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Citing Lack of Common-Core Alignment, Louisiana Poised to Delay Textbook Adoption

By guest blogger Stephen Sawchuk

Louisiana is poised to reject every math and reading textbook submitted by publishers in its most recent adoption cycle, citing concerns that the materials are not fully aligned to the Common Core State Standards' expectations, state officials announced today.

Though the Pelican State isn't the first to deal with a textbook-adoption process colliding with the common core, it does appear to be the first time alignment has been cited as a key factor in eschewing an endorsement.

Superintendent John White said in an interview that state reviewers found that the textbooks generally didn't adequately match the skills measured in preliminary tasks unveiled by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of the two testing consortia designing exams aligned to the common standards.

The decision would effectively delay state adoption of K-2 math textbooks and K-5 English/language arts for several years.

"It's no one's fault; there no logical reason to expect a publisher to be ready for an assessment that is two years from being completed," White said.

The state education department's recommendations will be reviewed and voted on by the state's board of education Dec. 4-5.

If the decision is approved, districts could still purchase the textbooks on their own. But they wouldn't be able to make use of the state's purchasing contracts with publishers, which are contingent on the results of the textbook-adoption process.

As I reported in a recent Education Week story on textbook alignment and the common core, there were already signs that the state might defer adoptions this cycle. Louisiana had crafted several quite specific review criteria, and White among others was skeptical that publishers would meet them this early on in the curriculum-development process.

Publishers submitting bids in both content areas included Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; McGraw-Hill, whose education publishing division was recently sold to Apollo Global Management; and Pearson. Other participating publishers included Benchmark Education Company, in English/language arts; and in math, Charism CPR and TPS Publishing Inc.

According to White, committees formed to review the textbooks knocked about three-quarters of them from the adoption list, while department officials decided to strike the rest. The primary reason, White said, was that "they don't consistently reflect the level of work we see in the PARCC prototypes."

"What we want is a very strong set of tasks that are anchoring these units in a way teachers can be confident that when they assess their students, they're assessing them on a rubric similar to the one that PARCC will be using," he said.

Some textbooks also had problems with having enough complex texts, and others with standards that were out of line, he said.

The state will probably look at adoption again in a few years as it becomes clearer what shape materials will have to take vis-a-vis the standards and the PARCC tests.

Nevertheless, White said he sees the move as a symbolic one to ensure that the state puts its stamp of approval only on materials it deems are fully aligned.

"It's a symbol of where we are as a state, and potentially beyond that," White said. "If we are really rigorous in what we expect of our students, we should be rigorous in what we expect of ourselves."

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