It was the equivalent of “Show your work.” To help explain its staggering abandonment of dozens of math textbooks, Florida this week published nearly 6,000 pages of reviewer comments and found the often confusing, controversial and diverse process.
A conservative activist who became a textbook reviewer sought references to race. Another reviewer didn’t seem to know this socio-emotional learning According to the state, such concepts as the development of originality should be banned. The third indicated a verbal task, comparing salaries for male and female footballers.
As part of the formal verification process, the state instructed educators, parents, and other residents to review textbooks, particularly to determine if they adhere to Florida standards for teaching math – from simple kindergarten addition to interpreting graphs in high school statistics.
But Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and his allies in the state legislature also fought against what he calls “awakened indoctrination”In public schools and has developed a number of rules and laws aimed at restricting the teaching of racial, gender and socio-emotional subjects.
Thus, reviewers were asked to indicate “critical racial theory”, “culture-based teaching”, “social justice for CRT” and “socio-emotional learning”, according to the documents.
To illustrate how politicized and subjective these terms have become, various reviewers have rarely agreed on whether these concepts were present – and, if so, whether to accept books or reject their inclusion.
While many states and school districts appoint textbook reviewers, the process in Florida was very unusual. Some reviewers examined racial and socio-emotional learning along with detailed items of mathematical content and pedagogy, while others sought only critical theory of race, according to documents.
It is unclear why specific reviewers took on the narrower task, and the Florida Department of Education did not immediately respond to a list of written questions about the review process.
But in the village April news release announcing the rejection of textbooks, the department said: “The transparent process of reviewing study materials in Florida provides the public with an opportunity to view and comment on the textbooks presented.”
Governor DeSantis said that, in his opinion, concepts such as socio-emotional learning distract from mathematics itself.
“The math is to get the right answer,” he told a news conference last month, adding, “That’s not how you treat the problem.”
Conservative activists were involved in the review process. For example, five reviewers read Savvas Learning Company’s “Mathematical Thinking,” a textbook for high school rejected. Only one of the reviewers – Chris Allen, a father from Indian River County and an activist of the conservative group Moms for Liberty – named the book for the inclusion of critical theory of race and socio-emotional learning.
In detailed comments, 33-year-old Ms. Allen objected to math problems, which she wrote suggest a correlation between racial prejudice, age and level of education and draw attention to the pay gap between women and men.
She also named several topics that were “age-inappropriate,” such as mentions of divorce and drug and alcohol use.
In an interview, Ms. Allen, an engineering practitioner, said she first heard about the opportunity to view textbooks in January through an email list of local activists known as the Alliance for Educational Action. At the time, Florida had invited volunteer “guest observers”.
She called herself a “newcomer” to public policy, joining for the first time during the pandemic to oppose the mandate of school masks. She was too active in efforts remove from school libraries what she called “pornographic books”.
Understand the debate around critical race theory
The Florida Department of Education, she said, was more responsive to her concerns than her local school board.
“It’s for high school students,” she said. “You’re still figuring out who you are and figuring out your place in the world. This math textbook tells you that depending on your age, you may have racial bias. ”
The documents show that some reviewers did not realize that they should abandon textbooks with socio-emotional learning, a basic educational movement designed to help students develop skills such as collaboration and resilience. He is widely taught in colleges of education and in refresher sessions.
For example, a book for first grade, published by Savvas, includes concepts such as the desire to “respectfully disagree” about how to solve a math problem, and encourages students to “use the mood to grow” when stuck.
One reviewer, apparently a teacher, noted that the book “provides good strategies for SEL”. But then the same reviewer also said that the book has no content related to socio-emotional learning. The textbook was still rejected.
The Study Edge textbook “Accelerated Mathematics” for 7th grade was rejected after one of the reviewers who recommended it raised questions about a “warm-up” that “includes the controversial topic of equal pay and discrimination.”
A review of the textbook suggests that the reviewer, an algebra teacher in Orlando, had a verbal task in mind when comparing salaries for male and female footballers, using Megan Rapino as an example.
Many of the textbooks were rejected by the state, despite strong reviews from math teachers who praised the books for being interesting, thorough, and rich in digital resources. Some teacher reviewers gave detailed feedback on how different texts help or hinder students in mathematics, often referring to their own classroom experiences.
But in the end, for dozens of books, these comments were less important than those that capture issues of race, gender, and socio-emotional learning.
Over the past few weeks, some publishers have agreed to revise their rejected books. Florida law also allows companies to appeal denials.