Navigating the Science Instructional Materials Selection Process

Navigating the Science Instructional Materials Selection Process


Promoting effective and equitable science teaching and learning is an essential component to building college and career readiness in Nebraska students. Selecting instructional materials is one of the most critical decisions a district will make in support of this goal. Finding instructional materials that are aligned to Nebraska’s College and Career Ready Standards for Science and that meet the needs of your district can be overwhelming. It can be even more overwhelming for Nebraska districts as they try to determine if materials aligned to the NGSS are also aligned to Nebraska state science standards.

The steps below are designed to help districts prioritize time while maximizing choice. Through a clearly defined selection process, districts are able to determine how strongly instructional materials for Science are aligned to Nebraska’s Science standards and how the materials support the instructional shifts. Additionally, the process highlights where the district will need to provide additional support in order to ensure a strong implementation of the materials.

How to Use this Guide


The following steps draw from a number of resources including the Nebraska Instructional Materials Collaborative, EdReports’ Adoption Steps, the NextGen TIME selection suite,  Instruction Partners’  Curriculum Support Guide, and the work of the Nebraska Instructional Materials Professional Learning Innovation Network Fellowship.

While the following key actions and considerations are not exhaustive, they can be adapted to meet local needs as they navigate selection, adoption, and implementation stages of high-quality instructional materials for Science. The considerations contain links to tools and resources that will provide additional support to ensure the process is thoughtfully planned, transparent, and well-documented. As a starting point, districts are encouraged to carefully review the Nebraska Instructional Materials Collaborative’s EdReports Bridge document. This resource provides an alignment between EdReports’ tool for the evaluation of Science materials and Nebraska’s standards for Science. The document also contains important information about quality criteria for Science materials.

Phase 1: Instructional Materials Selection

Key Actions Considerations


I.1 Develop your district lens. 

In this step, the goal is to establish a district-wide  instructional vision for Science.


  • Is there a district-wide vision for equitable, effective, and excellent Science  instruction? If not, who will lead the development of the vision and with what process?
  • Do educators and other stakeholders have sufficient knowledge of the Instructional Shifts for Science? 
  • How will the vision be communicated with educators and stakeholders? How can you distill the vision into actionable alignment statements?
  • What kinds of professional learning will be necessary to align curriculum, materials, instruction, and intervention with the vision?


I.2 Identify local needs and priorities. 

District and school leaders will develop a plan for reviewing and selecting materials.



  • What kinds of data will be collected to analyze student learning needs (e.g. NSCAS Science achievement data, interim and formative assessments).
  • How will new Science materials support school-level and district-wide improvement goals?
  • What are the criteria for high-quality instructional materials to ensure alignment with NCCRS-S?
  • To what extent will newly adopted Science materials align with materials in use at other grade levels? In other content areas?
  • What are the adoption requirements set forth in district and/or school board policy?


I.3 Establish your process. 

District and school leaders will develop a plan for reviewing and selecting materials.



  • How will the parameters of the adoption be established (e.g. budget, timing, decision-making process, technology needs)?
  • Which teachers, school leaders, and other stakeholders, including parents and community members, may comprise the selection and/or adoption committee(s)?
  • Who will create and communicate an adoption timeline and schedule of events?


I.4 Know and winnow your choices. 

This step involves taking stock of the highly-rated Science materials available in the marketplace.




I.5 Develop an equity lens. 

This step is essential for determining how high-quality Science materials will meet the needs of diverse learners.


  • What steps will be taken to ensure the selection committee is representative of the diversity of the students within the district?
  • Are review rubrics and tools designed to ensure students will encounter materials that include and reflect a diversity of perspectives, narratives, and histories, while elevating contributions of traditionally marginalized groups? 
  • Do review tools allow for adequate evaluation of bias that may be present in materials?


I.6 Investigate the materials 

In this step, teams prepare to systematically evaluate a narrowed list of selections.



  • How will evaluation rubrics and tools be identified or developed?
  • How will review tools be aligned to the district-wide vision for excellent science instruction?
  • What kinds of professional learning will be necessary for the committee(s) as they prepare to review materials?
  • How will reviews of materials be conducted, and who will be involved?
  • Who will collaborate with publishers to procure and distribute sample materials?
  • What kinds of professional learning, including collaboration with publishers or other organizations, will be necessary to investigate and/or conduct a pilot of the materials?
  • What process will be in place to compare the strengths and weaknesses of the options?
  • How will stakeholder feedback be analyzed and incorporated into the review process?


I.7 Make a decision. 

Teams will make a final selection and prepare for launch and implementation phases.


  • How will the final decision be made and communicated? How will consensus be reached?
  • Given the review, selection process, and pilot, how will leaders develop and communicate a shared understanding of why the materials were selected?
  • What are key talking points that will be reinforced throughout the communication process?


Phase II: Planning for Implementation

Key Actions Considerations


II.1 Prepare to launch. 

In this step, initial logistical decisions  such as purchase, distribution, and professional learning are made.


  • What supplemental materials and/or instructional supports accompany the core Science program (e.g. consumables, assessment resources, text sets)?
  • How will newly adopted Science materials be procured and distributed to schools in a timely manner, ensuring all teachers have access to essential program resources?
  • How will professional learning be designed and offered, and to whom?
  • Who will facilitate professional learning, and which stakeholders will receive training?
  • Does the professional learning plan allow teachers adequate time to orient themselves to the materials and supplements?
  • How will professional learning norms and goals be established and maintained?
  • What are the long- and short-term activities that will support deeper stages of implementation?
  • To what extent is the professional learning plan responsive to teacher needs and concerns during implementation?
  • Are there existing structures and opportunities for professional learning in place at the local or state level that can support professional learning?
  • What role will ESUs have in supporting initial and ongoing implementation?


II.2 Understand the design and demands of your materials. 

In this step, the focus is  on the design elements of the newly adopted ELA materials (e.g. units, lessons, overall scope and sequence, norms and routines, structures, formative and summative assessments) and how they will inform ongoing  professional learning.


  • What are the core beliefs about students and the role new materials will play in building students’ science identities? How do you anticipate these core beliefs may be challenged?
  • To what extent does the scope and sequence of newly adopted Science materials align with the local  curriculum? What are the long- and short-term modifications that may be necessary?
  • How might the design features impact existing structures such as block scheduling, pathways, teacher planning time, instructional hours, and staffing?
  • How will design elements of the materials impact existing protocols for assessment and grading?
  • Do current systems and structures for professional learning need to be adjusted? If so, what are the changes that need to be made?


II.3 Continue to plan and provide professional learning. 

In this step, professional learning plans are designed and refined to address learning needs of all stakeholders.


  • To what extent does the content of professional learning impress upon educators why the newly adopted materials were selected and how they align to instructional shifts for Science?
  • How will the professional learning plan be communicated and by whom?
  • What professional learning materials and supports, including publisher resources, will be identified?
  • How will district and building leaders be involved with professional learning?
  • What types of coaching models might be put into place as teachers begin with initial implementation?


II.4 Plan for observation. 

This step involves developing a plan for observing the implementation of materials in classroom practice.


  • How will stakeholders ensure newly adopted materials are implemented with fidelity?
  • How will classroom implementation of high-quality materials be supported and evaluated?
  • What kinds of Science-specific observation tools will be identified and what training is necessary to use them effectively?
  • To what extent do structures for classroom observation allow for meaningful collaboration amongst teachers?
  • How will observation and feedback plans ensure that the social, emotional, and academic needs of diverse learners are being met through materials and instruction?


II.5 Plan for assessment and grading. 

In this step, examine how newly adopted materials will current assessment and grading.


Phase III: Professional Learning & Progress Monitoring

Key Actions Considerations


III.1 Work the plan and gather data. 

In this phase, the plan developed in Phase II is enacted by observing successes and challenges and listening to feedback related to effectively supporting teachers.



III.2 Adjust the plan. 

The goal of this step is to examine progress toward established goals, identify key successes, and problem-solve significant challenges. After analyzing the data, the team will adjust the plan for the next phases of implementation work.



  • Once the plan has been adjusted, what are the next steps?
  • How will adjustments to the plan be communicated and what kinds of additional learning might be required?
  • What will stakeholder groups need to learn about adjustments to the plan?
  • What questions are anticipated and how will the team respond?


III.3 Annually reset. 

The goal of this key action is to reflect on the implementation, celebrate successes, identify areas for growth, and define work for the following year of implementation.


  • What are the goals for the annual review?
  • How will meeting norms be established and communicated to ensure the team discussion is productive?
  • What data will be collected to report progress toward goals?
  • How will data be disaggregated to ensure equity–specifically for students in poverty, students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners?
  • What additional stakeholder feedback may be necessary?