The important role of curriculum materials in instructional reform has been emphasized by D. L. Ball and D. K. Cohen (1996), among others. Although curriculum development is a huge area of endeavor in science education, research on curriculum development, implementation, and effectiveness is relatively limited. Even studies that involve curriculum materials development as an essential tool for conducting the research often do not address the curriculum itself as a research topic.
While appropriate instructional materials are essential to effective instruction, high-quality materials that meet current science education standards are difficult to find, and are even less likely to be available in inner-city schools where nonmainstream students are concentrated. Despite this paucity of quality materials, especially for nonmainstream students, they are not in high demand compared to curriculum materials for the core subjects of reading, writing, and mathematics (see the discussion in “Accountability as the Policy Context for Science Education” in Chapter 2). Many schools are aware that they lack adequate science curricula, but do not see this as a high priority relative to other needs.
A comprehensive evaluation of school science curricula by the NSF found that most existing materials did not meet the expectations of the National Research Council's (1996) National Science Education Standards (NSF, 1996). They covered too many subjects, included irrelevant classroom activities, and failed to develop important concepts.