Education waste: a textbook case

APRIL 29, 2010
By LLOYD BILLINGSLEY

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, seeks to block California from adapting textbooks from Texas, currently revising its curriculum along what Yee and other critics view as right-wing lines. The senator has not submitted a measure to deal with problems in California textbooks, one of which teaches students that five times three equals five.

That error crops up in a second-grade math textbook, fully approved by the state of California, and used in 79 Sacramento public schools. The book is part of a series published by MacMillan/McGraw-Hill and used through the sixth grade. In the Folsom Cordova district, which also uses the series, teachers have tasked students with finding errors. The district’s fourth-grade students managed to find 90 mistakes. Teachers have found others and marked the texts with red pen.

The Folsom Cordova district paid $1.9 million for the series, according to news reports, and may demand a refund or retain payments to the publisher. To adopt a replacement text takes up to two years, what the Sacramento Bee described as a “labyrinthian process.”

Errors in California textbooks are not limited to math. One text contended that the Rio Grande, which comes nowhere near California, is the state’s southern border. The Textbook Trust, a watchdog group, notes that California textbooks have “hundreds of errors.” The state Department of Education has lacked a mechanism for ensuring that textbooks are “factually accurate.” The MacMillan/McGraw-Hill series confirms that mistakes endure, and that they are costly and time-consuming to fix.

The “Texas Curriculum Massacre,” as Newsweek dubbed it, remains controversial to Yee and even some conservatives. But according to David Upton, assistant professor of politics at the University of Dallas, “no one has pointed to a particular significant error of fact.” And contrary to accusations, Upton writes, “the curriculum is replete with specific references to Jefferson, religious freedom, the civil rights movement, and the achievements and struggles of women and minorities.”

4 comments

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  1. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 29 April, 2010, 16:38

    Who wants to bet that NOT buying text books from Texas will result in higher priced books?
    Anyone?

    Reply this comment
  2. John Seiler
    John Seiler 30 April, 2010, 19:14

    More reason to totally privatize schools, so they can pick their own textbooks without political meddling — from left OR right.

    (And by privatization I don’t mean charters or vouchers: I mean totally ending the government school system, refunding our tax money so we can take care of our own kids, and repealing truancy laws.)

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  3. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 1 May, 2010, 15:20

    Sounds like a good idea John. I’m willing to bet that any number of fully private schools could turn a nice profit from the money per child now being spent and still increase learning significantly.

    However, I’d leave the tax structure as-is and provide that per-student money to what ever school a parent chooses. I for one would not favor getting monthly bills for tuition.

    Reply this comment
  4. Phill90
    Phill90 9 July, 2018, 06:22

    Hi there. It’s really interesting article. Especially this: “That error crops up in a second-grade math textbook, fully approved by the state of California, and used in 79 Sacramento public schools. The book is part of a series published by MacMillan/McGraw-Hill and used through the sixth grade. In the Folsom Cordova district, which also uses the series, teachers have tasked students with finding errors. The district’s fourth-grade students managed to find 90 mistakes. Teachers have found others and marked the texts with red pen.” How can it be? And ofcourse students will order their works somewhere and in fact don’t know anything. The question of deterioration education is very important in present days. Students don’t have any motivation to study.

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