« Federal Initiative Will Honor 'Green Ribbon' Schools | Main | Wisconsin Schools Have Some New Labor History to Teach »

Textbook Publishers Slammed at Teachers' Union Meeting

Publishers are making "preposterous" claims that their textbooks align to the common standards, and that is a key stumbling block in implementing the standards well, a nationally known expert on math and science education told a teachers' union gathering yesterday.

The comments by William H. Schmidt of Michigan State University came at a meeting of the American Federation of Teachers' committee on common-core implementation. Detailing challenges in that work, Schmidt named teacher-preparation programs, lack of educator knowledge about the standards, and unaligned textbooks as key areas of concern.

"We know," he said, that textbooks don't reflect the common standards, but publishers seem "impervious" to the need to change them. In East Lansing, where the university is located, districts are hearing "lectures" from publishers about how their textbooks cover the common standards' content. Such claims are "preposterous," Schmidt said, when few or no changes have been made since the standards were finalized last June.

Schmidt described a project he's working on that helps about 20 school districts "rip up" their math textbooks electronically, identifying which sections match each standard, and cross-referencing them, so teachers know precisely which sections to use to teach a given standard. For standards that find no match in the textbook, outside sources are cited for teachers, he said. The plan is to put the system online for everyone to use. Such a textbook dissection represents one way of dealing with "a serious problem with textbooks," he said.

Jay Diskey, a spokesman for the Association of American Publishers, which represents education publishers large and small, said there has been "a great deal of movement" by publishers to produce materials that reflect the common standards. He pointed to work being done by Scholastic, Pearson, McGraw Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Existing materials are being adapted, and brand-new materials are being created, Diskey said. Some are in print, and many are digital, he added.

Publishers are veterans at aligning their materials to various sets of standards, Diskey noted, since they've been doing that across the states for a long time. Recently, there has been a move to make the connections between instructional materials and standards even more explicit: Florida, for instance, now requires approved materials to cite, in the margin, the specific state standard they cover, he said.

Diskey said that it's possible, of course, that there might be "a publisher out there somewhere" that's making false claims about materials' alignment to the common core. While that's regrettable, publishers in general are doing their best to adapt or produce materials that capture the new standards, he said. They're caught in a bit of a bind, because if they were doing nothing to adapt, they would be criticized, but they're also criticized as they try to make the transition, he said. The publishing industry is working in good faith to produce valuable resources, he said, and it's frustrating when claims such as those made by Schmidt aren't made "with greater specificity."

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.


Most Viewed on Education Week



Recent Comments

  • Linda: My problem with homework is they give too much and read more
  • Seo Article Writer: Hello I just see your site when I am searching read more
  • Car Insurance Guy: Ah!!! at last I found what I was looking for. read more
  • cyptoreopully: Hey there everyone i was just introduceing myself here im read more
  • Connie Wms: Good grief. We have gone round and round forever with read more