Education waste: a textbook case

by CalWatchdog Staff | April 29, 2010 12:48 pm

APRIL 29, 2010

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.”

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