K-12 Initiatives - Curriculum Selection
In order to create a dynamic and deep partnership among Maine schools, one of the first tasks of the MainePSP was to select common research-based instructional materials that are aligned with state and national standards. Before beginning this process, the PSP worked with district stakeholders to identify the following shared goals for effective instructional resources:
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The Middle School Curriculum Evaluation Task Force (MSCETF) was formed in the fall of 2010 and included in-service teachers from local middle and high schools and pre-service teachers, faculty and staff from the University of Maine. The MSCETF spent several months evaluating instructional resources, using a process that was based on the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Curriculum Evaluation Tool. This process entailed a rigorous analysis of scientific content and scientific practices in each set of instructional resources, as well as instructional supports and the integration of mathematics, technology and literacy. The MSCETF ultimately recommended selections from two sets of materials that challenge students and foster deep understanding of science: Science Education for Public Understanding Project (SEPUP) and Project-based Inquiry Science (PBIS). The earth science and chemistry portions of SEPUP would be used in grade 6 while the physics units from PBIS would be implemented in grade 8, with districts continuing their current biology instruction in grade 7. This recommendation was adopted by the MainePSP Leadership Team in the spring of 2011, although the chemistry section was ultimately moved to grade 8.
The Grade 9 Task Force (G9TF) was convened in the fall of 2011 to evaluate instructional resources that could be used to teach physical science concepts in the context of earth science at the ninth grade level in MainePSP partner districts. The G9TF based their approach on the process used by the MSCETF, evaluating scientific practices and cross-cutting concepts, scientific content, and the integration of mathematics, technology and literacy. Like the MSCETF, the G9TF included in-service teachers from local middle and high schools and pre-service teachers, faculty and staff from the University of Maine. Members of the G9TF were divided in their preference for EarthComm: Project-Based Space and Earth System Science by American Geological Institute and Foundation Science: Earth Science by Education Development Center, Inc. Specific strengths noted for EarthComm were the integration of mathematics and data analysis, the inclusion in each chapter of numerous, meaningful investigations in a range of formats, the availability of high quality teacher resources, and the presence of an astronomy unit. Specific strengths noted for Foundation Science: Earth Science were a more open-ended approach to guided inquiry, a strong teacher’s guide, the flexible chapter structure, and the use of literature to engage students. Although the selected instructional resources were to be implemented in the fall of 2012, Foundation Science: Earth Science would not be published until 2013. When the G9TF presented its findings in the spring of 2012 to a gathering of teachers and curriculum coordinators from partner districts, the group recommended the selection of EarthComm and the Leadership Team adopted this recommendation.