Children believe what their schools teach them. I have found that to be a scary thought over the years. We wonder why our children fall behind the world. They are not dumb. They work hard, we spend a lot educating them, and our teachers, as a group, are dedicated beyond just doing their job. The teachers are still not paid well enough, but we have made great strides to ensure teacher compensation is now competitive to many other fields when adjusted for hours spent. We are reducing class size and adding technology. What’s wrong?
I think there are many things wrong, but let’s start with the most basic of all tools–textbooks. One of the nation’s top text book company is Houghton Mifflin. A recent audit in Texas (The Dallas Morning News Nov. 16, 2007)<a href=”http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/111607dntextextbooks.268c6c7.html”>found 86,000 textbook errors</a> in the Math series. I haven’t found the history texts much better in my personal experience. The second grade textbook says Abigail Adams was married to Sam Adams not John Adams. They even have them in side by side pictures and make a big deal about her importance as a founding mother. I agree with her profound importance. Two Presidents sought her input Washington and Adams, mostly Adams. How she did that while married to Sam, I don’t know. It might be easier to understand if you know that she was married to John Adams. Their reading series is 17 points worse in results on the AYP than Open Court.
I don’t just fault one publisher, 109,263 errors were found in the Math textbooks in Texas with Houghton Mifflin having 79% of them. What is amazing is that they are still selected. My search for reasons is incomplete. The publisher is a big donor to community charities, partners with the NEA, and is cheap. I am sure that we would not go bargain basement to save a dollar or two a book; would we?
My problem is that the system just keeps ignoring this year after year. We had this same type of problem a decade ago and it still exists. I can show were this publisher had these problems back in the late ’80’s. They still get the contracts. Why should they care? The system still gives them the money. It doesn’t seem to care. Textbooks are not selected by quality, but by some other factor. What is it? The kids are caught between the complacency of the corporate bureaucracy and the political bureaucracy.
In Delaware, it seems many of our standards are geared to conform with this publisher. I want us to focus on what our children need to know. It seems like the system hasn’t gotten there yet. Our Department of Education seems to love this publisher. I can’t explain it, but I do know that we will never have the schools we desire until we get the basics right.