height of the reservoir changes (DCI-PS3.A-M2, CCC-SYS-M2).

Indicator 1b

Materials are designed to elicit direct, observable evidence for three-dimensional learning.

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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations that they are designed to elicit direct, observable evidence for the three-dimensional learning in the instructional materials.

Across the series, most lessons are designed to be completed in a single class period and  include one or more learning objectives. Very few of the lessons include three-dimensional objectives. Individual lessons are organized into a larger lesson sequence, usually comprising two or more lessons. Objectives for the lesson sequences included all objectives for the individual lessons within the set; when objectives are viewed collectively across the lesson sequence, nearly one third of all lesson sequences provide three-dimensional learning objectives. Most of the remaining lesson sequences provide two-dimensional learning objectives, primarily focusing on SEP and DCI elements; elements of crosscutting concepts are often not included in learning objectives. 

Each unit provides multiple opportunities for formative assessment tasks. Each unit begins with a pre-assessment that is given during the first lesson sequence of the unit and consists of a variety of question types, including short answer questions and prompts to draw models and analyze data. An answer key is provided and teachers are prompted to review the correct answers with students. 

Other formative assessment tasks include targeted classroom discussions, various worksheets or activities, and Concept Checkpoints that occur once or twice per unit. These formative assessment tasks are clearly identified in the Assessment section of the Unit Overview for each unit. Across the series, few lesson sequences assess all objectives for the lesson sequence, or elements of all three dimensions. Many tasks assess only the DCI elements found within the lesson sequence. 

While the materials consistently provide answer keys and sample discussion questions, there are few instances throughout the series where the materials provide guidance to support teachers in using the formative assessment information to support student learning. 

Examples where learning objectives are not three-dimensional and/or materials are not designed to elicit direct, observable evidence for three-dimensional learning; guidance does not support the instructional process.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 2: Home Energy, Lessons 2.3-2.6, there are four learning objectives:  build wind turbines and analyze models to think about ways to test the efficiency of turbines, develop methods of testing wind turbine design, design a method to test the efficiency, and use engineering practices to modify the design. Collectively, the learning objectives are not three dimensional. Students use data collected from the first iteration of their designs to modify their wind turbine designs. Students test their redesigns and create graphs of the efficiency of their design. Students demonstrate the performance of their models to the entire class and share their results. Students discuss energy generation in connection with a zero energy home. The formative assessment task is an exit ticket that asks students to summarize the processes used during the engineering design experience. The formative assessment task asked students to reflect on the targeted learning objectives but does not assess elements of all three dimensions. The materials do not provide teacher guidance for supporting students who struggle to meet these objectives. 

  • In Grade 7, Unit 1: Minerals, Lessons 1.7-1.9, there are six learning objectives: describe how claims, evidence, and reasoning are used to answer scientific questions and explain phenomena; assess the merits of sample claims, evidence, and reasoning statements; act out a skit depicting scientific skepticism about Alfred Wegner’s theory of continental drift; build a Pangea model to look for evidence of continental drift; complete the continental puzzles and write claim-evidence-reasoning (CER) statements supporting Wegener’s theory of continental drift; and participate in Unit Concept Checkpoint #1. Collectively, the objectives are not clearly three dimensional. Students complete their continental puzzles and write claim-evidence reasoning statements supporting Wegner’s theory of continental drift; the answer key looks for understanding using elements of all three dimensions. The formative assessment task for this lesson sequence is an exit ticket that asks students, “How do you feel about other scientists being skeptical of Wegener’s theory of continental drift? Explain your answer.” While this connects to the objectives, it does not assess the full range of objectives or all elements associated with the objectives. The materials do not provide teacher guidance for supporting students who struggle to meet these objectives. . 

  • In Grade 7, Unit 5: Water: Life and Danger, Lessons 5.15-5.16, there are seven learning objectives. Lesson 15 has three learning objectives: learn about the potential health effects of an increase in precipitation; identify connections between climate drivers and health effects; participate in Unit Concept Checkpoint #1. Lesson 16 has four learning objectives: analyze data to identify the effects of flooding on water reservoirs and potential mitigation methods; design basic water filters that could be used after an extreme flooding event; address the application of scientific knowledge in engineering/design projects and the development of technology; and model metacognition on learned content to cultivate their science identity and interest in STEM careers. Collectively, these objectives contain elements of all three dimensions. The formative assessment task for this lesson sequence is Unit Concept Checkpoint #1 which consists of multiple-choice questions. The formative assessment does not address the learning objectives for this lesson sequence or elements of all three dimensions. While an answer key is provided, the materials do not provide teacher guidance for supporting students who struggle to meet these objectives.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 1: Exploring Early Earth, Lessons 1.10-1.14, there are nine learning objectives: observe different patterns in rock layers and construct timelines of events using the sequence of rock layers; explain how rock layers buried deep beneath the earth get exposed to the earth's surface; explain how rock layers get tilted or folded; interpret rock layers using principles of relative dating and construct timelines of events using the sequence of rock layers lesson; use fossils to correlate rock layers over long distances; use fossils to observe changes in the organisms that lived in an area over geologic time; identify a mass extinction in the geologic record; use the chemical composition of a layer of rock to identify its origin; and interpret data about the frequency of geologic hazards. Collectively, these objectives contain elements of all three dimensions. The formative assessment task is in Lesson 1.12 where students develop storyboards about how the rock layers changed over time. Students develop storyboards (SEP-MOD-M6) to diagram how to identify the age of materials on earth (DCI-ESS1.C-M1). Students identify what happens to different layers in the rock and why they look the way that they do. This task does not assess all learning objectives in the lesson sequence or elements of all three dimensions. While the materials provide support for the debrief after the activity, the materials do not provide teacher guidance for supporting students who struggle to meet these objectives. 

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5: Transportation, Lessons 5.10-5.11, there are three learning objectives: apply external forces to an object and measure its change in velocity; plan an investigation to provide evidence that a change in a drag racer’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the vehicle, as well as the mass of the car; and present qualitative evidence based on multiple trials. Collectively, the learning objectives are not three dimensional. The formative assessment task for this lesson sequence is an exit ticket. The exit ticket asks students to draw a diagram of the forces affecting the acceleration of a drag racer (SEP-MOD-M6), including arrows that show all of the forces affecting the drag racer, and with the lengths of arrows varying to show the overall motion of the drag racer (DCI-PS2.A-M2). This task does not assess all learning objectives in the lesson sequence or elements of all three dimensions. While the materials provide an answer key to the exit ticket, the materials do not provide teacher guidance for supporting students who struggle to meet these objectives. 

Example where learning objectives are three-dimensional and elicit direct, observable evidence for three-dimensional learning; guidance does not support the instructional process.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.4-1.7, there are four learning objectives: define temperature in terms of the kinetic energy of particles in a substance, develop models to show the relationship between temperature and energy in a substance, track the transfer of thermal energy in a system, and determine that energy is transferred out of hotter regions or objects and into colder ones. Individual objectives are one or two dimensional, but collectively are three dimensional across the lesson sequence. The formative assessment task for this lesson sequence assesses the targeted learning objectives as students work in small groups to develop a model of substances at different temperatures (SEP-MOD-M5), but students are not individually assessed. Models must show what the substance looks like in the real-world and also include what is happening at the microscopic level to show what particles look like at each temperature (DCI-PS3.A-M4). In their small groups, students must also show energy transfer within the system in their models (CCC-SYS-M2, CCC-EM-M4). The formative assessment is three dimensional. The materials inform teachers to provide a summary of the definition of heat and thermal energy and to instruct students to record the definitions in their science notebook but provide no direction on how or if students are assessed, individually or in small groups. The materials do not provide teacher guidance for supporting students who struggle to meet these objectives.

Indicator 1c

Materials are designed to elicit direct, observable evidence of the three-dimensional learning.

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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations that they are designed to elicit direct, observable evidence of the three-dimensional learning in the instructional materials. Each unit includes three-dimensional objectives in the form of the performance expectations (PEs) identified in the Unit Storyline. Additionally, each unit has objectives labeled as Student Outcomes in the Unit Storyline, which are directly tied to the culminating project at the end of the unit. The objectives for the culminating project usually include at least one DCI, and often incorporate elements of one or more SEP or CCC; collectively, the culminating project objectives are rarely three dimensional. 

Across the series, the materials present summative assessments throughout each unit. The summative assessments are clearly identified in the Assessment section of the Unit Overview for each unit. Most of the summative assessments and culminating projects have a grading rubric available. While the rubrics often provide evidence of assessing elements from all three dimensions, in numerous instances the elements assessed do not match the elements associated with performance expectations for that unit. Additionally, the culminating projects and summative assessments frequently assess only a subset of the PEs, elements associated with the PEs, and/or the objectives associated with the culminating project. 

Examples where materials provide three-dimensional learning objectives for the learning sequence but summative tasks are not designed to measure student achievement of all the targeted three-dimensional learning objectives: 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, the unit level objectives include six performance expectations: MS-ESS3-5, MS-PS3-3, MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, and MS-ETS1-4. There are three summative assessment opportunities for students throughout the unit plus a culminating project that has its own objectives. Multiple unit objectives or their associated elements are not assessed by the summative assessments, most notably the crosscutting concepts. The culminating project partially assesses students on the objectives for this project. 

    • In Lesson 1.8, a multiple choice quiz assesses student understanding of the particle nature of matter (DCI-PS1.A-M3, DCI-PS1.A-M4, DCI-PS1.A-M5, and DCI-PS1.A-M6) and thermal energy transfer (DCI-PS3.B-M3). For some questions, students use models to determine the phase of a substance and analyze time vs. temperature graphs to explain thermal energy transfer (SEP-MOD-M6). 

    • In Lesson 1.19, students write an investigation report on minimizing thermal energy transfer. Students determine the question of their investigation, the materials they need, diagram and describe their investigation set-up, record and analyze their data, and create a diagram model to show how the insulator they chose changes the flow of thermal energy (SEP-INV-M2). They use this data to determine the effects on thermal energy transfer for their tested insulator (DCI-PS3.B-M3). 

    • In Lesson 1.27, students take a final assessment that includes open-ended questions that assess understanding of kinetic energy and its relationship to temperature (DCI-PS3.A-M4), thermal energy transfer (DCI-PS3.B-M3), human activities that increase carbon dioxide levels, carbon dioxide levels relationship to global temperature, and carbon footprints and how humans can reduce them (DCI-ESS3.D-M1). Students create a model of kinetic energy and thermal energy transfer (SEP-MOD-M5, SEP-MOD-M6). 

    • In the culminating project, students design a climate-friendly home that reduces heat transfer as a solution to climate change (DCI-ETS1.A-M1, SEP-MOD-M7). Students brainstorm materials needed and the constraints and criteria to be successful. Students build, test, and refine their climate-friendly homes (DCI-ETS1.A-M1, SEP-MOD-M7). Students meet with other groups to compare their own solutions with that of other groups to learn of their solutions (DCI-ETS1.B-M2). The process of evaluating competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria engages (SEP-ARG-M5). Finally, as they further refine their designs they are engaging (DCI-ETS1.B-M1, DCI-ETS1.B-M4, and DCI-ETS1.C-M2)  Students analyze data from other group tests as well as from their own modification tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success (SEP-DATA-M4). 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 3: Weather and Climate, the unit level objectives include two performance expectations: MS-ESS2-5 and MS-ESS2.6. There are four summative assessment opportunities for students throughout the unit plus a culminating project that has its own objectives. Elements from all three dimensions are assessed, but multiple unit objectives or their associated elements are not assessed, including DCI-ESS2.C-M4, DCI-ESS2.D-M3, and SEP-INV-M4.

    • In Lesson 3.10, a quiz assesses student understanding of how unequal heating can affect local weather and climate. Students analyze two graphs (SEP-DATA-M3) to determine the relationship between air pressure and wind speed (DCI-ESS2.D-M1, CCC-CE-M2). 

    • In Lesson 3.13, a quiz assesses student understanding of how the rotation of the earth affects weather systems (CCC-SYS-M2). Students develop a model (SEP-MOD-M5) that explains how high and low-pressure systems rotate in the Northern Hemisphere (DCI-ESS2.D-M1). Students also predict the wind direction based on pressure systems (DCI-ESS2.C-M2, DCI-ESS2.D-M1, DCI-ESS2.D-M2, and CCC-SYS-M2). 

    • In Lesson 3.21, a quiz assesses student understanding of how latitude, altitude, and local geography can affect weather and climate. Students analyze a model of a fictitious continent to identify how a mountain range and surrounding ocean will affect the weather and climate of different cities (DCI-ESS2.D-M1, DCI-ESS2.D-M2, and CCC-SYS-M2). Students use the model to demonstrate their understanding of the rain shadow effect, the effects of altitude and latitude, and the effects of local winds based on proximity to the ocean (SEP-MOD-M5). 

    • In Lesson 3.31, students complete a unit assessment to demonstrate their understanding of different factors that affect local and global weather and climate patterns. The end-of-module test partially assesses students’ achievement of the two performance expectations identified as objectives in the unit. The assessment covers three of the five DCIs (DCI-ESS2.C-M2, DCI-ESS2.D-M1, and DCI-ESS2.D-M2). 

    • In the culminating project, students write a short story to explain the weather in their adopted city, including what factors cause some of the weather (DCI-ESS2.D-M1, CCC-CE-M1). The project includes graphs to explain the observed weather (SEP-DATA-M3) and students explain the climate of the adopted city. Students use graphs of climate data to explain the main factors that are responsible for the climate of the city (DCI-ESS2.D-M1, SEP-DATA-M3, and CCC-CE-M1) and include predictions for the city’s future climate. 

  • In Grade 7, Unit 3: Food, the unit level objectives include four performance expectations, MS-LS1-6, MS-LS1-7, MS-PS-1-2, and MS-PS-1-6. There are four summative assessment opportunities throughout the unit, plus a culminating project that has its own objectives. The unit-level student outcomes for the culminating project are met. Elements from all three dimensions are assessed, but multiple unit objectives or their associated elements are not assessed. 

    • In Lesson 3.12, students design a device that releases or absorbs thermal energy through a chemical reaction (DCI-PS1.B-M3). Students design, test, and redesign their devices before sharing their designs with another team then redesigning and testing their revised devices (DCI-ETS1.B-M1, DCI-ETS1.C-M2, and DCI-ETS1.C-M1). Students follow a set of criteria and constraints and their device must serve a purpose (SEP-CEDS-M7). 

    • In Lesson 3.13 and 3.14, students make a six-sided cube to show their understanding of photosynthesis; using each side of the cube, students define photosynthesis, identify photosynthetic organisms (DCI-LS1.C-M1), create a flowchart of energy transfer that occurs from the sun to grass to an insect (CCC-EM-M4), and create a diagram of photosynthesis occurring within a plant using inputs, outputs, and the locations of each (SEP-MOD-M6, DCI-PS3.D-M1, and CCC-EM-M2). Students also justify whether life on earth relies on the sun and describe plants' role in reducing CO2

    • In Lesson 3.19-3.20, students make a storyboard that describes cellular respiration as a chemical reaction where new products are formed with different properties (DCI-PS1.B-M1, DCI-PS3.D-M2, and DCI-LS1.C-M2), the energy released from this process is now usable to the organism (CCC-EM-M4), and models the unobservable mechanisms of cellular respiration is a process of digestion (SEP-MOD-M6, CCC-EM-M2). 

    • In Lesson 3.34, students take a unit assessment that has them model the flow of energy between photosynthesis and cellular respiration, (CCC-EM-M2, DCI-LS1.C-M2, DCI-LS1.C-M1, and SEP-MOD-M6), identify the products and reactants of each reaction (DCI.LS1.C-M2, DCI-LS1.C-M1), construct an explanation for whether or not a chemical reaction took place based on a description (DCI-PS1.B-M1), and offer optimization for the design of a cooling pack. 

    • In the culminating project, students work in groups to create two recipes that are low-carbon recipes. Students must create the menu items, write their rationale for why these items are low carbon by explaining how each item has a low carbon footprint for each stage of the food life cycle, and create recipes for each menu item. Within their menus, students must explain how carbon flows in each stage of the food life cycle, include a diagram of the digestive system, and identify how chemical processes break down food. 

  • In Grade 8, Unit 1: Exploring the Earth, the unit level objectives include four performance expectations, MS-ESS1-2, MS-ESS1-3, MS-ESS1-4, and MS-PS2-1. There are four summative assessment opportunities, plus a culminating project that has its own objectives. The culminating project assesses elements of all three dimensions but does not address all the targeted learning objectives. Across all of the summative assessments, elements from all three dimensions are assessed, but multiple unit objectives or their associated elements are not assessed. 

    • In Lesson 1.7, students develop a model (SEP-MOD-M5) to describe the hierarchy patterns of orbiting systems in the solar system and gravity’s role in this (DCI-ESS1.A-M2, DCI-ESS1.B-M1). Students use the model to write summaries describing these relationships and interactions and explain why models are helpful to represent systems (CCC-CYS-M2). 

    • In Lesson 1.8, students create a scale model of the Earth, Moon, and asteroid belt to better understand the size and distance of and between the objects. This assessment evaluates students’ ability to analyze and interpret data (SEP-DATA-M7) of different scale properties (CCC-SPQ-M1) between the Earth, Moon, and Ceres-asteroid belt (DCI-ESS1.B-M1). 

    • In Lesson 1.17, students diagram a model (CCC-SYS-M2) to design a solution (SEP-CEDS-M6) to avoid an asteroid collision with earth using Newton’s third law of motion (DCI-PS2.A-M1). 

    • In Lesson 1.29, the summative assessment consists of eleven short answers and  multiple-choice questions that ask students to interpret a data table of celestial bodies in our solar system and to interpret samples of fossils and rock strata (DCI-ESS1.A-M2, DCI-ESS1.B-M1, DCI-ESS1.C-M1, and PS2.A-M1). 

    • In the culminating project, students create an animated story about protecting the earth. Students create an animated story of the earth’s past, present, and future using an online software program. The culminating project assesses students’ ability to develop and use an abstract computer model (SEP-MOD-M5) to identify relationships between the components of the earth system, focusing on the solar system as part of our galaxy (CCC-SYS-M2), and the role of gravity (DCI-ESS1.B-M1) in the development of the earth and the solar system. The assessment also gauges how well students understand the crosscutting concept that major events in earth’s history can be organized on a smaller scale (CCC-SPQ-M1) to give us insight into earth’s very large geologic time scale   (DCI-ESS1.C-M1). 

  • In Grade 8, Unit 6: Scientific Storytelling, the unit level objectives include three performance expectations: MS-ESS1-1, MS-PS2-4, and MS-PS3-2. The unit includes five summative assessments, plus a culminating project that has its own objectives. The unit-level student outcomes for the culminating project are met. Elements from all three dimensions are assessed, but multiple unit objectives or their associated elements are not assessed. 

    • In Lesson 6.6, students analyze their models of a water wheel and demonstrate understanding of energy and energy transfer (DCI-PS3.A-M2, DCI-PS3.C-M1). Students apply their knowledge of potential energy to explain the phenomenon that waterfalls can generate electricity. Students use their water wheel models (SEP-MOD-M6) to identify various systems (CCC-SYS-M2) of energy inputs and transfers; explain how gravitational potential energy depends on height (DCI- PS3.A-M2), explain the transformation of potential energy to kinetic energy and describe the relationship between energy and forces (DCI-PS3.C-M1) as energy transfers from the moving water to the water wheel. 

    • In lesson 6.8, students use a model (SEP-MOD-M6) to engage in argument from evidence (SEP-ARG-M3) as they provide an explanation for the pattern (CCC-PAT-M3) of the sun’s movement across the sky throughout the year (DCI-ESS1.B-M2). 

    • In Lesson 6.14, students develop and use a model (SEP-MOD-M5) that illustrates a pattern (CCC-PAT-M3) identifying the cause and effect relationship (CCC-CE-M2) between earth’s motion and position in relation to the sun and why we have seasons (DCI-ESS1.B-M2). 

    • In Lesson 6.18, students demonstrate their understanding and use of models, (SEP-MOD-M6, CCC-SYS-M2) to describe changes in the potential energy of objects due to their positions. Students use but do not develop a model.

    • In Lesson 6.26, the summative assessment includes multiple choice and short answer questions that primarily assesses targeted DCIs from the objectives plus requires students to draw a model of the seasons on earth (SEP-MOD-M5, DCI-ESS1.A-M1, DCI-ESS1.B-M2, DCI-PS2.B-M2, DCI-PS3.C-M1, and DCI-PS3.A-M2). 

    • In the culminating project, students propose a solution to design a sustainable community that includes three suggested solutions (SEP-CEDS-M2) from at least two different sustainability sectors. The proposed solution explains how to reduce nonrenewable resource consumption, reduce energy consumption, and/or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Students include data to support the proposal showing how it saves resources, energy, and/or reduces GHG emissions. The report explains how the solution increases sustainability and includes data and/or information (SEP-INFO-M2) to support the thesis. The prototype for the solution is a three-dimensional representation (SEP-MOD-M5) and needs to meet criteria and constraints. Students display their map, report, and prototype in the classroom and share out in an oral presentation.

Criterion 1d - 1i

Materials leverage science phenomena and engineering problems in the context of driving learning and student performance.

4/10
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Criterion Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations for Criterion 1d-1i: Phenomena and Problems Drive Learning. 

There are few opportunities for students to engage in phenomena and/or problems throughout the series. The majority of the phenomena are seen in Grade 6 and are within the physical science and earth and space science domains. While students engage in problems throughout each grade level, there are few opportunities to engage in problems; when problems are present they are seen in the physical science and earth and space science domains. When phenomena and problems are present, they meet expectations of being connected to grade level DCIs and are presented as directly as possible to students. Science topics typically organize student learning, as opposed to phenomena or problems driving student learning. Additionally, the materials do not leverage students’ prior knowledge or experiences related to the phenomena or problems.

Indicator 1d

Phenomena and/or problems are connected to grade-band Disciplinary Core Ideas.

2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 meet expectations that phenomena and/or problems are connected to grade-band Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs). The materials consistently connect to grade-level DCIs across physical, life, and earth/space sciences. In most instances, students’ explanations of phenomena are connected to a grade-level disciplinary core idea (DCI). Similarly, students need to understand or apply a grade-band DCI as they solve problems or complete design challenges. In a few instances, the design challenges, which are often presented as engineering projects, do not require students to build an understanding of the physical, life, and earth/space science DCIs or their elements. 

Examples of problems and phenomena that connect to elements of grade-band appropriate DCIs in life, physical, or earth and space science:

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1, Lesson 1.5: Investigating Temperature Part II, the phenomenon is that particles move faster at warmer temperatures. Through a simulation, students create particle models of neon in the solid, liquid, and gas states as they build their understanding of the particulate nature of solids, liquids, and gases (DCI-PS1.A-M3, DCI-PS1.A-M4). Students build on this understanding by creating models to show the relationship between temperature and the speed or kinetic energy of the particles (DCI-PS3.A-M4).

  • In Grade 6, Unit 2: Home Energy, Lessons 2.15-2.18, the phenomenon is that sand heats up and cools off faster than water. Students build understanding that materials heat up at different rates and those rates are impacted by factors such as type of material, amount of material, the color of the material, and other factors (DCI-PS3.B-M2).

  • In Grade 6, Unit 4: Protecting Plants and Animals, Lessons 4.3-4.5, the phenomenon is that people in a population look different, but all of the yeast in a population look the same. Students research the reproductive strategies of different organisms to identify the patterns that exist within asexual and sexual reproduction. Students explain how each reproductive strategy varies in the number of parents, mechanisms, and amount of genetic variation; students compare the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy (DCI-LS1.B-M1).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 1: Minerals, Lessons 1.14-1.16, the phenomenon is that some rocks can float. Students create models of different kinds of rocks to learn about the characteristics of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks and the processes that create them. Students investigate each rock type then create models that show how heat energy from the center of the earth and energy from the sun drives the processes that result in the rock cycle (DCI-ESS2.A-M1). Students explain that the floating rock could be an igneous rock that formed from lava out of a volcano that as it cooled had air bubbles get trapped in it.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 3: Food, Lessons 3.9-3.12, the challenge is to design a device that absorbs or releases thermal energy by chemical processes. Students apply their understanding of chemical reactions that release or absorb energy to design a device to keep something warm or cool. Students design, build, analyze data, and revise their designs (DCI-PS1.B-M3, DCI-ETS1.B-M1).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 5: Water: Life and Danger, Lessons 5.1, 5.21-5.26, the problem is that some cities are susceptible to flooding. Students are challenged to create city designs that mitigate or minimize the effects of flooding. Students research a city, determine its weather patterns and the geographic features that contribute to the weather, and explain how their city might be susceptible to extreme floods. They use this information to design a response to minimize the effects of flooding within the constraints of the costs of certain materials (DCI-ESS3.B-M1).

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5: Transportation, Lessons 5.6-5.9, the phenomenon is that one vehicle has an empty bed and has struck the pole, causing the pole to break. The other vehicle is full of bricks and has struck the pole but only causing it to lean. Students conduct investigations then use their data as evidence to determine the relationships among speed, mass, and kinetic energy. Students determine that the greater the speed or mass of an object, the greater its kinetic energy (DCI-PS3.A-M1).

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5: Transportation, Lessons 5.10-5.11, the challenge is to design a fast drag racing car. Students learn that unbalanced forces cause acceleration and use their understanding of the factors affecting kinetic energy to design and modify a drag racer to optimize its speed (DCI-PS2.A-M2, DCI-PS3.A-M1).

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5, Lesson 5.17: Hyperloops: Magnetic Field Propulsion, the challenge is to design, test and build magnetic accelerators in order to optimize the force applied to an object. Students collect and analyze data on how far the ball bearing travels on the track; they use this data to explain how they could combine their different trials to optimize the amount of force applied to a ball bearing. Students modify each trial in order to optimize their results. (DCI-PS2.B-M1, DCI-ETS1.B-M1).

Indicator 1e

Phenomena and/or problems are presented to students as directly as possible.

2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 meet expectations that phenomena and/or problems are presented to students as directly as possible. The phenomena and problems present in the series are presented to students as directly as possible, typically using videos, simulations, images, and graphs. The presentation format provides students with common entry points and experiences to engage with the phenomenon or problem.

Every unit is organized around a unit-level scenario presented in the first lesson sequence of the unit, usually via a letter and/or video from the Green Ninja. While unit-level phenomena are not utilized, phenomena and problems at the lesson sequence level are presented in the opener of the first lesson in the sequence.

Examples of phenomena and problems that are presented as directly as possible:

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.11-1.13, the phenomenon is that increased atmospheric carbon is responsible for flooding and loss of polar bear habitats. Students are introduced to the phenomenon by playing a virtual game that depicts an increase in carbon, leading to flooding and the destruction of polar bear habitats. This is the most direct way to present the phenomenon because students cannot travel to a polar bear’s habit to see the effects, or visually see carbon levels increasing in the atmosphere. 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 4: Protecting Plants and Animals, Lessons 4.1, 4.18-4.22, the challenge is to design a method to protect a plant or animal species from climate change. Students are introduced to the challenge by reading a letter from the Green Ninja, a table showing future increases in yearly temperature and precipitation, and observing slides that outline the criteria for their problem. The slides provide multiple images as context for this challenge. This is the most direct way to introduce the problem because students are provided clear expectations and have an access point to examples.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 5: Reducing Pollution and Waste, Lessons 5.1, 5.34-5.36, the challenge is to design and execute a plan to help reduce the amount of waste students produce. Students are introduced to the challenge by reading a message from the Green Ninja, viewing an illustration of different types of pollution and waste, and by looking at the unit challenge action plan. Students brainstorm ways to organize the data they collect regarding the trash they throw away over the course of five days. The action plan handout provides a direct way to introduce the problem because students are given clear expectations; they use this to help inform and guide their brainstorming. 

  • In Grade 7, Unit 2: Petroleum, Lesson 2.20: Engineering Challenge: Organ Transplant Container, the challenge is to design a special container that doctors can use to safely transport vital organs to their patients. The challenge is presented to students after an initial introduction to the real-life organ transplant container challenge. The Transport Container Design Guide gives additional examples and outlines the criteria and constraints of the challenge. Because most students do not have personal experience with organ transplant containers, the challenge provides visual and text examples of the containers as a way to introduce students to the goal of the project.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 2: Petroleum, Lessons 2.21-2.22, the phenomenon is that atmospheric carbon levels are rising. The phenomenon is presented to students using a graph of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 1960 through 2019. This is the most direct way to present this phenomenon so that students can visualize that the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing over time. 

  • In Grade 7, Unit 3: Food, Lessons 3.24-3.27, the phenomenon is that a veggie burrito has a lower carbon footprint than a beef burrito. The phenomenon is presented to students as a bar graph that illustrates the relative carbon emissions of veggie and beef burritos. The bar graph of this phenomenon informs students of the relationship of relative carbon emissions of the two food products, so students have context to investigate why there is a difference.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5: Transportation, Lessons 5.6-5.9, the phenomenon is that a vehicle with an empty bed struck a pole, causing the pole to break while a different vehicle full of bricks struck a pole, but the pole leaned instead of breaking. The phenomenon is presented to students through an image of two trucks, each hitting a utility pole. Because it is unsafe and impractical for students to view this first-hand, the images are the most direct way to present the phenomenon, allowing students to question how a lighter truck could cause the pole to break whereas a heavier truck only made the pole lean over. 

  • In Grade 8 Unit 5, Transportation, Lessons 5.10-5.11, the challenge is to design a fast drag racing car. Students are introduced to the design challenge by watching a video of a drag racer, viewing slides to learn which materials they will use and the constraints of the project, and by brainstorming factors that affect motion. This is the most direct way to present the design challenge because it allows students access to the criteria of the problem and drag racers, which they would not likely be able to see in person.

Indicator 1f

Phenomena and/or problems drive individual lessons or activities using key elements of all three dimensions.

0/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations that phenomena and/or problems drive individual lessons or activities using key elements of all three dimensions. 

Each grade level contains six units, and each unit is divided into three sections; each section contains three lesson sequences for a total of nine lesson sequences per unit. A lesson sequence ranges from one lesson to eight lessons. 

For the 162 total lesson sequences for grades 6-8, only 16 or 10% of the lesson sequences are driven by phenomena or problems and engage students with all three dimensions. The remaining lesson sequences are not driven by a phenomenon or problem; instead, a science topic, DCI, SEP, or CCC drives the learning. 

Across the series, students do not consistently engage in all three dimensions in each lesson sequence. Additionally, there are multiple instances where students engage in one or more dimensions from below the middle school grade band. 

Examples of lesson sequences where phenomena or problems do not drive student learning:

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.8-1.10, the phenomenon that heat can get trapped under a blanket, does not drive learning; instead, the learning focuses on the effect of greenhouse gases on Earth. Students complete a reading about the greenhouse effect and perform a play that models (SEP-MOD-P3) how increases in greenhouse gases affect Earth’s temperature (DCI-ESS3.D-M1). Students determine cause and effect relationships between greenhouse gases and Earth’s temperature (CCC-PAT-M3). 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 2: Home Energy, Lessons 2.3-2.6, a phenomenon does not drive learning; instead, the learning focuses on using the engineering design process. Students build, test, and analyze data for their wind turbines in order to identify characteristics that increase the efficiency of the turbines (SEP-DATA-M7). Students generate a class list of characteristics that increase the efficiency and redesign their wind turbines (DCI-ETS1.C-M1, DCI-ETS1.B-M3). Teachers are prompted to point out to students that each of the structures in the turbine has a specific purpose or function (CCC-SF-P1). 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 4: Protecting Plants and Animals, Lessons 4.1- 4.2, a phenomenon does not drive learning; instead, the pre-assessment is the focus of these introductory lessons. Students take a pre-assessment to gauge how much they've learned and how this knowledge can contribute to designing a method to protect a plant or animal from the impact of climate change. The assessment covers animal and plant reproduction, plant/animal survival, similarities between parent and offspring, and the impact of a habitat on plant and animal survival. Students make comparisons through a scenario-based activity to understand what it may feel like if someone comes into your home and creates a disruption to your way of life. This comparison (CCC-SC-M2)  is made to help students deepen their understanding of how small changes in one place on earth can impact and make large changes in another part of earth when an environment is disrupted or disturbed (DCI-LS2.C-M1). Students engage in a math activity to support the impact that a small change can support a scientific conclusion based on their design that protects a plant or animal species (SEP-MATH-M2). 

  • In Grade 7, Unit 1: Minerals, Lessons 1.7-1.9, a phenomenon does not drive learning; instead, the topic of continental drift is the focus of the learning. Students act out a skit about Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift and then build models to serve as evidence of continental drift. Students build a model (SEP-MOD-M6) to represent how landmasses have drifted apart over time (DCI-ESS2.B-M1). Students use their models to identify patterns for how the continents fit together in the past and to provide evidence for the uneven distribution of the earth’s mineral resources (CCC-PAT-M4).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 6: Ecosystems, Lessons 6.5-6.8, a phenomenon does not drive learning; instead, the focus of this lesson sequence is on researching a local ecosystem. Students read an article about observation skills and practice observing and detecting a change in preparation for a research project. Students make observations and compare evidence to detect patterns and change over time (CCC-PAT-M3). 

  • In Grade 8, Unit 1: Exploring Early Earth, Lessons 1.10-1.14, a phenomenon does not drive learning; instead, the focus of this lesson sequence is on the topics of fossils and rock layers. Students learn that layers of rock get up high into cliffs and mountains through uplift and some layers get tilted or folded by the squeezing of earth’s crust. Students learn to distinguish evidence of an asteroid impact from other everyday processes that affect rocks and they practice the skill of figuring out the sequence of events that shaped an area just by looking at the layers of rock. Students use fossils to correlate rock layers over long distances and to observe changes in the organisms that lived in an area over geologic time (CCC-SPQ-M5). Students identify a mass extinction in the geologic record. Students use the chemical composition of a layer of rock to identify its origin. Students interpret data (SEP-DATA-M4) about the frequency of geologic hazards (DCI-ESS1.C-M1).

  • In Grade 8, Unit 3: Earth from Space, Lessons 3.1-3.4, a phenomenon does not drive learning; instead, the focus of this learning is on the topic of earth’s resources. Students investigate why countries and individuals consume different amounts of resources and measure their own ecological footprint. Students analyze ecological footprint country data and discuss how country level footprints differ and how this consumption impacts the earth’s systems. Based on ecological footprint country data, students hypothesize how and why their footprints differ from the rest of the United States and two other countries (DCI-ESS3.C-M1). 

Example of a lesson sequence where a phenomenon or problem drives student learning and students engage with elements of all three dimensions:

  • In Grade 7 Unit 2: Petroleum, Lessons 2.21-2.22, the phenomenon that atmospheric carbon levels are rising drives student learning. Students analyze graphs that show how atmospheric carbon has increased over the last 50 years, analyze how transportation contributes to carbon emissions and explain how the combustion of hydrocarbons is the reason for transportation’s carbon emissions. By analyzing graphs (SEP-DATA-M1), students determine the linear relationship between time and carbon emissions and determine that the cause of this increase is the direct result of human actions (CCC-CE-M2, DCI.ESS3.D-M1).

Indicator 1g

Materials are designed to include appropriate proportions of phenomena vs. problems based on the grade-band performance expectations.

Narrative Evidence Only
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for grades 6-8 are designed with 7% (11/162) of the lesson sequences focused on explaining lesson-level phenomena; 0% (0/18) of the units focus on students explaining unit-level phenomena. Students solve problems in 3% (5/162) of the lesson sequences and solve problems at the unit level in 50% (9/18) of the units. 

The series contains 18 units, with six units per grade level. Each unit is divided into nine lesson sequences for a total of 162 lesson sequences across the grade band. The number of lessons in each sequence varies from one lesson to 10 lessons. 

Students primarily engage with problems and design challenges across all grades, mostly in the earth and space science and physical science units. 

Examples of problems in the series:

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.2 and 1.20-1.26, the challenge is to design a climate-friendly home that minimizes thermal energy transfer. Students apply their understanding of thermal energy transfer to design a prototype house that minimizes thermal energy transfer. To solve the challenge students complete the engineering design process to design a well-insulated home, minimize thermal energy transfer, and keep their house cool in hot weather. Students then communicate their results with each other and with the community.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 2: Home Energy, Lessons 2.26-2.28, the challenge is for students to help the school reduce carbon emissions and save money in heating costs by designing structural improvements. Students recommend improvements to their assigned area of the school building using passive home design methods in order to help the school save money and reduce carbon emissions. Students are given examples such as awnings to block summer sun vs reducing the size of awnings to allow for winter sun, larger windows for more natural light (saving energy), and larger windows facing south in winter for heat. Students create a slide presentation providing at least two recommendations for improving their school and reducing its carbon footprint. Solutions vary based on which part of the building students were assigned. 

  • In Grade 6 Unit 2: Home Energy, Lessons 2.29-2.34, the challenge is for students to conserve energy in their own homes. Students use the Energy Tracker Design Challenge worksheet to analyze the designs for their own homes and compare their plans with the designs for the class. Students summarize their recommendations for how their families can implement plans towards creating a zero energy home then communicate their recommendations and findings with their peers and family.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 4: Protecting Plants and Animals, Lessons 4.1 and 4.18-4.22, the challenge is to design a method to protect a plant or animal species from climate change. Students select species, then research how the species is affected by climate change. Students use information from their research and decide how to protect their species. Students present their solutions to the class. Students choose a plant or animal, research how climate change affects their species, and design a method to protect their species from climate change. Species, how climate change affects species, and ways to protect the species will vary.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 5: Reducing Pollution and Waste, Lessons 5.1 and 5.34-5.36, the challenge is to design and execute a plan to help reduce the amount of waste students produce. Students track their waste production and develop an action plan to reduce it. Students implement their plan, compiling quantitative data about the trash they discarded. Students create and present a poster that highlights how they reduced waste and pollution. 

  • In Grade 7, Unit 1: Minerals, Lesson 1.1 and 1.20-1.24, the challenge is to design a more sustainable smartphone. Students engage in a guided brainstorm to evaluate the life cycle of a smartphone, from manufacture to distribution, how it is retailed, its use, and how it is discarded. Students then design a Sustainable Smartphones Pamphlet. Their solution describes the environmental impact of the current resources used and contains suggestions to reduce the impact. Students design a smartphone that includes a description of how to make the device more sustainable at every stage of its life cycle with justifications and benefits to the environment.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 2: Petroleum, Lesson 2.20: Engineering Challenge: Organ Transplant Container, the challenge is to design a container that doctors can use to safely transport vital organs to their patients. Students compare current organ transport container designs: waterproof cardboard box, foam cooler, hard-sided cooler, and refrigerated cooler. Students identify the advantages and disadvantages of each type. After comparing various container designs, students draw a picture depicting any changes to the container to help keep organs cool and safe from damage that is an improvement over the current designs.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 3: Food, Lessons 3.9-3.12, the challenge is to design a device that absorbs or releases thermal energy by chemical processes. Students are provided with materials for endothermic and exothermic reactions. Students use these and other non-reactive materials to create a prototype using the engineering and design process. Depending on the materials selected, the prototype absorbs thermal energy (is cold) or releases thermal energy (is hot).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 4: Soil, Lessons 4.1 and 4.19-4.24, the challenge is to restore a soil ecosystem. Students research a specific soil ecosystem to understand the problem. Teams of students submit proposals of design solutions to restore an assigned damaged soil ecosystem. Students are told to make their criteria as specific as  planting trees to reduces erosion to restore flood protection services, increasing organic matter to restore crop growing (food production) services,  removing pollution or toxins to restore water filtration services, and  fertilization techniques to reduce acidification to restore crops

  • In Grade 7, Unit 5: Water: Life and Danger, Lessons 5.19-5.20, the challenge is to design a floating garden from accessible materials. Students watch a video about flooding in Bangladesh, view a presentation about floating gardens, and decide on criteria and constraints. Students design their floating gardens on paper, share with other groups and make revisions.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 5: Water: Life and Danger, Lessons 5.1 and 5.21-5.26, the problem is that some cities are susceptible to flooding. Students are challenged to create city designs that mitigate or minimize the effects of flooding. Students design plans to increase the resilience to extreme flooding and help the community respond once disaster strikes. They address the roles of different sectors of the community, e.g., the federal government, community groups, households. Their solution is based on interpreting weather data and the city’s main annual weather patterns accurately then selecting and distributing resources for their city, based on potential weather hazards.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5: Transportation, Lessons 5.10-5.11, the challenge is to design a fast drag racing car. Students learn about unbalanced forces causing acceleration and use their understanding of the relationships between mass and speed and kinetic energy. Students design, test, and modify a drag racer to try to beat the speed of another car.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5, Lesson 5.17: Hyperloops: Magnetic Field Propulsion, the challenge is to test and build magnetic accelerators to optimize the force applied to an object. Students watch a hyperloop video, follow instructions for building their track, collect data during the multiple trials, and graph their data. Students analyze data to identify patterns and explain how they can optimize their design. Students explain how they could combine their different trials to optimize the amount of force applied to a ball bearing based on how far the ball bearing travels on the track. 

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5: Transportation, Lessons 5.1 and 5.21-5.28, the problem is that transportation is not sustainable. Students are challenged to develop a proposal to make future transportation more sustainable for a particular location. Students select a location to focus on, determine a sub-system within that location, and use knowledge from the previous lessons and new research to improve the transportation system. Students create and present their sustainable transportation proposal following specific criteria: background information on human impact, a solution that includes the effect on human lives, a description of how science supports the solution, challenges of the proposed solution, and using a claim, evidence, and reasoning to support the proposal.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 6: Future Energy, Lessons 6.1 and 6.20-6.26, the challenge is to design a sustainable community. Students gather information about their sustainable solution for their reports and build, test, and redesign their prototypes for their sustainable communities. Students present a 3-D model of their solution with a report that includes three suggested solutions from at least two different sustainability sectors (reducing consumption of nonrenewable resources, reducing energy consumption, reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and an explanation of how it increases sustainability supported by data and/or information. 

Students primarily engage with phenomena in Grade 6, and mostly in the earth and space science and physical science units. In one instance, two separate phenomena are presented and explained within a lesson sequence. In Grade 6, Unit 2, Lessons 2.13-2.18, students explain how passive solar homes use less energy than regular homes. Students then explain how sand heats up and cools off faster than water in Lessons 2.15-2.18.

Examples of phenomena in the series:

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lesson 1.5: Investigating Temperature Part II, the phenomenon is that particles move faster at warmer temperatures. Students observe a simulation of the motion of particles of neon gas in different phases as the temperature changes. To explain the phenomenon, students develop models to explain how the relationship between temperature and the energy of motion causes the neon gas particles to move faster when they are heated.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.8-1.10, the phenomenon is that heat can get trapped under a blanket. Students read an article about greenhouse gases on Earth and then perform a play to collect evidence that Earth is warmed by greenhouse gases, and the more carbon dioxide on Earth results in greater temperature. Students also conduct an experiment to show that air with a greater concentration of CO2 gets warmer than room air which has less CO2. Students compare the level of CO2 on Earth versus on Venus. To explain the phenomenon, students model and explain what is happening to heat and how thermal energy transfer is slowed when the student is under the blanket and the Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere. 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.11-1.13, the phenomenon is that increased carbon in the atmosphere is responsible for flooding and loss of polar bear habitats. Students play the Carbon Command game, they see a polar bear in a flooded habitat. Students read and collect data from articles about the Greenhouse Effect, increased precipitation and flooding, coral bleaching, sea level rise, and reforestation. To explain this phenomenon, students make a poster showing how matter and energy move through and impact the different spheres on Earth and how habitat loss is traced back to increased carbon levels in the environment

  • In Grade 6, Unit 2: Home Energy, Lessons 2.15-2.18, the phenomenon is that sand heats up and cools off faster than water. Students heat different materials, recording the effect of the volume of water on its temperature after 5 minutes under a 100 watt bulb. They also note the results of testing different materials. The students test the rate at which other materials heat up after five minutes under a 100 Watt light bulb. Those materials include, but are not limited to sand, gravel, soil, packing peanuts, water, cotton, shredded paper, yarn. To explain this phenomenon, students use evidence from their labs to show that water heats up and cools down slower than sand because water has more thermal mass than sand.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 3: Weather and Climate, Lessons 3.3-3.4, the phenomenon is a massive storm in 1993, ranging from Florida to Maine. Students analyze weather maps from the Storm of the Century to collect weather data from the event in various cities affected by the storm. Students analyze their weather data to identify patterns within single weather variables and between weather variables. Students engage in a class discussion to identify cause and effect relationships such as lower pressures are associated with stronger winds, which resulted in a destructive storm. 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 3: Weather and Climate, Lessons 3.6-3.8, the phenomenon is that cyclists on a beach bike path travel faster in one direction compared to another direction. Students discuss how a breeze results in a demonstration of unequal heating of sand and water. Students suggest modifications to the unequal heating experiment, e.g., what would happen if we put ice in the water to make it colder?  What would happen if the sand was cold and the water was warm?  Students track changes in barometric pressure and temperature using the PocketLab Weather device. Students explain the phenomenon by drawing models showing how higher pressure, colder air masses rush in to replace warmer, lower pressure areas to create a sea breeze that impacts the bikers at the beach. The purpose of the models is for students to show what direction the breeze would be blowing and how it would impact the biker’s speed.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 4: Protecting Plants and Animals, Lessons 4.3-4.5, the phenomenon is that people in a population look different, but all of the yeast in a population look the same. Students use reproductive strategy cards to provide information to create models of asexual and sexual reproduction. To explain this phenomenon, students construct an explanation that people look different from one another because they use sexual reproduction. After analyzing information about a couple of organisms and how they reproduce, the students work as a class to generate a list of characteristics for each type of reproduction. They have to identify the number of parent organisms, mechanism, variation, etc.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 1 Minerals, Lessons 1.14-1.16, the phenomenon is that some rocks can float. Students observe a demonstration of a rock being made out of melted brown sugar and water, create diagrams from slides of how different rocks formed and what energy source contributed to their formation, and create a metamorphic rock using clay and other materials. To explain this phenomenon, students reflect on these lessons to explain that the floating rock could be an igneous rock that formed from lava out of a volcano that as it cooled had air bubbles get trapped in it.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 2: Petroleum, Lessons 2.21-2.22, the phenomenon is that atmospheric carbon levels are rising. Students analyze data in slides about carbon in the air, oil production, and carbon emissions by sector. Students visit a website to gather information about combustion and identify that one of the products of combustion is carbon dioxide. To explain this phenomenon, students conclude that atmospheric carbon levels are rising because transportation sources burn petroleum-based fuels.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 3: Food, Lessons, 3.24-3.27, the phenomenon is that a veggie burrito has a lower carbon footprint than a beef burrito. Students explore the stages of the food life cycle and analyze the energy needed to get a variety of foods from farm to table and beyond. Students research the greenhouse emissions during the different stages of the food life cycle. Teams construct a Carbon Footprint Informational Pamphlet about greenhouse emissions produced during stages of the food life cycle: growing and harvesting; processing and packaging; transportation and retail; preparation and disposal. Students explain the phenomenon in terms of where greenhouse gas emissions occur and compare those emissions between different types of food.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5: Transportation, Lessons 5.6-5.9, the phenomenon is that a vehicle with an empty bed struck a pole, causing the pole to break while a different vehicle full of bricks struck a pole, but the pole leaned instead of breaking. Students investigate the relationships between kinetic energy, mass, and speed. Students measure the ability of different mass marbles to move a plastic cup at the bottom of a ramp, measure how the kinetic energy of a cart rolling down a ramp increases when mass increases, measure the gravitational potential energy and the total energy of the cart as it rolls down a ramp, and provide an account of how kinetic energy increases when speed increases. To explain this phenomenon, students explain that the empty truck broke the pole because the velocity of the higher truck is much higher and the full truck bent the pole because the mass of the truck was higher. The empty truck has double the amount of kinetic energy because the speed is much higher.

Indicator 1h

Materials intentionally leverage students’ prior knowledge and experiences related to phenomena or problems.

0/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations that they intentionally leverage students’ prior knowledge and experiences related to phenomena or problems. The materials provide few opportunities for students to share or reflect on their own personal experiences related to the targeted phenomena and problems.

Instead of eliciting prior knowledge or experiences, the materials commonly provide students with instructions for completing the lesson activity, provide content in the form of a reading or presentation, or elicit prior content learning. The Unit Overview in the teacher materials includes a section labelled Prior Knowledge, which connects to student prior learning from other units or grade bands, but does not include guidance for eliciting or leveraging personal experiences related to the phenomenon or problem. Additionally, a section labelled Student Prior Experience in the lesson plan describes content knowledge students should have from learning or activities completed within the materials. Further, the materials infrequently leverage students’ prior knowledge and experiences as they figure out phenomena or solve problems, often guiding students to the explanation or solution rather than incorporating student experience and building from what they know about the natural and designed world.

Examples of lessons that neither elicit nor leverage students’ prior knowledge and experiences of phenomena and/or problems:

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.8-1.10, the phenomenon is that heat can get trapped under a blanket. Prior to a demonstration of a student feeling hot under a blanket, students’ prior knowledge or experience with the phenomenon is not elicited. Instead, students read an article about greenhouse gases on earth and perform a play about how increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere. As students learn more about the effects of greenhouse gases, they compare the atmosphere of Venus and the atmosphere of earth. Students are also asked to predict what will happen to living things if earth’s temperatures get too high, but the sequence of lessons does not elicit or leverage students’ prior experience to do this. 

  • In Grade 6, Unit 2: Home Energy, Lessons 2.26-2.28, the challenge is for students to help the school reduce carbon emissions and save money in heating costs by designing structural improvements. Students’ prior knowledge of the challenge is not elicited. Instead, students are reminded of what they learned in their passive solar home designs and assigned a room in their school that they are to re-design. The materials do not leverage students’ prior knowledge and experiences or provide prompts or opportunities for students to reflect on their prior experiences as they make their recommendations.

  • In Grade 6, Unit 3: Weather and Climate, Lessons 3.6-3.8, the phenomenon is that cyclists on a beach bike path travel faster in one direction compared to another direction. The materials do not elicit students’ prior knowledge or experiences about the phenomenon. As students suggest modifications to the initial investigation of unequal heating of two materials the materials do not leverage student prior knowledge or experience to enhance their discussion. Additionally, the materials do not elicit or leverage students’ prior knowledge about or experiences with sea breezes or how sea breezes occur.

  • In Grade 7, Unit 1: Minerals, Lessons 1.14-1.16, the phenomenon is that some rocks can float. Students’ prior knowledge of the phenomenon is not elicited. Instead, students  view an image of a rock floating in a beaker; the associated questions elicit student content knowledge about where rocks are found, how they are made, and processes that can change or move rocks. The materials do not provide prompts or opportunities for students to reflect on or leverage their prior experiences as they learn how different rocks form, determine what energy source contributes to their formation, or as they create a model of a metamorphic rock using clay and other materials. 

  • In Grade 7, Unit 2: Petroleum, Lesson 2.20: Engineering Challenge: Organ Transplant Container, the challenge is to design a container that doctors can use to safely transport vital organs to their patients. Students are introduced to the project through a similar design project done by college students at Yale. Students’ prior knowledge of organ donation or the need for appropriate transport containers is not elicited. The materials do not provide prompts or opportunities for students to reflect on their prior experiences as they design their transplant containers.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5: Transportation, Lesson 5.17: Hyperloops: Magnetic Field Propulsion, the challenge is to test and build magnetic accelerators in order to optimize the force applied to an object. Students’ prior knowledge of the challenge is not elicited. Instead, students watch a video of a hyperloop and then start changing variables and test how they change the force applied to the final ball of the hyperloop. The materials do not provide prompts or opportunities for students to reflect on their prior experiences as they design their hyperloops. 

Examples of lessons that elicit but do not leverage students’ prior knowledge and/or experiences of phenomena and/or problems:

  • In Grade 6, Unit 1: Energy and Climate, Lessons 1.2, 1.20-1.26, the challenge is to design a climate-friendly home that minimizes thermal energy transfer. In Lesson 1.2 when the unit challenge is introduced, students are asked how people keep their homes and buildings cool when it’s hot outside. All student ideas are accepted and the materials provide sample responses such as turning on the air conditioning, using fans, closing windows, using window shades/curtains, etc. This elicits students’ prior knowledge and experiences related to the challenge. The materials do not leverage students’ prior knowledge and experiences. The materials provide no prompts or opportunities for students to reflect on their experiences as they design their solutions. 

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5: Transportation, Lessons 5.10-5.11, the challenge is to design a fast drag racing car. After students are introduced to the challenge they are asked if they have seen a drag race on TV. Students share factors that they think could affect motion and generate a class list. While the materials elicit students’ prior knowledge and experiences with drag racing, they miss opportunities to leverage those experiences as students design a racecar that will be faster than the control car.

Examples of lessons that elicit and leverage students’ prior knowledge and/or experiences of phenomena and/or problems: 

  • In Grade 7, Unit 3: Food, Lessons 3.9-3.12, the challenge is to design a device that absorbs or releases thermal energy by chemical processes. The materials elicit prior knowledge and experience when the students brainstorm about when it would be handy to be able to mix things together and have a portable device that cools or warms something. Students then design a cooling or warming device. The materials leverage students’ prior knowledge and experience when they are troubleshooting the design of their devices. Students also brainstorm various factors such as the range of temperature change they desire as well as the length of the reaction they need. Beyond that, students discuss with their teams how they will keep chemical reactions from happening immediately. They must think about themselves as the consumer who needs the device to work when they want it to. Students decide all the parameters before they build their first prototype and as they go through the engineering process.

  • In Grade 8, Unit 5: Transportation, Lessons 5.1, 5.21-5.28, the problem is that transportation is not sustainable. Students are challenged to develop a proposal to make future transportation more sustainable for a particular location. The materials elicit students’ prior knowledge and experience with transportation methods as the problem is introduced; students reach a consensus on what constitutes sustainable transportation. Students also brainstorm how transportation could be improved where they live and evaluate the sustainability of transportation in their region. The materials leverage student prior knowledge and experience as students select a location to focus on and determine a sub-system within that location then brainstorm how to improve transportation to improve life for themselves and their neighbors. In an exit ticket, students decide a project location, who will benefit, and what the user needs may be.

Indicator 1i

Materials embed phenomena or problems across multiple lessons for students to use and build knowledge of all three dimensions.

0/2
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-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations that they embed phenomena or problems across multiple lessons for students to use and build knowledge of all three dimensions. Across the series, the materials provide few opportunities using phenomena or problems to drive student learning of the three dimensions across multiple lesson sequences. For the majority of lessons, learning centers around students developing understanding of a science topic or concept; the materials then make connections between the content students learn and how it relates to the unit-level problem. There are no phenomena that drive learning across multiple lesson sequences. Only one unit per grade level includes a problem that drives learning across multiple lesson sequences and engages students with all three dimensions.

Examples where materials do not use phenomena or problems to drive learning across multiple lesson sequences to build knowledge of all three dimensions:

  • In Grade 6, Unit 3: Weather and Climate, Lessons 3.1-3.2, 3.9, 3.17-3.18, 3.24-3.25, and 3.26-3.31, a phenomenon or problem does not drive the learning across multiple lesson sequences. Instead, the learning focuses on writing a story that predicts future weather and climate extremes in an adopted city; writing the story spans multiple lesson sequences. From the beginning of the unit, students engage in a sequence of activities to learn how to predict the current and future climate of an adopted city. They study the weather and climate of three adopted cities. In Lesson 3.9, students write a weather forecast for their adopted cities. Based on the data that they have collected for their adopted cities, students write a multiple-day weather forecast for that location (CCC-PAT-M4). Students analyze forecast data - predicted vs. actual - to learn about the probability of accurate forecasting (CCC-CE-M3). Students collect and graph climate data about their adopted cities such as minimum/maximum temperatures, annual/monthly rainfall to create predictive models of a local climate (CCC-SYS-M2, SEP-MOD-H7). Students critically read scientific texts to obtain information for evidence of the impacts of climate change on various regions (SEP-INFO-M1). Students analyze data from graphs to explain the cause of local weather patterns (SEP-DATA-E1) and incorporate climate data and climate analysis in their report to make predictions of climate extremes in their adopted city (DCI-ESS2.D-M1, SEP-INFO-M1).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 3: Food, Lessons 3.4-3.5, 3.7, 3.8-3.11, and 3.15-3.16, a phenomenon or problem does not drive learning across multiple lesson sequences. Instead, the learning focuses on the topic of chemical reaction; this topic spans multiple lesson sequences. Students learn about photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and endothermic and exothermic reactions as they develop their understanding of what makes something a chemical reaction. Students make molecular models of the photosynthesis reaction, identifying the products and reactants within it; investigate chemical reactions and determine how to identify a chemical reaction; build and refine devices that use an endothermic or exothermic reaction; and create models of cellular respiration. Students use models (SEP-MOD-M6) to visualize and describe the photosynthesis and cellular respiration reactions (DCI-LS1.C-M1, DCI-LS1.C-M2), to describe the cycling of energy and conservation of matter within these reactions (CCC-EM-M1, CCC-EM-M2), use patterns (CCC-PAT-M4) to determine the indicators of chemical reactions (DCI-PS1.B-M1), and design devices using chemical reactions. (DCI-PS1.B-M3).

  • In Grade 7, Unit 6: Ecosystems, Lessons 6.1, 6.2-6.4, 6.5-6.8, and 6.9-6.12, a phenomenon or problem does not drive student learning across multiple lesson sequences. Instead, the learning focuses on the topic of interdependent relationships in ecosystems; this topic spans multiple lesson sequences. Students study historic trading maps to determine relationships between healthy ecosystems and human communities. Students study a local ecosystem and engage in activities to develop their skills of observation and inference. Students practice the systems thinking approach by analyzing components of an ecosystem and their interactions. Students identify and classify components of a familiar ecosystem and discuss commonalities and themes of the classification. Students interpret the maps of historic trading to decipher the ecosystems that supported the indigenous communities (SEP-DATA-M4). Students use their understanding that specific natural resources are the product (CCC-CE-M2) of particular ecosystems to predict the effects of change in ecosystems and the impact on abundance/scarcity of resources. Students relate the state of nature to human health and mental well-being. Students observe any changes at their ecosystem study locations (CCC-PAT-M3). Students analyze ecosystem text for relevant data about an organism and record it in a table then identify relationships between fluctuating organism populations and resource availability and represent their table in graph format (SEP-MOD-M2, DCI-LS2.A-M3).

  • In Grade 8, Unit 1: Exploring Early Earth, Lessons 1.1-1.3, 1.4-1.6, and 1.7-1.9, a phenomenon or problem does not drive student learning across multiple lesson sequences. Instead, the focus of learning is on the concept of earth’s place in the systems in the universe; this concept spans multiple lesson sequences. Students view images of the earth and moon from the EPIC camera. Students learn about the non-contact forces of gravity and magnetism. Students learn about the force of gravity as a function of mass and distance between interacting objects then simulate gravity’s role in galaxies, in the solar system, and between the earth and the moon. Students calculate the scaled measures for their scaled model of the earth, moon, and asteroid belt. They discuss asteroids and the likelihood of an asteroid’s impact on the earth. Students draw a model of the sun, earth, moon, and the EPIC satellite, estimating the relative distance between and size of these celestial objects (CCC-SPQ-M5). Students diagram the organization of systems in the universe (CCC-SYS-M1, SEP-MOD-M5) then create a scale model of the earth, moon, and asteroid belt (SEP-MOD-M4). The model depicts the hierarchic pattern of orbiting systems (CCC-SYS-M1) based on gravity. The model describes gravity as an attractive force between objects that controls the orbiting motions of objects and clearly states that gravity increases with the mass of interacting objects and decreases as the distance between objects increases. The models represent systems and their interactions that are too big to observe (DCI-ESS1.B-M1).

  • In Grade 8 Unit 2: Exploring Early Earth, Lessons 2.10-2.11, 2.12-2.13, 2.14-2.16, and 2.17-2.19, a phenomenon or problem does not drive student learning across multiple lesson sequences. Instead, the focus of the learning is on the topic of the evolutionary change of many life forms throughout the history of life on Earth; this topic spans multiple lesson sequences. Students write a newspaper article based on research to learn about one of six events in evolutionary history. Students research major events in evolutionary history and learn that as vertebrates evolved and acquired more complex abilities, they became better suited for more environments. Students learn about the gross anatomy of seemingly related and unrelated organisms to find that there is structural evidence that indicates a path of evolution over time. Students learn that different animals can look the same at one point in their embryo development. Students create their own creatures following a set of directions as a way to represent the hierarchy of genetic coding as embryos form. Students write a news article announcing new evolutionary events for vertebrates and what it means for the future of these organisms (SEP-DATA-M4). Students explain patterns in the evolution of vertebrate diversity (CCC-PAT-M4) and point out implications of major events in evolutionary history (SEP-DATA-M4). Students compare analogous structures that are evidence of convergent evolution. They also reference the concept of kinship among mammals. (CCC-PAT-M3). Students tell a short story to explain the concept of embryonic development as a line of evidence for evolution. They connect embryonic development to the physical traits that may enable their organisms to survive a natural disaster such as extinction (DCI-LS4.A-M3, CCC-PAT-M4, and SEP-DATA-M7).

  • In Grade 8, Unit 3: Earth From Space, Lessons 3.1-3.5 and 3.25-3.31, a phenomenon or problem does not drive student learning across multiple lesson sequences. Instead, the focus of learning is on understanding the relationship between ecological footprint and human consumption; this topic spans multiple learning sequences. Students investigate why countries and individuals consume different amounts of resources and measure their own ecological footprint. Students analyze ecological footprint country data and discuss how country level footprints differ and how this consumption impacts the earth’s systems. Then students examine satellite images to observe evidence of human activity, especially consumption. Students make claims, supported by evidence and reasoning, for how increasing consumption impacts the earth's systems. Students create an infographic designed to motivate people to consume less and reduce humans’ ecological footprint. Students gather statistics and data from the internet to make an argument that different patterns of consumption affect Earth's systems (SEP-INFO-M2, SEP-ARG-M3).  They make a claim for how increasing consumption impacts the earth’s systems (CCC-CE-M2). Students utilize a computer platform to design an infographic based on satellite imagery and social math that suggests at least one plausible argument for an action (SEP-CEDS-M7) to reduce consumption to reduce our ecological footprint (CCC-CE-M2, DCI-ESS3.C-M1).

An example where a problem drives learning across multiple lesson sequences but does not build knowledge of all three dimensions:

  • In Grade 6, Unit 5: Reducing Pollution and Waste, Lessons 5.1, 5.13, and 5.34-5.37, the unit challenge is to create a method to reduce pollution and waste; this challenge drives the learning across the unit. Students track their waste production in a trash diary and develop an action plan to reduce it. Students keep a second trash diary and compile quantitative data about the trash they discarded. Students create a four-square poster that highlights how they reduced waste and pollution and present it to their class. Students design and implement a plan to reduce the amount of trash they produce (SEP-CEDS-M4). Students also make an additional poster that demonstrates their understanding of how pollution moves through the water cycle and how pollution can affect interactions across body systems (CCC-SYS-M1), but this is separate from their plan to reduce the amount of trash they produce.

An example where a problem drives learning across multiple lesson sequences to build knowledge of all three dimensions:

  • In Grade 7, Unit 4: Soil, Lessons 4.1 and 4.18-4.24, the challenge to restore a soil ecosystem drives learning across multiple lessons. Students research a specific soil ecosystem to understand the problem. Together students compose a soil body of knowledge in posters to summarize the importance of healthy soil in terms of providing vital ecosystem services. Students apply learning from the unit in order to design a solution to restore a damaged soil ecosystem (SEP-MOD-M2, SEP-CEDS-M6). Students explain the changes in biodiversity of their ecosystem (CCC-SC-M3), identify strengths and weaknesses of the ecosystem dynamics, and compare if competing designs will restore the soil ecosystem (DCI-LS2.C-M1, DCI-LS2.C-M2). After students design their solutions, they evaluate the designs of other teams' solutions and use the competing designs to refine their own (DCI-ETS1.B-M1, DCI-ETS1.B-M2).

Gateway Two

Coherence & Scope

Not Rated

Criterion 2a - 2g

Materials are coherent in design, scientifically accurate, and support grade-band endpoints of all three dimensions. * NOTE: Indicators 2b-2c are non-negotiable; instructional materials being reviewed must score above zero points in each indicator, otherwise the materials automatically do not proceed to Gateway 3.

Indicator 2a

Materials are designed for students to build and connect their knowledge and use of the three dimensions across the series.

N/A

Indicator 2a.i

Students understand how the materials connect the dimensions from unit to unit.

N/A

Indicator 2a.ii

Materials have an intentional sequence where student tasks increase in sophistication.

N/A

Indicator 2b

Materials present Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI), Science and Engineering Practices (SEP), and Crosscutting Concepts (CCC) in a way that is scientifically accurate.*

N/A

Indicator 2c

Materials do not inappropriately include scientific content and ideas outside of the grade-band Disciplinary Core Ideas.*

N/A

Indicator 2d

Materials incorporate all grade-band Disciplinary Core Ideas.

N/A

Indicator 2d.i

Physical Sciences

N/A

Indicator 2d.ii

Life Sciences

N/A

Indicator 2d.iii

Earth and Space Sciences

N/A

Indicator 2d.iv

Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science

N/A

Indicator 2e

Materials incorporate all grade-band Science and Engineering Practices.

N/A

Indicator 2e.i

Asking Questions and Defining Problems

N/A

Indicator 2e.ii

Developing and Using Models

N/A

Indicator 2e.iii

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

N/A

Indicator 2e.iv

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

N/A

Indicator 2e.v

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

N/A

Indicator 2e.vi

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

N/A

Indicator 2e.vii

Engaging in Argument from Evidence

N/A

Indicator 2e.viii

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

N/A

Indicator 2f

Materials incorporate all grade-band Crosscutting Concepts.

N/A

Indicator 2f.i

Patterns

N/A

Indicator 2f.ii

Cause and Effect

N/A

Indicator 2f.iii

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

N/A

Indicator 2f.iv

Systems and System Models

N/A

Indicator 2f.v

Energy and Matter

N/A

Indicator 2f.vi

Structure and Function

N/A

Indicator 2f.vii

Stability and Change

N/A

Indicator 2g

Materials incorporate NGSS Connections to Nature of Science and Engineering.

N/A

Gateway Three

Usability

Not Rated

Criterion 3a - 3h

The program includes opportunities for teachers to effectively plan and utilize materials with integrity and to further develop their own understanding of the content.

Indicator 3a

Materials provide teacher guidance with useful annotations and suggestions for how to enact the student materials and ancillary materials, with specific attention to engaging students in figuring out phenomena and solving problems.

N/A

Indicator 3b

Materials contain adult-level explanations and examples of the more complex grade/course-level concepts and concepts beyond the current course so that teachers can improve their own knowledge of the subject.

N/A

Indicator 3c

Materials include standards correlation information, including connections to college- and career-ready ELA and mathematics standards, that explains the role of the standards in the context of the overall series.

N/A

Indicator 3d

Materials provide strategies for informing all stakeholders, including students, parents, or caregivers about the program and suggestions for how they can help support student progress and achievement.

N/A

Indicator 3e

Materials provide explanations of the instructional approaches of the program and identification of the research-based strategies.

N/A

Indicator 3f

Materials provide a comprehensive list of supplies needed to support instructional activities.

N/A

Indicator 3g

Materials provide clear science safety guidelines for teachers and students across the instructional materials.

N/A

Indicator 3h

Materials designated for each grade are feasible and flexible for one school year.

N/A

Criterion 3i - 3l

The program includes a system of assessments identifying how materials provide tools, guidance, and support for teachers to collect, interpret, and act on data about student progress towards the standards.

Indicator 3i

Assessment information is included in the materials to indicate which standards are assessed.

N/A

Indicator 3j

Assessment system provides multiple opportunities throughout the grade, course, and/or series to determine students' learning and sufficient guidance to teachers for interpreting student performance and suggestions for follow-up.

N/A

Indicator 3k

Assessments include opportunities for students to demonstrate the full intent of grade-level/grade-band standards and elements across the series.

N/A

Indicator 3l

Assessments offer accommodations that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills without changing the content of the assessment.

N/A

Criterion 3m - 3v

The program includes materials designed for each child’s regular and active participation in grade-level/grade-band/series content.

Indicator 3m

Materials provide strategies and supports for students in special populations to support their regular and active participation in learning grade-level/grade-band science and engineering.

N/A

Indicator 3n

Materials provide extensions and/or opportunities for students to engage in learning grade-level/grade-band science and engineering at greater depth.

N/A

Indicator 3o

Materials provide varied approaches to learning tasks over time and variety in how students are expected to demonstrate their learning with opportunities for for students to monitor their learning.

N/A

Indicator 3p

Materials provide opportunities for teachers to use a variety of grouping strategies.

N/A

Indicator 3q

Materials provide strategies and supports for students who read, write, and/or speak in a language other than English to regularly participate in learning grade-level/grade-band science and engineering.

N/A

Indicator 3s

Materials provide guidance to encourage teachers to draw upon student home language to facilitate learning.

N/A

Indicator 3u

Materials provide supports for different reading levels to ensure accessibility for students.

N/A

Indicator 3v

This is not an assessed indicator in Science.

N/A

Criterion 3w - 3z

The program includes a visual design that is engaging and references or integrates digital technology (when applicable) with guidance for teachers.

Indicator 3w

Materials integrate interactive tools and/or dynamic software in ways that support student engagement in the three dimensions, when applicable.

N/A

Indicator 3x

Materials include or reference digital technology that provides opportunities for teachers and/or students to collaborate with each other, when applicable.

N/A

Indicator 3y

The visual design (whether in print or digital) supports students in engaging thoughtfully with the subject, and is neither distracting nor chaotic.

N/A

Indicator 3z

Materials provide teacher guidance for the use of embedded technology to support and enhance student learning, when applicable.

N/A
abc123

Report Published Date: 2021/10/06

Report Edition: 2020

Title ISBN Edition Publisher Year
Grade 6 Unit 1 TC 978‑1‑948845‑09‑0
Grade 6 Unit 2 TC 978‑1‑948845‑10‑6
Grade 6 Unit 3 TC 978‑1‑948845‑11‑3
Grade 6 Unit 4 TC 978‑1‑948845‑12‑0
Grade 6 Unit 5 TC 978‑1‑948845‑13‑7
Grade 6 Unit 6 TC 978‑1‑948845‑14‑4
Grade 7 Unit 1 TC 978‑1‑948845‑15‑1
Grade 7 Unit 2 TC 978‑1‑948845‑16‑8
Grade 7 Unit 3 TC 978‑1‑948845‑17‑5
Grade 7 Unit 4 TC 978‑1‑948845‑18‑2
Grade 7 Unit 5 TC 978‑1‑948845‑19‑9
Grade 7 Unit 6 TC 978‑1‑948845‑20‑5
Grade 8 Unit 1 TC 978‑1‑948845‑21‑2
Grade 8 Unit 2 TC 978‑1‑948845‑22‑9
Grade 8 Unit 3 TC 978‑1‑948845‑23‑6
Grade 8 Unit 4 TC 978‑1‑948845‑24‑3
Grade 8 Unit 5 TC 978‑1‑948845‑25‑0
Grade 8 Unit 6 TC 978‑1‑948845‑26‑7
Grade 6 Unit 1 Student 978‑1‑948845‑30‑4
Grade 6 Unit 2 Student 978‑1‑948845‑31‑1
Grade 6 Unit 3 Student 978‑1‑948845‑32‑8
Grade 6 Unit 4 Student 978‑1‑948845‑33‑5
Grade 6 Unit 5 Student 978‑1‑948845‑34‑2
Grade 6 Unit 6 Student 978‑1‑948845‑35‑9
Grade 7 Unit 1 Student 978‑1‑948845‑36‑6
Grade 7 Unit 2 Student 978‑1‑948845‑37‑3
Grade 7 Unit 3 Student 978‑1‑948845‑38‑0
Grade 7 Unit 4 Student 978‑1‑948845‑39‑7
Grade 7 Unit 5 Student 978‑1‑948845‑40‑3
Grade 7 Unit 6 Student 978‑1‑948845‑41‑0
Grade 8 Unit 1 Student 978‑1‑948845‑42‑7
Grade 8 Unit 2 Student 978‑1‑948845‑43‑4
Grade 8 Unit 3 Student 978‑1‑948845‑44‑1
Grade 8 Unit 4 Student 978‑1‑948845‑45‑8
Grade 8 Unit 5 Student 978‑1‑948845‑46‑5
Grade 8 Unit 6 Student 978‑1‑948845‑47‑2
Grade 6 Unit 1 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑48‑9
Grade 6 Unit 2 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑49‑6
Grade 6 Unit 3 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑50‑2
Grade 6 Unit 4 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑51‑9
Grade 6 Unit 5 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑52‑6
Grade 6 Unit 6 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑53‑3
Grade 7 Unit 1 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑54‑0
Grade 7 Unit 2 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑55‑7
Grade 7 Unit 3 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑56‑4
Grade 7 Unit 4 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑57‑1
Grade 7 Unit 5 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑58‑8
Grade 7 Unit 6 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑59‑5
Grade 8 Unit 1 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑60‑1
Grade 8 Unit 2 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑61‑8
Grade 8 Unit 3 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑62‑5
Grade 8 Unit 4 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑63‑2
Grade 8 Unit 5 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑64‑9
Grade 8 Unit 6 Student Spanish 978‑1‑948845‑65‑6

Please note: Reports published beginning in 2021 will be using version 1.5 of our review tools. Version 1 of our review tools can be found here. Learn more about this change.

Science 6-8 Review Tool

The science review criteria identifies the indicators for high-quality instructional materials. The review criteria supports a sequential review process that reflects the importance of alignment to the standards then considers other high-quality attributes of curriculum as recommended by educators.

For science, our review criteria evaluates materials based on:

  • Three-Dimensional Learning

  • Phenomena and Problems Drive Learning

  • Coherence and Full Scope of the Three Dimensions

  • Design to Facilitate Teacher Learning

  • Instructional Supports and Usability

The Evidence Guides complement the review criteria by elaborating details for each indicator including the purpose of the indicator, information on how to collect evidence, guiding questions and discussion prompts, and scoring criteria.

To best read our reports we recommend utilizing the Codes for NGSS Elements document that provides the code and description of elements cited as evidence in each report.

The instructional materials reviewed for Grades 6-8 do not meet expectations for Alignment to NGSS, Gateways 1 and 2. Gateway 1: Designed for NGSS; Criterion 1: Three-Dimensional Learning does not meet expectations. The materials do not engage students through the integration of the DCIs, SEPs, and CCCs or engage students in sensemaking. While each lesson includes learning objectives, very few of the lessons have three-dimensional learning objectives; often the CCC is missing from the learning objectives. Every unit includes summative assessments as well as a culminating project. Each unit includes Performance Expectations (PEs) as the three-dimensional learning objective but often the summative assessments only assess a portion of that PE. 

Criterion 2: Phenomena and Problems Drive Learning does not meet expectations. There are few opportunities for students to engage in phenomena and/or problems throughout the series. The majority of the phenomena are seen in Grade 6 and are within the physical science and earth and space science domains. While students engage in problems throughout each grade level, there are few opportunities to engage in problems; when problems are present they are seen in the physical science and earth and space science domains. When phenomena and problems are present, they meet expectations of being connected to grade level DCIs and are presented as directly as possible to students. However, science topics typically organize student learning, as opposed to phenomena or problems driving student learning. Additionally, the materials do not leverage students’ prior knowledge or experiences related to the phenomena or problems.

The EdReports rubric supports a sequential review process through three gateways. These gateways reflect the importance of alignment to college and career ready standards and considers other attributes of high-quality curriculum, such as usability and design, as recommended by educators.

Materials must meet or partially meet expectations for the first set of indicators (gateway 1) to move to the other gateways. 

Gateways 1 and 2 focus on questions of alignment to the standards. Are the instructional materials aligned to the standards? Are all standards present and treated with appropriate depth and quality required to support student learning?

Gateway 3 focuses on the question of usability. Are the instructional materials user-friendly for students and educators? Materials must be well designed to facilitate student learning and enhance a teacher’s ability to differentiate and build knowledge within the classroom. 

In order to be reviewed and attain a rating for usability (Gateway 3), the instructional materials must first meet expectations for alignment (Gateways 1 and 2).

Alignment and usability ratings are assigned based on how materials score on a series of criteria and indicators with reviewers providing supporting evidence to determine and substantiate each point awarded.

Alignment and usability ratings are assigned based on how materials score on a series of criteria and indicators with reviewers providing supporting evidence to determine and substantiate each point awarded.

For ELA and math, alignment ratings represent the degree to which materials meet expectations, partially meet expectations, or do not meet expectations for alignment to college- and career-ready standards, including that all standards are present and treated with the appropriate depth to support students in learning the skills and knowledge that they need to be ready for college and career.

For science, alignment ratings represent the degree to which materials meet expectations, partially meet expectations, or do not meet expectations for alignment to the Next Generation Science Standards, including that all standards are present and treated with the appropriate depth to support students in learning the skills and knowledge that they need to be ready for college and career.

For all content areas, usability ratings represent the degree to which materials meet expectations, partially meet expectations, or do not meet expectations for effective practices (as outlined in the evaluation tool) for use and design, teacher planning and learning, assessment, differentiated instruction, and effective technology use.

Math K-8

  • Focus and Coherence - 14 possible points

    • 12-14 points: Meets Expectations

    • 8-11 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 8 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Rigor and Mathematical Practices - 18 possible points

    • 16-18 points: Meets Expectations

    • 11-15 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 11 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Instructional Supports and Usability - 38 possible points

    • 31-38 points: Meets Expectations

    • 23-30 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 23: Does Not Meet Expectations

Math High School

  • Focus and Coherence - 18 possible points

    • 14-18 points: Meets Expectations

    • 10-13 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 10 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Rigor and Mathematical Practices - 16 possible points

    • 14-16 points: Meets Expectations

    • 10-13 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 10 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Instructional Supports and Usability - 36 possible points

    • 30-36 points: Meets Expectations

    • 22-29 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 22: Does Not Meet Expectations

ELA K-2

  • Text Complexity and Quality - 58 possible points

    • 52-58 points: Meets Expectations

    • 28-51 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 28 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks - 32 possible points

    • 28-32 points: Meet Expectations

    • 16-27 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 16 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Instructional Supports and Usability - 34 possible points

    • 30-34 points: Meets Expectations

    • 24-29 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 24 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

ELA 3-5

  • Text Complexity and Quality - 42 possible points

    • 37-42 points: Meets Expectations

    • 21-36 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 21 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks - 32 possible points

    • 28-32 points: Meet Expectations

    • 16-27 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 16 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Instructional Supports and Usability - 34 possible points

    • 30-34 points: Meets Expectations

    • 24-29 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 24 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

ELA 6-8

  • Text Complexity and Quality - 36 possible points

    • 32-36 points: Meets Expectations

    • 18-31 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 18 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks - 32 possible points

    • 28-32 points: Meet Expectations

    • 16-27 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 16 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Instructional Supports and Usability - 34 possible points

    • 30-34 points: Meets Expectations

    • 24-29 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 24 points: Does Not Meet Expectations


ELA High School

  • Text Complexity and Quality - 32 possible points

    • 28-32 points: Meets Expectations

    • 16-27 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 16 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks - 32 possible points

    • 28-32 points: Meet Expectations

    • 16-27 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 16 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

  • Instructional Supports and Usability - 34 possible points

    • 30-34 points: Meets Expectations

    • 24-29 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 24 points: Does Not Meet Expectations

Science Middle School

  • Designed for NGSS - 26 possible points

    • 22-26 points: Meets Expectations

    • 13-21 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 13 points: Does Not Meet Expectations


  • Coherence and Scope - 56 possible points

    • 48-56 points: Meets Expectations

    • 30-47 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 30 points: Does Not Meet Expectations


  • Instructional Supports and Usability - 54 possible points

    • 46-54 points: Meets Expectations

    • 29-45 points: Partially Meets Expectations

    • Below 29 points: Does Not Meet Expectations