How books are chosen in Texas
Date sent: Sun, 07 Dec 1997 14:57:05 -0600
From: "B. Rice Aston"
Subject: How Textbooks are selected in your state
I am interested in how social science and other textbooks are
adopted/selected in your state. I would apprecite your help. I am
particularly interested in:
1. What is the source of your state's textbook content requirements, and
are such content requirements effective?
Situation in Texas:
The State Education Code, prior to 1995, gave the SBOE some control over
textbook content, for it provided that social science textbooks were
required to "promote citizenship", "present America's heritage in a
positive light", cover the "advantages of the free enterprise system" etc.
The state Legislature in its wisdom removed these requirements from the
Education Code effective in 1995. Textbook content is now governed by the
requirement that the book must be factually correct, i.e. the dates must be
right, and it must meet the requirements of the Texas Essential Skills and
Knowledge ("TEKS") in each discipline.
The TEKS are drafted and adopted by the TEA/SBOE. TEKS are supposed to
clearly advise the student what he/she is supposed to learn, the teacher
what he/she is supposed to teach, the parents what they should expect and
textbook publishers what they should include in a textbook. This is a nice
thought, but in practice the TEKS often are vague, mushy and influenced by
fads such as "fuzzy math", creative spelling, and revisionist history
designed to perpetuate historic grievances, etc. Since the only limitation
Texas places on textbook content is that it must be factually correct and
comply TEKS, the publishers may with impunity fill their books to the brim
with fluff, feelings, nonsense, and educational fads at the expense of
2. What is the textbook selection process and is the public given the
opportunity to comment or object to particular textbooks?
Situation in Texas:
The TEA/SBOE each year consider for adoption textbooks in particular
disciplines, e.g. in 1997 the TEA/SBOE considered, among others, algebra
and geometry textbooks. The selection process is as follows:
The TEA textbook selection committee reviews all textbooks to determine
whether they are "conforming" textbooks, i.e., cover 100% of the TEKS
material or "nonconforming" textbooks, i.e. cover at least 50% of the TEKS
material(books which cover less than 50% of the TEKS material are
rejected). The TEA then makes a list of the conforming and non-conforming
Before the conforming and non-conforming lists are made up, the public is
given the opportunity to submit written comments to the TEA on any book
under consideration. These comments, if timely received, are then bound
and a copy sent to each person offering a comment and to each of the 20
Regional Education Service Centers.
The TEA's recommendations are then sent to the SBOE which makes the final
decision. Before it makes a decision, the SBOE holds a public hearing
during which it is supposed to receive comments from the public. Each
person registering to make comments before the SBOE is allotted three
minutes, and on occasion, the Chairman of the SBOE "monkeys" with the
allotted time in order to avoid hearing comments which he does not want to
hear, in which event you have made a long trip to Austin, Texas for nothing.
The SBOE then makes up own its list of "conforming" and "non-conforming"
textbooks. Then two lists are then distributed to the 1045+ local school
The school districts then make their textbook selections. The school
districts will receive 100% state funding for any book selected from either
the conforming or non-conforming list. A school district may select a book
not on either list, but if it does so it will receive only 70% state
funding for that book. It is rare that a school district can afford to
select a book for which it must contribute 30% of the cost.
Before the local school districts make their selections from the two lists,
members of the public have a small window of time to express their opionion
to the school district textbook selection committees.
3. What power does your state Board of Education or Education Agency have
to negotiate changes in a textbooks?
Situation in Texas:
Texas, because it is one of the largest purchaser of textbooks, had
considerable power to negotiate changes, but this power was lost in 1995
when the Texas Legislature in its wisdom ordained that the SBOE could
reject a textbooks because of its content only if something was factually
incorrect, e.g. they got the of the Declaration of Indepence wrong, or the
textbook not meet the TEKS requirements. Thus, the SBOE has
approved/adopted an algebra textbook which may comply with TEKS, but is so
over flowing with mountains of irrelvant sociopolitical rubble, outright
propaganda, and unfocused drivel that it is a "two tylenol headache" to
find the math among the rubble.
4. How is the textbook selection proces covered in the news media?
The two largest daily newspapers in Texas describe those members of the
SBOE who pursue a purely educational agenda in the selection of textbooks
as "social conservatives", a civil term for "members of the radical right."
The members of the SBOE who support sociopolitical indoctrination in math,
english, social science, language, and art textbooks are described as
"moderates". The San Anonio Express, the third largest daily newspaper in
Texas, has a writer named Roddy Stimson, who writes articulate and
insightful articles and who does not hesitate to label a "fool" whenver he
finds one, whether he/she be a republican, democrat, liberal, or conservative.
Prior to 1995, Texas had the power to influence textbook content because it
was such a large purchaser of textbooks; publishers would make changes for
Texas that they would not make for Arizona. The Texas legislature forfeited
this ability when it changed the Education Code in 1995. The "rationale"
given by the legilators was that textbook content was being returned to
local control. The unrecognized problems are that school districts do not
have the resouces or personnel available to the TEA to review books, are
given less time than the TEA to make a review, and consequently textbook
review at the school district level is limited. Further, the school
districts individually do not have the buying power to negotiate changes to
The quality of TEKS is the only real control over textbook content.
Unfortunately, the TEKS are deficient in many areas and are inclined to
incorporate educational fads.
Public input may be given by (1) writing the TEA, (2) testifying before the
SBOE, and (3) contacting the local school district. Such public input is of
limited value becasue the TEA/SBOE have such limited power over textbooks.
Media coverage of textbook problenm is about the same quality as some of
the lower grade textbooks.
B. Rice Aston
EDUCATION CONSUMERS CLEARINGHOUSE