Science texts loaded with errors
  Associated Press     January 15, 2001     ©New Haven Register

RALEIGH, N.C. — 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 photo of singer Linda Ronstadt labeled as a silicon crystal.

None of the 12 textbooks has an acceptable level of accuracy, said 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 said. 

Hubisz estimated 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.

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.

One textbook even misstates Newton’s first law of physics, a staple of physical science for centuries.

Errors in the multi-volume Prentice Hall "Science" series included an incorrect depiction of what happens to light when it passes through a prism and the Ronstadt photo. 

Hubisz said the Prentice Hall series was probably the most error-filled.

Prentice Hall acknowledged some errors, partly because states alter standards at the last minute and publishers have to rush to make changes.

Last year, the company launched a thorough audit of its textbooks for accuracy and posted corrections on a Web site, Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for Prentice Hall’s parent company, Pearson Education said.