The goal of the most recent science education reform movement in the U.S. is science literacy for all Americans. Science literacy among U.S. students remains low, however, as compared with students in other industrialized countries, and is lowest among English Language Learner (ELL) students. Although there are barriers to developing science literacy for all adolescent students, ELL students often experience additional barriers that make developing science literacy even more challenging without support. Because textbooks are often heavily relied upon by secondary science teachers, the opportunity for many ELLs to develop science literacy may depend upon the support for these students included in science textbooks. Many textbook publishers have included textual tools for teaching ELLs in the teacher's editions of science textbooks they claim will help teachers support the learning of ELLs in the ways that are recommended by national standards, which describe appropriate science content, pedagogy, and language supports. These standards, referred to in this study as ELL standards, include the Benchmarks for Science Literacy, the CREDE standards, the WIDA standards, and the TIMSS standards. The purpose of this descriptive qualitative content analysis was to determine how the textual tools for teaching ELLs found in three widely used secondary biology textbooks in the U.S. are aligned with the ELL standards. All textual tools were read, reread, and coded using the ELL standards as a priori coding categories. The results indicate that some of the textual tools in the biology textbooks align with the ELL standards. However, the frequency of alignment between the textual tools and the ELL standards is not high. Further, many of the instances of alignment between the textual tools and the ELL standards are implicit, rather than explicit, indicating that the alignment between them is weak. Finally, many of the textual tools that are aligned with the ELL standards are only aligned with one of the categories within a given standard and ignore other, important, categories. It is recommended that textbook publishers update the textual tools for teaching ELLs in future editions of their textbooks to make them more aligned with the ELL standards. It is further recommended that secondary science teachers be better prepared so they will not have to rely on the textual tools for teaching ELLs in their instruction.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Teacher Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





science literacy, science textbooks, ELLs, science education reform