News Articles and Editorials about the Illegal Rejection of a
Math Textbook by the Texas State Board of Education
Tri-State Student Achievement Study: Illinois, Massachusetts & Washington
2004 NSF K-12 Math, Science, and Technology Curriculum Developers Conference
American Geological Institute
In 2000, the ARC Center at COMAP in Lexington, Massachusetts, received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to carry out a large-scale study of the effects of reform-based mathematics programs on student performance on state-mandated standardized tests in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington State. The study examined the performance of students using the three elementary programs developed with NSF funding and supported by the ARC Center, including Everyday Mathematics.
The results described in this poster focus exclusively on the Everyday Mathematics schools and students included in the study. The findings here are based on the records of over 78,000 students: 39,701 students who had studied with the Everyday Mathematics curricula for at least two years and 38,481 students from non-using comparison schools carefully matched by reading level, socioeconomic status, and other variables.
The results show that the average scores of students in the Everyday Mathematics schools are significantly higher than the average scores of students in their matched comparison schools. The results hold across the different state-mandated tests, and across topics ranging from computation, measurement, and geometry to algebra, problem solving, and making connections. The study compared the scores on all the topics tested at all the grade levels tested (Grades 3-5) in each of the three states. Of 34 comparisons across five state-grade combinations, 29 favor the Everyday Mathematics students, five show no statistically significant difference, and none favor the comparison students. The results also hold across all income and racial subgroups -- except for Hispanic students, where Everyday Mathematics students have higher (but not statistically significantly higher) average scores.
Study Compares States’ Math and Science Scores With Other Countries’
By SAM DILLON
The New York Times
November 14, 2007
American students even in low-performing states like Alabama do better on math and science tests than students in most foreign countries, including Italy and Norway, according to a new study released yesterday. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that students in Singapore and several other Asian countries significantly outperform American students, even those in high-achieving states like Massachusetts, the study found.
“In this case, the bad news trumps the good because our Asian economic competitors are winning the race to prepare students in math and science,” said the study’s author, Gary W. Phillips, chief scientist at the American Institutes of Research, a nonprofit independent scientific research firm.
The study equated standardized test scores of eighth-grade students in each of the 50 states with those of their peers in 45 countries. Experts said it was the first such effort to link standardized test scores, state by state, with scores from other nations.
Gage Kingsbury, the chief research and development officer at the Northwest Evaluation Association, a group in Oregon that carries out testing in 2,700 school districts, praised the study’s methodology but said “a flock of difficulties” made it hazardous to compare test results from one country to another and from one state to another. “Kids don’t start school at the same age in different countries,” he said. “Not all kids are in school in grade eight, and the percentage differs from country to country.”
Because of such differences, Dr. Kingsbury said, it would be a mistake to infer too much about the relative rigor of the educational systems across the states and nations in the study based merely on test score differences.
The scores for students in the United States came from tests administered by the federal Department of Education in most states in 2005 and 2007. For foreign students, the scores came from math and science tests administered worldwide in 2003, as part of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, known as the Timss.
Concern that science and math achievement was not keeping pace with the nation’s economic competitors had been building even before the most recent Timss survey, in which the highest-performing nations were Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan. American students lagged far behind those nations, but earned scores that were comparable to peers in European nations like Slovakia and Estonia, and were well above countries like Egypt, Chile and Saudi Arabia.
The Timss survey gives each country a metric by which to compare its educational attainment with other nations’. The nationwide American test, known as the National Assessments of Educational Progress, allows policy makers in each state to compare their students’ results with those in other states.
The new study used statistical linking to compare scores on the national assessment, state by state, with other nations’ scores on the Timss. Dr. Phillips, who from 1999 to 2002 led the agency of the Department of Education that administers the national assessment, likened the methodology to what economists do when they convert international currencies into dollars to compare poverty levels across various countries, for instance.
On the most recent national assessment, the highest-performing state in math was Massachusetts, and in science, North Dakota. The new study shows that average math achievement in Massachusetts was lower than in the leading Asian nations and in Belgium, but higher than in 40 other countries, including Australia, Russia, England and Israel.
Mississippi was the lowest-performing state in both math and science. In math, Mississippi students’ achievement was comparable to those of peers in Bulgaria and Moldova, and in science, to those in Norway and Romania.
In math, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York students were roughly equivalent with each other and with their peers in Australia, the Netherlands and Hungary.
The study’s contribution is the high-level perspective it offers on the nation’s education system, a bit the way a satellite image highlights the nation’s topography, said Thomas Toch, a co-director of Education Sector, an independent policy group.
“It shows we’re not doing as badly as some say,” Mr. Toch said. “We’re in the top half of the table, and a number of states are outperforming the majority of the nations in the study. But our performance in math and science lags behind that of the front-running Asian nations.”
Correction: November 24, 2007
An article on Nov. 14 about a study that compared the scores of American students on an international test with those of students from other countries described incorrectly in some editions the performance of Mississippi students. Although they did indeed score higher than students in Norway, they did not do better than those in Italy.
School textbooks, rife with errors, tentatively approved
State gives publishers until spring to fix 109,263 math mistakes
By TERRENCE STUTZ
The Dallas Morning News
Friday, November 16, 2007
AUSTIN – Proposed math books for elementary school children and their teachers have resulted in one computation that publishers would just as soon erase – 109,263.
That's the number of errors that were uncovered in proposed math textbooks that are under review by the State Board of Education for distribution to schools in the fall of 2008.
The total number of errors was nearly five times the total for last year, thanks to one publisher whose books contained more than 86,000 errors – 79 percent of the total.
Publishers will have until the spring to clean their books up. After that, they can be fined up to $5,000 for every error that makes it into the final editions of books shipped to Texas schools.
"This is an extraordinary number of errors," said Anita Givens, director of instructional materials for the Texas Education Agency, who cited as one reason the shorter amount of time that publishers were given to develop the books.
Ms. Givens said most of the mistakes were found by review panels of educators, with publishers themselves also notifying the state they had found errors after submitting their books for review.
Students may wish some of the errors had not been uncovered – particularly the inclusion in some books of the answers to math quizzes at the end of each chapter. The answers were supposed to appear only in teacher editions of the books.
In other cases, Spanish versions of the books had incorrect translations. And some computations were just wrong.
Six publishers submitted drafts of their textbooks to the TEA hoping to get in line for selection of the next generation of math books that will be used in Texas public schools.
All had some errors, but Houghton Mifflin Co., one of the leading educational publishers in the U.S., had 86,026 errors in the series of books it submitted to the state. That was 79 percent of all the errors that were discovered.
"It looks like one publisher won the sweepstakes," said board member Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, eliciting laughter from other board members. "How can you make 86,000 errors in your textbooks? How do you do that?"
A spokesman for Houghton Mifflin, based in Boston, did not return calls seeking comment on Thursday. A majority of the company's errors were in teacher editions.
Ms. Givens told board members that the publishers have plenty of reason to get rid of the mistakes by the deadline next spring.
"If the errors are not corrected by the time they go to classrooms, then the board can fine them $5,000 for each error," she said, noting that in the past publishers have usually corrected their mistakes on time.
"There is a strong incentive for publishers to be diligent about this."
Despite the errors, state board members tentatively approved most of the books for use in public schools beginning next fall – subject to correction of the errors. Total projected cost for the elementary school math books is $116.8 million.
Texas is one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, giving the state enormous influence over the content of books marketed across the county. That distinction is why publishers vigorously compete to have their books approved by the state board, which has authority to review all books and recommend approval to local school districts.
Group appeals to AG over education board's textbook adoptions
The Associated Press
Nov. 16, 2007
AUSTIN -- The State Board of Education is violating the law by censoring what information will be in school books, a watchdog group said Friday, asking the state attorney general's office to intervene.
The complaint stems from a vote earlier in the day in which the board rejected a proposed mathematics book for third-graders. State law allows the board to reject a textbook only if it fails to cover the state's curriculum standards, has factual errors or does not meet manufacturing requirements.
Board members voted to reject the book over complaints that the multiplication tables were not adequate, even though a textbook review panel had found that the book met the state's curriculum standards.
Texas Freedom Network raised concerns that the vote opens the door for the board to make ideological decisions on more controversial topics, including the teaching of evolution in science books.
"The state board is clearly thumbing its nose at the law," said Kathy Miller, president of the watchdog group, Texas Freedom Network. "If they get away with it, then it's open season again on textbooks that teach about evolution and other topics that a majority of board members may have personal and political objections to."
School districts may not use state money to purchase new textbooks unless the state board has approved them.
The vote to reject the book came after hours of discussion about the multiplication tables.
"There were board members who expressed a concern that this action could lead to a lawsuit," said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe.
Board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, offered the motion to reject Texas Everyday Mathematics, published by Wright Group/McGraw Hill.
SBOE members: calculators are not for kids
by William Lutz
The Lone Star Report
Volume 12, Issue 15
November 16, 2007
Several socially conservative members of the elected State Board of Education (SBOE) have a message for textbook publishers: leave the calculators for high school students.
The discussion of the role of calculators in mathematics education capped a full week of education news. Here’s a quick update.
Math textbooks. At the SBOE’s Committee of the Full Board on Nov. 15, the board debated the slate of elementary school math books submitted for fall use.
One textbook, Everyday Mathematics, drew the fire of board member Gail Lowe (R-Lampasas). Lowe wanted to move the book onto the nonconforming list because of its treatment of multiplication tables. Lowe said she believed the book did not sufficiently require students to memorize multiplication tables and did not meet the state standards for third grade.
The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for third grade requires students to “learn and apply multiplication facts through 12 by 12 using concrete models and objects.” This standard contrasts with the fourth grade standards that require students to “recall and apply multiplication facts through 12 x 12.”
Lowe interpreted both standards to require memorization of multiplication tables in both the third and fourth grade. The agency has traditionally only interpreted the fourth grade standard as requiring memorization of multiplication tables.
Representatives of the book’s publisher, McGraw Hill and the Wright Group, argued that the book complied with the TEKS but offered to add material addressing the concerns of Lowe and other board members. The book is currently used by three million schoolchildren nationwide and is based on research done at the University of Chicago. The Dallas and El Paso school districts currently use a prior version of the text.
There are two schools of thought in mathematics education. One argues that students should know how to do math, should memorize math facts, and should be able to perform mathematical operations without the use of calculators. The other school of thought argues that understanding mathematical ideas is more important than the ability to do mathematics. This line of thought is often nicknamed “fuzzy math” by its critics.
One of the most notorious fuzzy math books, Investigations in Numbers, Data, and Space by Pearson Scott Foresman was not submitted for the current Texas adoption.
Everyday Mathematics encourages the use of calculators in the third grade, though not for all types of problems. Its adoption prompted a debate over the role of calculators in mathematics education.
Board member David Bradley (R-Beaumont) told a story of TV news, on the first day of school, showing a Beaumont student writing 4x6 on the chalkboard. The kids had to go get a calculator to find the right answer, he said.
Bradley noted that Texas law prohibits the use of calculators on the state mathematics test up through the seventh grade. Besides Bradley and Lowe, board members Cynthia Dunbar (R-Richmond), Terri Leo (R-Spring) and Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio) vocally criticized the use of calculators in elementary school mathematics and expressed concerns about Everyday Mathematics.
Board member Geraldine Miller (R-Dallas) suggested that adding more material about learning multiplication tables would be an excellent addition to the book and that the publisher prepare an outline of additions they would make to the book to address concerns raised.
Board member Mary Helen Berlanga (D-Corpus Christi) said she would vote for the book, because it meets all the essential knowledge and skills as they currently exist. She suggested that if board members want multiplication tables memorized in the third grade, they need to revise the curriculum (the Essential Knowledge and Skills), instead of penalizing the publisher after the fact.
Berlanga attributed the controversy over the math books to Educational Research Analysts, the organization founded by the late Mel and Norma Gabler to review Texas textbooks.
The board, departing from usual practice, postponed a vote on the book until the Friday (Nov. 16) meeting. Members gave preliminary approval to all other submitted books.
New textbook rules.
Much of the controversy over Everyday Mathematics relates to another serious concern the board members have – how much coverage of the Essential Knowledge and Skills is expected.
Formerly, mere mention of a curriculum standard would count as “covered” for purposes of determining whether a textbook covers the curriculum. Board members now say they want at least three examples, prominently placed.
When the board adopts textbooks, it either rejects them (if they have factual errors or cover less than half the curriculum) or places them on the conforming or non-conforming lists. The conforming list covers all the curriculum, whereas the non-conforming list covers most but not all of the curriculum. Historically, districts tend to favor conforming books, when available.
Everyday Mathematics mentions multiplication and the table, but its coverage of that item did not satisfy several board members.
The message from this week’s board meeting is clear: a textbook’s success in covering a curriculum standard will get a closer look than before.
Textbook adoption process. The board is now revising its rules for textbook adoption in response to the Legislature’s HB 188, the textbook credit bill. The bill was carefully negotiated between lawmakers and Miller. It gives school districts a credit they can use to purchase other books when they buy books that cost less than the state maximum set by the board.
The bill also sets up a mid-cycle adoption process and allows districts to purchase SBOE-approved supplemental textbooks that do not cover all the curriculum but are helpful in teaching. An example would be a copy of Macbeth in a high school literature class.
Rules proposed for adoption at the Nov. 16 meeting would allow mid-cycle adoptions to the extent the commissioner certifies that funds are appropriated for that purpose. (The bill does allow the board to set a fee to cover that cost, but fees can only be spent if appropriated.) The board will follow the same review procedure for mid-cycle adoptions that it follows for regular adoptions of books, including submission of the books to review panels.
In the course of formulating rules for the mid-cycle adoption process, board members repeatedly emphasized they are serious about ensuring thorough coverage of each portion of the TEKS adopted books. Miller also emphasized that faithful execution of the changes in HB 188 is important to maintain good relations with lawmakers on textbook issues.
The board is currently undergoing major revisions to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, especially in language arts. Board members are actively involved in these efforts. There appears to be a consensus that the English, Language Arts, and Reading TEKS need more emphasis on phonics at the early grades, more grade-level specificity, and additional emphasis on measurable standards. The board asked many questions about the revision process.
The board also had a presentation on the work of the Vertical Teams – groups of higher education and college faculty appointed to devise college readiness standards for the curriculum. Commissioner of Higher Education Raymond Paredes appeared before the board and spoke about the vertical teams process.
Some board members expressed concerns about the emphasis on multiculturalism in the social studies as draft college readiness standards, saying they wanted more standards pertaining to early American history. Board members were told the vertical team members understood that the social studies standards required some work and revision.
Merit pay for teachers. More than half of the state’s school districts are refusing to participate in the state’s new incentive or merit pay program for teachers, The Dallas Morning News reports. The state, though providing a pool of money that can be used for salary enhancements for high-performing teachers, requires districts to put up a 15 percent match from local allotment to match the state funds. This has caused participation to trail off, the News reports -- though with one amusing side effect. The lack of interest among school districts means each school district that does participate gets more money.
Texas Challenges City on Math Curriculum
ELIZABETH GREEN - Staff Reporter
The New York Sun
November 20, 2007
The state of Texas has dropped a math curriculum that is mandated for use in New York City schools, saying it was leaving public school graduates unprepared for college.
The curriculum, called Everyday Mathematics, became the standard for elementary students in New York City when Mayor Bloomberg took control of the public schools in 2003.
About three million students across the country now use the program, including students in 28 Texas school districts, and industry estimates show it holds the greatest market share of any lower-grade math textbook, nearly 20%. But Texas officials said districts from Dallas to El Paso will likely be forced to drop it altogether after the Lone Star State's Board of Education voted to stop financing the third-grade textbook, which failed to teach students even basic multiplication tables, a majority of members charged.
One board member, Terri Leo, who is also a Texas public school teacher, called the textbook "the very worst book that we had submitted." This year, the board of education received 163 textbooks for consideration.
The board chairman, Don McLeroy, said the vote was part of a larger effort to prepare more Texas students for college. "We're paying millions of dollars to the publishing industry," Mr. McLeroy said. "We might as well get something back."
The vote leaves some doors open for Everyday Math. As long as Texas districts use their own money, and none from the state, they can still purchase it, and they can still use state funds to purchase first, second, fourth, and fifth-grade Everyday Math textbooks. But state officials, including several who support Everyday Math, said they expect districts will drop it, since most use one program for all of the elementary grades and all prefer to finance their books using state funds.
A board member who voted against the ban, Mavis Knight, described what will happen as a "domino effect" across the state.
Some advocates said the effect could be even greater, reshuffling a standstill in a national fight known as the math wars. While supporters of Everyday Math applaud it and other so-called progressive programs for their emphasis on problem-solving and group work, opponents charge that the best way to teach math is still through rote memorization of facts, calling anything else "fuzzy math." A recent entry by the federal Department of Education into the debate cleared up little, judging Everyday Math more effective than some more traditional programs but calling its impact still just "potentially" positive.
Since Texas is one of the country's largest buyers of educational textbooks, the advocates said its decision could force textbook publishers and school districts to rethink their position in the battle.
"What happens in Texas has ramifications for the whole country," a longtime Texas activist for traditional curricula, Donna Garner, said. "It's a huge movement."
Texas officials said Everyday Math's publisher, McGraw Hill, began scrambling to keep its curriculum on the state's okay list the minute board members indicated they might vote it off. After concerns were first raised at a long meeting last Thursday, McGraw Hill officials arrived the next morning at 9 a.m. sharp with seven full sets of additions to the text, including new worksheets and teacher guides, state board members who attended the meeting said.
"I think they were in a state of shock, like those of us who were on the non-prevailing side," Ms. Knight said. "I think they were truly mystified."
A spokeswoman for McGraw Hill, Mary Skafidas, called Everyday Math a "proven rigorous program," and pointed out that the publishing company also offers many alternative curricula districts could choose to buy instead.
New York City's Education Department also stood by the program. A spokeswoman, Maibe Gonzalez Fuentes, said the improvements for fourth-graders shown on a national math test last week testify to its success. "We continue to study developments in math education, both in this country and internationally, and we are convinced we are on the right track," she said.
But advocates who have ridiculed Everyday Math since the schools chancellor, Joel Klein, created a task force that eventually picked it said they hoped New York City could take a lesson from Texas.
"Our educators are making choices which ultimately have the consequence of barring a huge number of kids from high-paying jobs," a computer science professor at New York University, Alan Siegel, said. "It's that simple, and I applaud Texas for standing up to this."
Mr. Siegel, who has advised the city schools and a federal group on math, is one of several New York professors who have opposed Everyday Math, calling it poor preparation for the kinds of college courses they teach.
Not all New York City elementary schools follow the curriculum; some -- including many schools in District 2 -- have obtained waivers exempting them from the mandate to use it.
Rejected math book raises brows
By CLAY ROBISON
Nov. 25, 2007
AUSTIN -- If any subject taught in the public schools is nonpolitical, it should be math. Evolutionists, Creationists and even communists should be able to agree that one plus one equals two.
But political antennae are up, following the State Board of Education's rejection of a third-grade math book, whose previous edition already is being used in at least 28 Texas school districts or charter schools and in schools around the country.
The board's refusal to put the text, Everyday Mathematics, published by McGraw-Hill, on either its conforming or non-conforming textbook list will cut off state funding for the book after this year. Any district still wanting to use it will have to pay for it from local tax dollars.
Math books were the only texts reviewed this time, and the board adopted all the other offerings -- more than 160 -- including books published in the same McGraw-Hill series for other elementary grades.
The board's critics fear that conservative members plan to veto more books in the future, despite a state law restricting the panel's discretion over texts that address curriculum elements and meet other basic requirements.
The 1995 law, upheld last year by Attorney General Greg Abbott, was designed to end efforts by conservatives, who have long been influential on the education panel, to use their own philosophical views in screening books.
The seven Republican board members, all social or religious conservatives, who voted to block the McGraw-Hill book complained that it didn't do enough to help students memorize multiplication tables and prematurely encouraged the use of calculators.
"This is a bad book," said board chairman Don McLeroy of Bryan, one of the seven. He said the book didn't help prepare kids for the road to college.
And, he indicated in an interview, the conservatives believe they have more authority over textbooks than their critics say and, apparently, the attorney general from their own party believes.
"This does set a precedent. But I don't see us abusing this at all," he said.
Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which tracks the influence of social conservatives on state government, said the board was "clearly thumbing its nose at the law."
The last time the board created a textbook stir was in 2001, when it rejected an environmental science book that dared to discuss global warming, among other controversial issues.
Science books won't be up for adoption again until 2011, and maybe the Legislature will weigh in on this issue again before then. In the meantime, expect more fireworks when the board begins rewriting the science curriculum late next year or in early 2009.
Fuzzy math: A nationwide epidemic
By Michelle Malkin, Columnist
November 28, 2007
My column this week covers the long-fought fuzzy math wars and the parental revolt against poisonous edu-fads. The Texas state school board voted before Thanksgiving to ditch the infamous “Everyday Math” textbook for third-graders. This is the faulty curriculum the NYC schools were forced to adopt despite an outcry from teachers and parents. It’s difficult to find a school district where this dumbed-down virus hasn’t infected the education bureaucracy. If you know of any, let me know. Here’s my article:
Fuzzy math: A nationwide epidemic
Do you know what math curriculum your child is being taught? Are you worried that your third-grader hasn’t learned simple multiplication yet? Have you been befuddled by educational jargon such as “spiraling,” which is used to explain why your kid keeps bringing home the same insipid busywork of cutting, gluing and drawing? And are you alarmed by teachers who emphasize “self-confidence” over proficiency while their students fall further and further behind? Join the club.
Across the country, from New York City to Seattle, parents are wising up to math fads like “Everyday Math.” Sounds harmless enough, right? It’s cleverly marketed as a “University of Chicago” program. Impressive! Right? But then you start to sense something’s not adding up when your kid starts second grade and comes home with the same kindergarten-level addition and subtraction problems -- for the second year in a row.
And then your child keeps telling you that the teacher isn’t really teaching anything, just handing out useless worksheets -- some of which make no sense to parents with business degrees, medical degrees and Ph.D.s specializing in econometric analysis. And then you notice that it’s the University of Chicago education department, not the mathematics department, that is behind this nonsense.
And then you Google “Everyday Math” and discover that countless moms and dads just like you -- and a few brave teachers with their heads screwed on straight -- have had similarly horrifying experiences. Like the Illinois mom who found these “math” problems in the fifth-grade “Everyday Math” textbook:
A. If math were a color, it would be –, because –.
B. If it were a food, it would be –, because –.
C. If it were weather, it would be –, because –.
And then you realize your child has become a victim of “Fuzzy Math,” the “New New Math,” the dumbed-down, politically correct, euphemism-filled edu-folly corrupting both public and private schools nationwide.
And then you feel like the subject of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” as you take on the seemingly futile task of waking up other parents and fighting the edu-cracy to restore a rigorous curriculum in your child’s classroom. New York City teacher Matthew Clavel described his frustration with “Everyday Math” in a 2003 article for City Journal:
“The curriculum’s failure was undeniable: Not one of my students knew his or her times tables, and few had mastered even the most basic operations; knowledge of multiplication and division was abysmal. . . . what would you do, if you discovered that none of your fourth-graders could correctly tell you the answer to four times eight?”
But don’t give up and don’t give in. While New York City remains wedded to “Everyday Math” (which became the mandated standard in 2003), the state of Texas just voted before Thanksgiving to drop the University of Chicago textbooks for third-graders. School board members lambasted the math program for failing to prepare students for college. It’s an important salvo in the math wars because Texas is one of the biggest markets for school textbooks. As Texas goes, so goes the nation.
Meanwhile, grass-roots groups such as Mathematically Correct (http://www.mathematicallycorrect.com) and Where’s The Math? (http://www.wheresthemath.com) are alerting parents to how their children are being used as educational guinea pigs. And teachers and math professionals who haven’t drunk the p.c. Kool-Aid are exposing the ruse. Nick Diaz, a Maryland educator, wrote a letter to his local paper:
“As a former math teacher in Frederick County Public Schools, I have a strong interest in the recent discussion of the problems with the math curriculum in our state and county. . . . The proponents of fuzzy math claim that the new approach provides a ‘deep conceptual understanding.’ Those words, however, hide the truth. Students today are not expected to master basic addition, subtraction and multiplication. These fundamental skills are necessary for a truly deep understanding of math, but fuzzy math advocates are masters at using vocabulary that sounds good to parents, but means something different to educators.”
Members of the West Puget Sound Chapter of the Washington Society of Professional Engineers also stepped forward in their community:
“For 35 years, we have been subjected to a failed experiment, ‘new math.’ Mathematics depends on individual problem-solving ability to arrive at the correct answer. Math does not lend itself to ‘fuzzy’ answers. The solution is to recognize the failure of the Constructivist Curriculum as it relates to mathematics and science, eliminate it and return to the hard core basics using texts like the Singapore Math.”
If Fuzzy Math were a color, it would be neon green like those Mr. Yuk labels warning children not to ingest poisonous substances. Do not swallow!
Students Learn Differently Throughout Schooling
Roy Maynard, Columnist
Tyler Morning Telegraph
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Calculators aren't among the tools of learning that Texas elementary students need.
The State Board of Education made that wise decision in November, when it rejected the text Everyday Mathematics for third graders because it didn't place sufficient emphasis on memorizing multiplication tables. Instead, the book encourages them to use calculators.
There's a lot more going on here than might seem. And it's political.
It's really a disagreement about the nature of education: Some members of the state board are continuing a long battle against "progressive" principles that have hobbled American education.
And the battle is played out in skirmishes like this one.
"At issue in the math book debate is whether math should focus on memorizing specific skills - such as how to add, subtract, multiply and divide - or learning general concepts," wrote William Lutz in a recent edition of the Lone Star Report. "Books in the latter category often introduce calculators at the elementary school level (even though they cannot be used on state exams), while books in the former category focus on memorizing multiplication tables and learning how to carry and borrow."
State board member Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, took aim at Everyday Mathematics, saying it doesn't meet state standards.
The book's publishers, McGraw Hill and the Wright Group, responded that "the book is currently used by 3 million schoolchildren nationwide and is based on research done at the University of Chicago."
That's an important detail - because the University of Chicago can be called the birthplace of educational progressivism. It's where the 34-year-old John Dewey went in 1894 to expand on his psychological and educational theories.
"Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn," Dewey wrote. "Learning naturally results."
As a teacher myself, I can see some sense in that statement. The flaw is in grouping all pupils together. As any parent knows, children learn differently at the ages of 6 and 16. What might be true for high schoolers - when "experiential learning" has some legitimacy - may not apply to elementary school students.
The better approach to education is something less than progressive - something incredibly regressive, in fact. In her 1947 speech, "The Lost Tools of Learning," British educator and author Dorothy Sayers demonstrated how the classical model of education changes with the student.
The first stage of that model - the grammar stage - might better be termed the poll-parrot stage, reflecting the love children have for repetition and recitation.
"The poll-parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished," she wrote. "At this age, one readily memorizes... one enjoys the mere accumulation of things."
Children at this stage like to memorize, collect, chant and recite.
We sometimes still call them "grammar schools" - a throwback to the classical model - but very few classrooms reflect this developmental reality anymore. Progressive educators refer to memorization as the "drill-and-kill" method, implying that learning dry sets of facts destroys creativity and self-expression.
Not only do I disagree with that, but John Dewey did, too.
"We can have facts without thinking, but we cannot have thinking without facts," he wrote.
It's critical that what my own school (Good Shepherd in Tyler) refers to as "math facts" be taught in the elementary grades.
"The grammar of mathematics begins, of course, with the multiplication table, which, if not learnt now, will never be learnt with pleasure," Sayers pointed out.
How is this controversy political?
The 7-6 vote taken by the State Board of Education mostly reflects a philosophical divide on the board. Lutz attributed the debate to "several socially conservative members of the elected board." And following the vote, the left-leaning Texas Freedom Network got involved.
And just beneath the surface of this issue is something even more controversial - and apparently unrelated: evolution.
"A united faction of (the board's) most radical members is attempting an end run around the Legislature's clear intent to bar them from censoring textbooks," Texas Freedom Network Presi-dent Kathy Miller said. "If they get away with it, then it's open season again on textbooks that teach about evolution and other topics that a majority of board members may have personal and political objections to."
I don't see the connection. But I do expect this issue to re-emerge during the normally quiet re-election campaigns of board members.
Creating Math Derelicts
Letters to the Web Editor
Tyler Morning Telegraph
Dec. 7, 2007
Once again, The Tyler Morning Telegraph gets it correct. Roy Maynard's column, "Early Returns," points out exactly why "progressive" math is creating a generation of math derelicts. The vast majority of parents and educators fail to see why the liberal watchdog group, Texas Freedom Network, would try to turn this decision into a political one. Math is not a Republican/Democrat or a liberal/conservative issue.
The Texas Freedom Network is wrong in their charge that the State Board of Education (SBOE ) is doing "an end run around the Legislature's clear intent to bar them from censoring textbooks." On the contrary, it is clear in both case law and in the Texas Education Code that it is the duty of the SBOE to exercise their authority in determining both the curriculum and textbooks for Texas schools.
The law is very clear. The TEC in 31.024 states the SBOE does have the authority to reject a textbook. "And" means "And". Lawyers understand the impact of this language; which is why the Texas Education Agency lawyers did not attempt to intervene in the SBOE's decision to reject the math textbook in question. Here is the section of the law.
§ 31.023. TEXTBOOK LISTS. (a) For each subject and grade
level, the State Board of Education shall adopt two lists of
textbooks. The conforming list includes each textbook submitted
for the subject and grade level that meets applicable physical
specifications adopted by the State Board of Education and contains
material covering each element of the essential knowledge and
skills of the subject and grade level as determined by the State
Board of Education under Section 28.002 and adopted under Section
31.024. The nonconforming list includes each textbook submitted
for the subject and grade level that:
(1) meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education;
(2) contains material covering at least half, but not all, of the elements of the essential
knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level; and
(3) is adopted under Section 31.024.
(b) Each textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list must be free from factual errors.
Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 260, § 1, eff. May 30, 1995.
§ 31.024. ADOPTION BY STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. (a) By
majority vote, the State Board of Education shall:
(1) place each submitted textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list; or
(2) reject a textbook submitted for placement on a conforming or nonconforming list.
(b) Not later than December 1 of the year preceding the
school year for which the textbooks for a particular subject and
grade level will be purchased under the cycle adopted by the board
under Section 31.022, the board shall provide the lists of adopted
textbooks to each school district. Each nonconforming list must
include the reasons an adopted textbook is not eligible for the conforming list.
Further, recent case law was established when Trial Lawyers for Public Justice sued the SBOE on behalf of Daniel Chiras who challenged the SBOE's rejection of his environmental science book. This case was upheld in favor of the SBOE by the lower court and then was appealed to the federal court. The Fifth Circuit issued an opinion in late-2005 on the matter.
Three federal judges in the Chiras v. Miller 432 F. 3d. 606 (5th Cir. 2005) ruled in favor of the SBOE's decision and I quote:
"Designing the curriculum and selecting textbooks is a core function of the SBOE. It is necessary for the Board to exercise editorial judgment over the content of the instructional materials it selects for use in the public school classrooms, and the exercise of that discretion will necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Board members. The purpose of the Board is not to establish a forum for the expression of the views the various authors of textbooks and other instructional materials might want to interject into the classroom … Further, the Board has a statutory obligation under Texas law to exercise that discretion in order to promote the state’s chosen message through the Board’s educational policy."
State Board of Education District #6
State Board Speaks To 'Math Derelicts'
Tyler Morning Telegraph
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Roy Maynard's Early Returns column, points out exactly why "progressive" math is creating a generation of math derelicts. Math is not a Republican/Democrat or a liberal/conservative issue.
The Texas Freedom Network is wrong in its charge that the State Board of Education is doing "an end run around the Legislature's clear intent to bar them from censoring textbooks." On the contrary, it is clear in both case law and the Texas Education Code it is the duty of SBOE to exercise its authority in determining both the curriculum and textbooks for Texas schools.
The law is very clear. The TEC in section 31.024 states the SBOE does have the authority to reject a textbook. "And" means "and." Lawyers understand the impact of this language which is why the Texas Education Agency lawyers did not attempt to intervene in the SBOE's decision to reject the math textbook in question.
Further, recent case law was established when Trial Lawyers for Public Justice sued the SBOE on behalf of Daniel Charis who challenged the SBOE's rejection of his environmental science book. This case was upheld in favor of the SBOE by the lower court and then was appealed to the federal court. The fifth circuit issued an opinion in late 2005 on the matter.
Three federal judges in the Charis v. Miller 432 F. 3d. 606 (5th circuit. 2005) ruled in favor of the SBOE's decision and I quote:
"Designing the curriculum and selecting textbooks is a core function of the SBOE. It is necessary for the Board to exercise editorial judgment over the content of the instructional materials it selects for use in the public school classrooms, and the exercise of that discretion will necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Board members. The purpose of the Board is not to establish a forum for the expression of the views the various authors of textbooks and other instructional materials might want to interject into the classroom ... Further, the Board has a statutory obligation under Texas law to exercise that discretion in order to promote the state's chosen message through the Board's educational policy."
State Board of Education, District 6
Math publisher appeals state's rejection of textbook
McGraw-Hill says lawmakers violated education law with 7-6 vote and secrecy
By GARY SCHARRER
Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
Dec. 13, 2007
AUSTIN -- The publisher of a popular third-grade math textbook is appealing the recent rejection of its book by the State Board of Education.
Some Democratic and Republican members of the state board contend the board's action was highly improper, if not illegal.
The board last month voted 7-6 to reject the textbook, titled Everyday Mathematics, already used by about 75 Texas districts. The U.S. Department of Education rates the Everyday Mathematics textbook higher than any other elementary math book. Board members gave no reason for rejecting the book.
"It was like they enjoyed not giving a reason. We were almost begging them for a reason," said Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, who has served on the board since 1984.
The Dallas Republican, who chaired the 15-member board from 2003-2007, said the math book met all of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements.
"I do feel that a law was broken or blatantly ignored," she said.
A Dec. 28 deadline
Don McLeroy, the board's chairman, said he got plenty of e-mails from critics of the book.
"I am not convinced that it's a good book," he said Thursday. "They don't teach normal ways of doing multiplication. The kids never get the mastery of it. They depend on calculators early."
The textbook's publisher, McGraw-Hill, wants Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott to approve the Everyday Mathematics book by Dec. 28 for schools to choose.
Lawyers for the book publisher claim the rejection violated state education law, which requires a majority vote of the 15-member board. The board's failure to give a reason for its decision also violated state law, the lawyers said.
Science books coming up
The board's seven social conservatives formed a voting bloc against the book. Lawrence Allen Jr. of Houston missed the meeting and Rick Agosto of San Antonio abstained. Neither member returned phone calls.
Everyday Mathematics is a research-based program that teaches students both basic and higher-level skills, said Andy Isaacs, co-director of the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project.
"No other program has been so carefully developed or has so much evidence that it works," Isaacs said.
Everyday Mathematics is used as a series of textbooks in elementary school. Schools will not use the series if they cannot use the third-grade textbook.
Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe could not speculate about the timing because "we never had an appeal like this," she said.
Longtime board member Rene Nunez of El Paso said social conservative board members "wanted to show a little clout toward any future adoptions, especially with science coming up in the future."
McLeroy disputed that view.
"I don't see how it ties to the science curriculum," he said. "We're going to keep standards the way they are on all the controversial things. I can't imagine anybody who would say it's bad science to teach that every theory has got its ups and downs."
Math Publisher Appeals Texas' Rejection of Math Book
By Terri Leo, SBOE District 6
Gary Scharrer's Dec. 13 article in the Houston Chronicle, "Math publisher appeals state's rejection of textbook," needs clarification.
Nothing that the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) did was in secret.
The SBOE debated Everyday Math (Grade 3) for two days, Thursday and Friday, Nov. 15 and 16, 2007. Reasons were given as to why the majority of those SBOE members present and voting (which is the legal requirement) rejected the textbook. Any member of the public who would like to listen to those deliberations may do so by going to the Texas Education Agency web site (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/audio_archived.html) where the audio tapes for board meetings are archived.
Further, most parents and educators agree that math is not a Republican/Democrat or liberal/conservative issue. It is an issue of teaching all elementary children how to perform well the four math functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) so that they can be successful once they get to more advanced math courses.
Mrs. Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, a member of the SBOE, has been quoted saying that the majority of the SBOE members broke or blatantly ignored the law by rejecting the Everyday Math (Grade 3) textbook: "I do feel that a law was broken or blatantly ignored." Ms. Miller's memory may need to be prompted.
On Nov. 9, 2001, Miller herself voted with the SBOE majority 10-5 to reject an environmental science textbook written by Daniel D. Chiras. She felt rightly that this textbook was unsuitable for Texas public schools.
Trial Lawyers for Public Justice sued the SBOE on behalf of Daniel Chiras in a case that became known as Chiras v. Miller. Ms. Miller is the "Miller" in the legal citation.
This case was upheld in favor of the SBOE by the lower court, and then was appealed to the federal court.. Three federal judges in Chiras v. Miller 432 F. 3d. 606 (5th Cir. 2005) issued an opinion which reconfirmed the SBOE's authority to reject a textbook: Designing the curriculum and selecting textbooks is a core function of the SBOE. It is necessary for the Board to exercise editorial judgment over the content of the instructional materials it selects for use in the public school classrooms, and the exercise of that discretion will necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Board members.
The purpose of the Board is not to establish a forum for the expression of the views the various authors of textbooks and other instructional materials might want to interject into the classroom. Further, the Board has a statutory obligation under Texas law to exercise that discretion in order to promote the state's chosen message through the Board's educational policy.
Ms. Miller cannot have it both ways. Either she agrees with the Chiras v. Miller ruling which states that the SBOE has the authority to reject a textbook, or she does not. Also as a point of clarification, while Ms. Miller was chair, she sought an opinion from the Attorney General's office on the definition of "majority." The AG said that a majority is composed of those members who are present and voting -- not a majority of the total number of elected SBOE members. Lest Ms. Miller and other people doubt the SBOE's authority to reject a textbook, the Texas Education Code (TEC) clearly states that it is the duty of the SBOE members to exercise their authority in determining both the curriculum and textbooks for Texas public schools.
"And" means "and." Lawyers understand the impact of this language.
This is the reason that the Texas Education Agency lawyers did not attempt to intervene in the SBOE's decision to reject the math textbook in question.
31.023. TEXTBOOK LISTS. (a) For each subject and grade level, the State Board of Education shall adopt two lists of textbooks. The conforming list includes each textbook submitted for the subject and grade level that meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education and contains material covering each element of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level as determined by the State Board of Education under Section 28.002 and adopted under Section 31.024. The nonconforming list includes each textbook submitted for the subject and grade level that: (1) meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education; (2) contains material covering at least half, but not all, of the elements of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level; and (3) is adopted under Section 31.024. (b) Each textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list must be free from factual errors. Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 260, ' 1, eff. May 30, 1995.
31.024. ADOPTION BY STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. (a) By majority vote, the State Board of Education shall: (1) place each submitted textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list; or (2) reject a textbook submitted for placement on a conforming or nonconforming list. (b) Not later than December 1 of the year preceding the school year for which the textbooks for a particular subject and grade level will be purchased under the cycle adopted by the board under Section 31.022, the board shall provide the lists of adopted textbooks to each school district. Each nonconforming list must include the reasons an adopted textbook is not eligible for the conforming list.
In summary, SBOE members did present publicly their objections to Everyday Math (Grade 3), the 5th Circuit Court has ruled that the SBOE does have the authority to reject a textbook, the AG has clarified the definition of "majority", and the TEC makes it very clear that the SBOE has the right to reject a textbook.
Rejection of math textbook sparks debate on state board's authority
Decision spurs debate on extent of state Board of Education's power
By KAREN AYRES SMITH
The Dallas Morning News
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The state Board of Education's unusual decision to reject a math textbook used by Dallas and 70 other Texas school districts has evolved into a power struggle over the approval of classroom materials used across the state.
At issue is whether the 15-member state board can reject any book it wants for any reason it wants. That's what some conservative board members, led by board president Don McLeroy, say they are allowed to do.
But other board members and critics say the board should consider only whether a book fulfills the state's curriculum standards, called TEKS, and meets other basic requirements. They say that considering other factors could let politics determine what students learn.
With books in English and science – two areas subject to controversy – up for review in the next few years, the board's discretion in selecting and rejecting books is one of the most important public education issues facing the state, some observers say.
The board rejected the third-grade edition of Texas Everyday Mathematics in a 7-6 vote in November because some members didn't like the book's approach to teaching fundamental skills – a concern that has been echoed by critics across the country who decry it as convoluted and lacking rigor.
"It was a huge decision," said Dr. McLeroy, of Bryan, who voted to reject it. "We have to be very wise as board members. It's shown the state Board of Education is very influential."
McGraw-Hill, the book's publisher, contends the book provides strong instruction and has filed an appeal with Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott. That appeal is pending.
The vote on the math book could set a dangerous precedent for controversial votes in the future, said Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, a group that aims to counter the arguments of the religious right in Texas.
"If they get away with it, that will open the door to widespread censorship of textbooks in a Texas classroom," Mr. Quinn said. "What we're likely to see is that textbooks will become based more on the personal beliefs of the state board members than the facts themselves."
Conservative individuals and groups that say they favor traditional math instruction have voiced several concerns about Everyday Mathematics .
In general, they say it relies too much on calculators and peer activities rather than focusing on more traditional approaches such as having students memorize multiplication tables for automatic recall.
"Students shouldn't be set adrift to develop their own problem strategies," said Neal Frey, president of Educational Research Analysts, a Christian conservative group based in Longview that voluntarily reviewed the book, along with others up for consideration by the board.
But Andy Isaacs of the University of Chicago School of Mathematics Project – who worked with McGraw-Hill on the book – said it meets state requirements. Rather than concentrating on one topic, such as fractions, at a time, it spreads out practice and development of critical skills on each topic over many lessons. It also encourages teachers to present different ways of understanding math processes so students can pick the one that works best for them.
Dr. Isaacs said the curriculum has evolved over the last 20 years based on student performance research. About 3 million students use the book nationwide, according to McGraw-Hill.
"We're trying to change the way that math in this country is taught, not just sell books," Dr. Isaacs said. "We want to improve."
Some board members had questioned whether the proposed book adequately covered multiplication skills through the number 12, as required by the Texas curriculum. But Dr. Isaacs said his team made sure that skill was included in the version of the text produced for Texas.
In Dallas, officials rolled out Everyday Mathematics books in kindergarten through sixth grade at 19 schools with low math scores during the 2000-01 school year. By the end of the year, only two of those schools still had low scores; a year later, none of them did, said Camille Malone, DISD's director of mathematics.
The district now uses the book to teach the nearly 79,000 students in kindergarten through fifth grade at all elementary schools. Ms. Malone said games and hands-on examples help the students develop computation skills.
"The TAKS test is a test of concepts as well as skills," she said. "Had we not had a conceptually based program, I'm not sure we would have had the achievement we have had on TAKS."
Only books rejected
In November, the state board approved 162 elementary math books – rejecting only the English and Spanish versions of Everyday Mathematics for third grade.
There is much debate about whether the law allowed them to do that.
Current law dictates that board members create lists of conforming and nonconforming books based on whether submitted volumes contain errors, meet certain physical specifications and cover curriculum requirements.
Districts can use state money to buy from both lists.
But the law also allows the board to reject a textbook rather than place it on either list. That makes it ineligible for state funding.
Teri Leo, one of seven social conservative board members who voted against the math book, said the law clearly supported members who rejected the book.
"If they didn't mean for the board to be able to reject it, why would that be an option?" Ms. Leo said. "I object very much being taken to task for rejecting a book that I actually read."
But Geraldine Miller, a board member from Dallas who has often served as a swing vote, said she believes her colleagues violated textbook adoption rules because the book met requirements to be placed on one of the lists. It also was recommended by a textbook review committee and Mr. Scott, the education commissioner.
Usually, if a book doesn't make the conforming list, it automatically makes the nonconforming list, Ms. Miller said. Nonconforming books must meet at least half of the state requirements.
"There was not one thing wrong with that book," said Ms. Miller, a former board president. "That is what is so frustrating. I have concerns about the direction of the board."
At the same November meeting, the board ordered several publishers to fix more than 109,000 errors uncovered in the proposed books. All books had errors, but 79 percent – roughly 86,000 of the errors – were found in a series submitted by Houghton Mifflin Co., one of the leading educational publishers in the nation.
Texas is one of the largest textbook customers in the country and, thus, carries a lot of weight in the textbook market. The total cost of the next round of elementary math books for Texas students is projected to hit $116.8 million.
First rejection since '01
The math textbook vote marked the first time the board had turned down a book since 2001, when a rejected science book sparked an unsuccessful federal lawsuit against the board.
The law once explicitly gave board members wide latitude to pick textbooks based on their own opinions, but after numerous ideological battles over book selection lawmakers changed the rules in 1995. The new rules spell out criteria the board is to use when creating the lists of conforming and nonconforming books.
Stripped of power, board members have twice asked the state attorney general's office whether they have the authority to approve additional content standards. The office has denied both requests. Several legislative bills over the years seeking to expand the board's powers also have failed.
Richard Kouri of the Texas State Teachers Association said the 1995 legislation was supposed to end board debates over content.
"We certainly don't agree that the board has the authority to reject a book for any reason that isn't outlined in the statute," Mr. Kouri said. "We're certainly keeping an eye on this ruling."
McGraw-Hill had asked Mr. Scott to answer the appeal by Dec. 28, but no decision has been made. The state has already issued lists of acceptable books for the next school year.
In the Dallas school district, a textbook review committee has yet to review math options to decide whether to stick with Everyday Mathematics in the coming school year, Ms. Malone said.
Under state rules, local districts that want Everyday Mathematics next year can still buy the third-grade book with local money. The board approved the book for other grade levels.
Even so, many people say a lot of districts probably won't go with the Everyday Mathematics series because choosing another text for third grade would interrupt the elementary curriculum.
"Strategically speaking, it was a good choice on their part if they want to torpedo the program," Dr. Isaacs of the mathematics project said of his critics.
Mary Skafidas, a McGraw-Hill spokeswoman, said her company is talking to local districts about their options in securing the Everyday Mathematics curriculum.
"We think their process for using TEKS and making sure programs meet the TEKS is a good one," Ms. Skafidas said. "Once a program meets the TEKS, we feel it should be left up to the local district to decide which program meets their needs."
TEA has asked the attorney general's office to represent the state board in the appeal. Part of the appeal may decide whether the seven board members who voted against the book constituted a majority of the 15 board members. One board member was absent; another abstained.
Dr. McLeroy, the board's president, said the board's decision should stand. He said it will force publishers to produce stronger books.
The following North Texas school districts use the Everyday Mathematics curriculum in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, according to the book's publisher. Some districts don't use the book in all grade levels. In many cases, districts use other textbooks as well.
- Fort Worth
- Highland Park
- Red Oak
Math Textbook Rejection Minority Report
Submitted to the State Board of Education on 2008 January 18 by six Board members;
the Minority Report was not accepted by the Board on a vote of 8-6 (one member absent).
Texas Board of Education quashes dissenting report on rejected math book
Some in outvoted bloc say decision on text may have broken law
By KAREN AYRES SMITH
The Dallas Morning News
Friday, January 18, 2008
AUSTIN – The debate over the state Board of Education's decision to reject a third-grade math textbook used in Dallas and elsewhere escalated Friday when some board members accused their colleagues of breaking the law.
The six board members who voted against rejecting the third-grade edition of Texas Everyday Mathematics in November drafted a report that said the board failed to follow the law by rejecting a book that met all state requirements.
On Friday, board members who had voted to reject the book led a successful effort to strike that report from the official record of the board's minutes. The vote carried, 8-6. Members who opposed the document – called a minority report because it represents the minority viewpoint in a vote – said the report was inaccurate, unfair, and could be detrimental if the board were sued over the book's rejection.
"I'm all for minority reports, but only if they are truthful and accurate," said Barbara Cargill, a Republican board member from The Woodlands who voted to reject the third-grade text.
Board members who had issued the report accused their fellow members of censoring their opinions by quashing the report.
"In all my 20-odd years on this board, I've never experienced something like this," said Geraldine Miller, a Republican board member from Dallas. "It's very discouraging and sad that we cannot have an openness to talk about and explain our rationale about why we agree or disagree about an issue."
The board rejected the math book in a tight 7-6 vote at its November meeting. McGraw-Hill, the book's publisher, has filed an appeal with Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott in hopes of reversing the decision. That appeal is pending.
Several board members in a bloc of social conservatives say they can reject any book for any reason. But other board members and some education groups argue that they should only assess whether the book covers the curriculum and meets other basic requirements. They say giving the board extra discretion could let the personal and political beliefs of members determine what is taught in the classroom.
Some board members have argued that Everyday Mathematics relies too much on calculators and doesn't use traditional methods to develop multiplication and other skills. But the book's publisher says it clearly covers the state's curriculum and helps students find problem-solving techniques that work for them.
There remains some debate about the board's power .
State regulations dictate that board members create lists of "conforming" and "nonconforming" books based on whether books submitted by publishers contain errors, meet certain specifications and cover curriculum requirements. Districts can use state funds to buy from either list.
But the law also allows the board to reject a textbook rather than place it on either list. That makes it ineligible for state funding.
Offering an amendment
Terri Leo, a Republican member from Spring, initially proposed amending the minority report on Friday because she said it was inaccurate in reporting that the board had broken the law and made an unprecedented vote.
Ms. Leo said the law clearly supports the board's vote. She noted that the board had rejected a science textbook in 2001, a decision that led to an unsuccessful federal lawsuit against the board.
"I don't want the minutes to reflect that anything I did was unprecedented or against the law," Ms. Leo said.
Her proposal to amend the minority report sparked angry responses from some board members who had voted against rejecting the math book in November.
Mavis Knight, a Democrat from Dallas, said the book's rejection was unfair, in part, because the publisher had made changes requested by the board.
"From my standpoint, the statement is accurate in regards to what our belief was as to the failure to follow the law was unprecedented," said Ms. Knight.
Mary Helen Berlanga, a Democrat from Corpus Christi, said members of the majority had no right to change the minority's report.
"This is what we believe," Ms. Berlanga said. "I don't think anyone can censor what we believe."
During the discussion, another board member proposed striking the report entirely. Some board members who supported that proposal said they granted the minority permission to write the report only when they were debating whether to place the book on the nonconforming list. Since the book was flat-out rejected, the report wasn't called for, they say.
Several members said they were worried that the report could damage the board's chances in court if the publisher sues over the book. Others said they were offended to read media reports containing allegations that they broke the law.
"This is about the credibility of this board, and I will challenge anyone here who tries to challenge my credibility," said Rick Agosto, a Democrat from San Antonio who had abstained in the November vote over whether to reject the math book.
Several members who opposed the rejection vote said at the time that some of the 70 Texas districts that use Everyday Mathematics had contacted them to support the book.
The Dallas Independent School District has used the book in all elementary schools since the 2000-01 school year. The district's math coordinator has said she believes the book's hands-on exercises have helped students develop computation skills.
Board members met with representatives from the attorney general's office behind closed doors Thursday to discuss the pending appeal. No hearing date has been set.
Editorial: Power play by state school board (again)
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Attorney General Greg Abbott may have to don stripes and spikes once again to referee a dispute about the State Board of Education’s power over textbooks.
A controlling social-conservative clique on the board recently rejected a math textbook -- but not on the grounds that the book was full of errors or failed to meet explicit state criteria.
It did so because it didn’t like the book.
This was a prerogative the Legislature seemingly took away from ideologically driven school board members.
Once upon a time the textbook approval process was an opera of bellowing theatrics. The school board was cowed into making rash decisions by religious-right interests that acquired inordinate power over the process.
Thankfully, those days are gone. Unfortunately, proxies of those interests now sit on the board and ache to apply their political whims to the process.
They did so recently in rejecting a math book that’s in a series used by more than 70 school districts: the third-grade edition of Texas Everyday Mathematics. Board members in the pencil-thin 7-6 majority who voted to reject criticized the book’s approach to fundamentals.
A minority bloc asserted that the board has no power to reject a book in such a way.
State Education Commissioner Robert Scott has been asked by the publisher to intervene. If he doesn’t, the matter likely will go to the attorney general.
Based on state law, the board has two powers relative to textbooks: (1) to assure that they are error-free; (2) to guarantee that they meet the state’s essential elements. Those two questions were not in play in the board’s action.
This is the board’s first rejection of a book in seven years. Were the board to be so empowered based on open-ended criteria, the floodgates would be opened to battle royals about ideology and pedagogy in approving subsequent texts.
Attorney General Abbott authored an opinion in 2006 that was hailed by both sides as affirming their positions.
By and large, Abbott upheld limits on the board’s powers in textbook selection. But he also didn’t alter the board’s authority to reject a history book that didn’t foster “the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system.”
That obviously was seen as leaving the door ajar to allow any number of challenges to textbooks to succeed. It certainly did in the case of this math textbook. And the board will be considering English and science (did someone say “evolution”?) in upcoming years.
This is something the state Legislature needs to watch closely.
Should the arbitrators say the state school board can reject a book on any criteria it pleases, lawmakers need to further restrict the board’s power.
Texas State Board of Education Member Gail Lowe Speaks Out on Everyday Math
January 27, 2008
As the State Board of Education member who represents McLennan and surrounding counties, I take very seriously my responsibility to ensure the curriculum standards are met in the textbooks we adopt for use in Texas public schools. A foundational element of third-grade mathematics is the requirement that students learn the multiplication tables through 12x12. Unfortunately, the textbook "Everyday Mathematics" failed to meet this explicit criterion.
The publisher's own words state that its curriculum focuses on helping students learn x0, x1, x2, x5 and x10, with calculators and various strategies to be implemented to aid students with the remaining multiplication facts through 10x10. Even for fourth grade the publisher's goal is that students will learn multiplication only through 10x10. This falls woefully short of what parents, classroom teachers and state policy makers know to be a critical element in mathematics. Such deficient instruction and heavy reliance on calculators to perform the most basic one-digit multiplication offer very clear rationale for rejection of a textbook from being funded by the state.
At a time when the Texas Legislature is focused on implementing rigorous education standards that better prepare students for college or the technical workforce, our public schools must do a thorough job of providing the education necessary for student success. That preparation includes solid instruction by classroom teachers and textbooks that address all elements of the required curriculum. Of the 164 math books considered for use in kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms, only "Everyday Mathematics" for grade 3 was rejected, which leaves teachers a wide array of choices to meet their district's instructional goals.
If the decision to reject a deficient instructional tool such as this math textbook opens the floodgates for similar actions in the future, conscientious parents and hard-working taxpayers will welcome such scrutiny to ensure all elements of the public school curriculum standards are met.
Gail Lowe, Member, State Board of Education, District 14, Lampasas
Texas Citizens for Science Last updated: 2008 February 12