Sunday, June 1, 2008

Textbook Adoption Corruption by Feynman

As OSPI is in the midst of an Instructional Materials Review and Recommendation process that is anything but open and transparent it demonstrates that
things are the Same from 1964 to 2008.

from The Textbook Letter, July-August 1999

Annals of Corruption: Part 1

In 1964 the eminent physicist Richard Feynman served on the State of California's Curriculum Commission and saw how the Commission chose math textbooks for use in California's public schools.
In his acerbic memoir of that experience, titled "Judging Books by Their Covers," Feynman analyzed the Commission's idiotic method of evaluating books, and he described some of the tactics employed by schoolbook salesmen who wanted the Commission to adopt their shoddy products. "Judging Books by Their Covers" appeared as a chapter in "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" -- Feynman's autobiographical book that was published in 1985 by W.W. Norton & Company.

To introduce a series of articles about corruption in schoolbook-adoption proceedings, we present here (with permission from W.W. Norton & Company) an extended excerpt from Feynman's narrative.

As our "Annals of Corruption" series unfolds, readers will see that Feynman's account is as timely now as it was when he wrote it. State adoption proceedings still are pervaded by sham, malfeasance and ludicrous incompetence, and they still reflect cozy connections between state agencies and schoolbook companies.

The rest is HERE
Judging Books by Their Covers
Richard P. Feynman



Anonymous said...

District Administration
March 1, 2005 Volume 41
By Melissa Ezarik
The Textbook Adoption Mess
— And What Reformers Are Doing To Fix It

Adoptions are practiced in 22 states, mostly in the south and west - a practice that has been going on since Reconstruction.

This article provides a nice account of the adoption process. I'm not a big fan of Saxon, but I pasted the portion pertaining to Saxon and the extra lengths they had to go in order to be adopted in some states. Saxon himself would often give his textbooks away to classrooms for free, although the article leaves that part out.

Virtually all the books under review that month in Oklahoma got adopted unanimously. Saxon, meanwhile, got a resounding NO from committee members whose names still echo in Wang’s ears. (It probably didn’t help, he discovered later, that John Saxon had declared during a speech the day before that everyone on the adoption committee was an idiot.)

Focusing on Content, Not Process
It’s the era of accoun-tability, and content is king. Or is it? When David Cappellucci, along with
two Houghton Mifflin Company colleagues, left there a few years ago, their aim in a new venture
was simple: Make available print and technologybased materials that focus on the endpoint of student achievement. “The adoption process is more about the process itself by its nature,” says Cappellucci, chief operations officer of Cambium
Learning. One problem is the proliferation of freebies. “I
don’t know who fired the first shot, but this process of giving away materials in order to secure a sale has become what I call rampant,” he says, adding
that these practices not only sway district purchases of adopted materials but also drive up prices for everyone else. “As customer priorities change and it becomes more important that programs work for kids... ‘What do I get for free?’ and ‘How many trucks will you back up [to our schools] for the sale?’ [won’t be as important]. There’s more emphasis on the goodies and it really ought to be on what works.” The Georgia inspector general is currently
investigating giveaway practices by textbook
But legislative action doesn’t always help.
Wang is disturbed by a Florida law (ostensibly
passed to avoid the freebies issue) that prohibits
pilot testing of programs up for adoption beginning
18 months prior to the decision. “This is akin to
someone saying, ‘Well you can go buy a car but
you can’t test drive a car,’ “he says.
While Wang parted ways with Saxon in 2003 to
begin the teaching career he had originally planned
on, he still speaks up about system deficits when
the chance presents itself.
Being seated next to Gov. Jeb Bush at a D.C.
dinner about a year ago was one such opportunity.
After hearing Wang’s take on the law, the governor
pointed him toward another guest who might help.
That guest promptly got a letter from Wang
highlighting the issue.
Another issue Wang has encountered: Once a
Florida adoption committee asked Wang to “show
us the diversity” in a Saxon math book. Since the
books have no pictures, he responded, “We feel we
can best help the minorities by providing effective
curriculum so they can go out and become
engineers, physicists, etc.”
The argument, Wang recalls, “did not really
sway well with them.” On another occasion,
Wang’s joke about his “diverse” name being on the book’s cover as co-author didn’t work, either. “In many states we have been rejected even though we could furnish evidence of schools in that state that achieved success with the program." he says.

Anonymous said...

This is in Word and I would boldly recommend SPS board members download this document, when they want to assess how dependent teachers and students are on textbooks. I've pasted a few highlights of this research and I find it very informative.

by Christopher Stream, PI

A 2002 Survey sponsored by the National Education Association and the Association of American Publishers of elementary and high school teachers found that 80 percent use textbooks in their classrooms.

Nearly half of student class time was spent using textbooks.

These numbers most likely understate teachers’ and students’ dependence on textbooks.

There are shadow studies which track teachers’ activities during the school day indicating that 80 to 90 percent of classroom and homework assignments are textbook driven.

For example, history and social studies teachers often rely exclusively on textbooks instead of having students read primary sources.

In light of this heavy reliance on textbooks to shape and convey what teachers teach and what students are supposed to learn, it is remarkable that so little attention has been paid to them.

The content and marketing of today’s textbooks are controlled by a highly dysfunctional government-run textbook adoption process.

As Harriet Tyson-Bernstein observed in her 1988 book “A Conspiracy of Good Intentions,”

Imagine a public policy system that is perfectly designed to produce textbooks that confuse, mislead and profoundly bore students….None of the adults in this very complex system intends this outcome…But the cumulative effects of well-intentioned and seemingly reasonable state and local regulation are textbooks that squander the intellectual capital of our youth.

20 states are called "adoption states" because they use a statewide textbook adoption process.

What this means is that even states without adoption laws end up using the same books as the ones written to please CA and TX.

Thus, you can have two neighboring states – one with a statewide adoption committee and one without – and yet there does not seem to be a difference in the quality of textbooks between the neighboring states.

The rationale for state-wide adoption and funding has varied over the 100 years that the system has been in place.

In the early 1900s, textbook purchasing at the local level was notoriously corrupt; therefore part of the impetus of state-wide adoption was to stamp out corruption.

Personally, I'd like to see the textbooks nationalized - this is what is done in most countries, because they implicitly understand that quality textbooks are vital to the security and prosperity of their nation's future.

Anonymous said...

Imagine a public policy system that is perfectly designed to produce textbooks that confuse, mislead and profoundly bore students….None of the adults in this very complex system intends this outcome…But the cumulative effects of well-intentioned and seemingly reasonable state and local regulation are textbooks that squander the intellectual capital of our youth.

I agree with the first part, but I definitely disagree with the second part. Producing textbooks that are muddled and mislead the general public is exactly what this game is all about. It leads to more money being spent to correct the problem and that is exactly what the curriculum industry is interested in producing. And politicians interested in privatizing public education are all for it.

Don't be persuaded by the rhetoric, look at the results, not the excuses.

Excuses are the nails used to build schools that fail students.

dan dempsey said...

The adoption process is more about the process itself by its nature,” says Cappellucci, chief operations officer of Cambium
Learning. One problem is the proliferation of freebies.

Fabulous line... look at the current IMR criteria draft#2 if you can find it in the nebulous nefarious world of textbook adoptions.

dan dempsey said...

Anon at 12:34 AM,

Pretty hard to argue with that if I need to use anything from current student levels of math achievement in my rebuttal.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, I hope I'm helping build your case. What's happenned is we've accepted the adoption process for so long and never questioned the underlying assumptions behind it. Yet only 20 states (southern and western states) actually have an adoption process that dates back to Reconstruction.

Furthermore, most countries, for national security and maintaining civil order have nationalized their education systems and taken positive leadership roles in providing sound curriculum. Americans pay more to educate our children than any other country and yet we get the worst results.

Education is certainly looking more like healthcare.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of textbooks - how about Carkhuff Learning Systems

Women's Club shares information about educational system after candidates speak

Notes from Gig Harbor Republican Women's Club
Guest Speaker – Sharon Hanek
August 18, 2004
By Carrie Riplinger

This presentation was a follow-up to a prior meeting where Terry Bergeson, Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) debated challenging candidate Juanita Doyon. During the Q&A Bergeson was asked about her association with Robert Carkhuff and whether she'd co-authored a book with him. She denied any relationship with him. The questioner had a copy of the book at the meeting and showed it. Bergeson transformed from her usual calm controlled appearance, began shouting, became flustered during the rest of the questioning, and stormed out of the meeting.

Sharon Hanek is a mom and private school substitute teacher from Bonney Lake. She sent her two children to public schools for two years before deciding to put them in private school. She was very involved in the Kent School District in PTA, district committees, etc., prior to placing her children in private education. Since then she's continued to research education reform and OSPI.

Sharon studied OSPI's official website extensively. She found Carkhuff Thinking Systems as a link under LINKS Learning( There are subject areas to click for teachers, kids, principals, superintendents and parents. On May 27, 2004, the Life Ready link has disappeared. Though this link has been removed, the topics covered were very intrusive, sexually explicit and suggested kids do not need to adhere to their parents' values.

( I have to agree completely with these comments and its coming from a millenielist pov )

What's happening? Sharon showed several text books. The first one was from a Gig Harbor middle school called Connected Math.

There are NO numbers in the book! Theory is to teach "constructivism" the children create their own algorithms. They never solve a math problem.

An elementary math TERC curriculum has packets, no math text books. An algebra text, 8th grade "integrated" math had numbers as signs and used origami for geometry. Used "modeling" – students write a question for the equation but never solve the problem.

In one Issaquah School students were only allowed to ask the teacher a question if everyone in their group agreed to ask.

It's dangerous not to teach math facts and expecting students to solve problems correctly because they lose the ability to see black & white, right and wrong, make connections. Disturbs vital thinking process.

Reading – the Spanaway district literature text is full of depressing stories and morbid activities. Many Newberry and Caldecott Award books are now about kids in bad situations and social injustice.

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