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Va. to Strengthen Textbook Review After Errors Identified

Education officials in Virginia are planning to tighten the textbook-review process following the recent discovery by content experts that some state-approved history books contain a raft of errors, according to an Associated Press story.

State Superintendent Patricia Wright will propose to the Board of Education this month that publishers be required to provide documentation that their books have been reviewed by "competent authorities who vouch for their accuracy," the story explains. In addition, Wright wants staff at the state department of education to more closely scrutinize textbooks that have been recommended by review panels for preliminary approval.

A recent review conducted by a set of historians at the state's request identified a variety of errors in elementary textbooks published by Five Ponds Press. (Careful readers may recall an item I posted in October about the controversy that erupted after it was discovered that one of that publisher's textbooks stated that thousands of African American soldiers fought for the South during the Civil War, a claim refuted by most historians.)

A separate story from The Washington Post delved more deeply into the recent state-ordered review. Among the errors identified were the number of states included in the Confederacy and the year that the United States entered World War I, the Post story said.

"I absolutely could not believe the number of mistakes—wrong dates and wrong facts everywhere. How in the world did these books get approved?" said Ronald Heinemann, a former history professor at Hampden-Sydney College, according to the Post story. He reviewed "Our Virginia: Past and Present."

And, the story notes, it wasn't just that publisher that had books with errors discovered in the review process.

Virginia's schools chief said last week that she was planning to alert school districts about the errors so that they aren't introduced into instruction, according to the AP story.

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