TFN Scores Partial Win for Transparency in Texas Textbook Adoption

by Dan Quinn

For weeks we have been pushing the Texas Education Agency to release changes publishers are proposing in their responses to objections official reviewers have raised regarding their new science textbooks. It is simply unacceptable for the State Board of Education to adopt those new textbooks until Texans have a chance to see whether their children’s science instruction has been watered down because of demands from anti-science activists opposed to teaching about evolution and climate change.

This morning TEA sent out the following press release:

SBOE chair increases transparency in textbook adoption process

AUSTIN – In the interest of greater transparency during the current textbook adoption process, Barbara Cargill, chair of the State Board of Education, today announced she will ask publishers to voluntarily make public any additional content they are proposing for new instructional materials.

The board is in the process of adopting new materials for science for grades k-12, mathematics, k-8, and technology applications for use in Texas classrooms. A final vote on the submitted instructional materials will occur in November. But because of the increasing use of electronic content and the high interest in this adoption, Cargill will ask publishers to voluntarily make the new content available as quickly as possible.

As with the original instructional materials submitted for this adoption cycle, the new content will be available for review at the Texas Education Agency in Austin and at the 20 Education Service Centers around the state. Because of copyright protections, the material cannot be distributed to requesters but may be reviewed at those locations.

Currently, 429 instructional products are under review. Those approved by the board this fall will be available for use in Texas classrooms in the fall of 2014.

This is a step forward, and we applaud TEA staff members who worked to bring it about. But before folks get too excited, we should point out the obvious: suggesting that the SBOE should adopt textbooks before the public knows what is in them is simply ridiculous. Moreover, it’s still troubling that the only way the public will be able to view the textbook changes will be to go to the Texas Education Agency in Austin or one of the state’s 20 Education Service Centers. How many folks will be able to do that? Rest assured, TFN will do whatever is necessary to make sure publisher’s changes get reviewed by people who are qualified to evaluate them.

This all came about after TFN requested to see proposed changes from publishers. The argument we’ve been hearing is that publishers weren’t required to release their changes when the SBOE released the 2014 Proclamation calling for new science, math and technology applications textbooks. So, we’re told, it’s too late to require publishers to make their changes public before May 2014 — six months after their adoption.

This should never have been an issue. SBOE members should refuse to adopt textbooks from publishers who don’t give the public plenty of time to weigh in on changes before the November board meeting. Moreover, the SBOE should move quickly to ensure that publishers are required to make textbook changes public during the social studies adoption in 2014.