- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2001

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Twelve of the most popular science textbooks used at middle schools nationwide are riddled with errors, a new study has found.
Researchers compiled 500 pages of errors, ranging from maps depicting the equator passing through the southern United States to a photograph of singer Linda Ronstadt, who was labeled a silicon crystal.
None of the 12 textbooks has an acceptable level of accuracy, says John Hubisz, a North Carolina State University physics professor who led the two-year survey, released earlier this month.
"These are terrible books, and they're probably a strong component of why we do so poorly in science," he says. Mr. Hubisz estimated a About 85 percent of children in the United States use the textbooks examined.
"The books have a very large number of errors, many irrelevant photographs, complicated illustrations, experiments that could not possibly work, and drawings that represented impossible situations," he told the Charlotte Observer.
Teachers and administrators should pressure publishers to get "real authors" for textbooks, he says. "They get people to check for political correctness … they try to get in as much cultural diversity as possible. They just don't seem to understand what science is about."
The study was financed with a $64,000 grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. A team of researchers, including middle-school teachers and college professors, reviewed the 12 textbooks for factual errors.
"These are basic errors," Mr. Hubisz says. "It's stuff that anyone who had taken a science class would be able to catch."
One textbook even misstates Newton's first law of physics, a staple of physical science for centuries.
Errors in the multivolume Prentice Hall "Science" series include an incorrect depiction of what happens to light when it passes through a prism as well as the Ronstadt photograph. Mr. Hubisz says the Prentice Hall series probably has the most errors.
Prentice Hall acknowledged some errors, explaining that because states alter standards at the last minute, publishers rush mistakes into print.
"We may have to change a photograph because of a new content objection, and the caption isn't changed with the photograph," Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for Prentice Hall's parent company, Pearson Education, told the Observer. "But we believe we have the best practices to ensure accuracy."
Last year, the company began a thorough audit of its textbooks for accuracy and posted corrections on a Web site, she says.
Textbooks generally are reviewed by teachers, administrators, parents and curriculum specialists before the books are used in a classroom. But Mr. Hubisz, president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, says many middle-school science teachers have little physical-science training and may not recognize errors
The study's reviewers tried to reach textbook authors with questions, Mr. Hubisz says, but in many cases the people listed said they didn't write the book, and some didn't even know their names had been listed as authors. Some of the authors of a physical-science book, for example, are biologists.
Mr. Hubisz says the researchers reached publishers, who for the most part either dismissed the panel's findings or promised corrections in subsequent editions. Reviews of later editions turned up more errors than corrections.


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