Educational Research Analysts  May 2008 Newsletter  
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Four Unlikely Successes
A great leap forward:
Californians to see new books
EVERYDAY's Texas doomsday;
editor judgement curbed
Local option on sex ed
neuters condom lobby
Good times rolled of late as four text­book projects with much national sig­ni­fi­cance won in California and Texas. California demo­cratized future state text­book adoptions by requiring publishers to post their annual submis­sions online for all to scan – a huge step, because to influence a state's textbook content you must first open up its textbook approval process. Plus for the first time in a quarter century, Texas turned down a major company's book, spurning minor overnight cosmetic tweaks, a move sure to rever­berate else­where. Texas also fended off a ruse to void local judg­ment on contra­ception info in Health classes. And at the same time, Texas rightly shifted control over reinforce­ment of student learning in text­books from editors to its elected State Board of Education (SBOE).

California was our longest, toughest, costliest venture ever. Getting review copies of textbooks there was as hard as Mel and Norma found it in Texas in the 1960s. We did use methods they honed to better our odds. Still, we would have failed save for multiple divine providences: We just happened to find a way to get the books. They just happened to be U.S. History texts, always rich in factual errors. California just happened to be under court order to revamp regulations we needed changed. Its Department of Education balked at our request … until the State Board of Education granted it. (Read of that under "Sacra­mento Drama" inside.) God has brought too many impro­babil­ities to pass, to stay now the momentum of this His mission of mercy to California schools.

Texas' resounding "nay" to 3rd grade Everyday Math in 2007 – for reasons on page 3 here – shocked the pub­lisher, rocked "progressives," and blocked sales every­where, for rivals will trumpet Texas' rejec­tion. Behind it lay yet another pro­vi­dence. At the final SBOE vote, one member was absent, another abstained. Thus the seven text­book reformers won, exor­cising this festering malaise, because in math as in sex ed and non-phonics reading, destruc­ti­vists minimize traditional algorithms/standard rules and encour­age students to invent their own dysfunc­tional alter­na­tives. Many rank-and-file classroom teachers, who ac­tu­al­ly make local textbook-adoption decisions, welcome hard data that quantify such bad pedagogy, like our com­par­ison chart for 3rd grade Math programs on page 6 within.

Simultaneously, Texas reined in editors in general and the condom lobby in particular. If textbooks do include good data, they often fail to build mas­tery of it with end-of-section review exercises, end-of-chapter activi­ties, and unit tests. Hence the SBOE told editors to fix that. Provi­den­tial­ly, a publisher gave us his plan to attack this, in plenty of time for us to foil it. Mean­while, a new act said student texts as well as teacher's edi­tions must cover course standards. That was a condom-lobby stealth bid to force birth-control instruc­tion into Health classes. Texas' curri­culum seems to mandate this. But state law, which trumps that, clearly leaves such inclusion up to local choice. Again provi­dentially wise to the ploy, SBOE heroes ruled that contra­ception info would remain optional in Health texts.

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