Archive for the 'Textbooks' Category

What’s in store for the next Florida legislative session?

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

The creationist, human-caused-climate-change-denying group Florida Citizens Alliance was successful in writing and getting passed a new law that dramatically impacts how instructional materials used in our schools can be challenged and changed — in a bad way. (See the Instructional Materials bills ’17 blog category if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) And they are already hard at work crafting new bills for the next legislative session that could spell more doom for public education.

Go to this Youtube video that shows the Lee County Legislative Delegation Oct. 18 meeting. Skip to about 5:47:45 when Pastor Rick Stevens of the Alliance speaks. He revealed that the Alliance is working on two bills and possibly a third. One bill will require that textbooks approved at the state department of education level adhere to Florida law. I believe, but I’m not positive, that he means that all instructional materials reviewed and approved at the state level should follow part of Florida law that says such materials, among other things, be “balanced” and “noninflammatory.” They had squeezed that bit into their successful new instructional materials law that applies to the local school board level.  If that is their intent with this new bill on the state level, what do you think their ultimate goal is? Creationism alongside evolution? Climate change denial in climate change lessons? That bill will also require some type of guarantee from textbook companies that they’ll “correct” or refund or something if the materials don’t adhere to law or something. Sorry to be vague here, but Stevens’ quick description is vague.

The other bill being worked on will encourage school boards to not just merely “meet” the requirements of the state education standards, but to “exceed” them where possible. Once again, you have to wonder if they mean for school boards to “exceed” science standards by including creationism or climate change denial.

I admit I could be wrong in my guesses. But probably not. Stay tuned.

David against the state’s Goliath

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Florida’s new Instructional Materials law is now featured in an article in the AAPG (American Association of Petroleum Geologists) Explorer: Science Curricula Under Threat?

The problem, according to those who think there is one, is in the first sentence of Florida House Bill 989.

“…allowing a resident of a county to challenge the use or adoption of instructional materials …”

This bill – and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law – will allow any adult, in any school district, even if he or she doesn’t have a child attending school in district – or, for that matter, any school district in the state – to lodge a complaint over the teaching methods or materials in Florida’s public schools.

And while it could potentially pertain to any subject – Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” for instance, has been called pornographic by some Florida parents who want it removed from public school curricula – the intent, critics contend, has to do with curtailing scientific inquiry, namely with regard to evolution and global climate change.

Sponsored by the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, whose website construes the fight in nothing less than biblical proportions, casting itself as David against the state’s Goliath, the organization purports to “advance a rebirth of liberty in Florida” and claims the bill is simply about choice and academic freedom.

Not all agree.

Jonathan P. Smith, president of Florida Citizens for Science, an advocacy group opposed to the measure, said HB 989 has ominous implications for education in the state.

“This bill will allow anyone – and I mean anyone – to object for any reason to current text books used in the state,” he said.

Make sure to go read the whole thing.

Dixie County’s “inappropriate subject matter” book ban

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

On the Gulf Coast of Florida, west of Gainesville, is Dixie County, which recently attracted attention from the National Coalition Against Censorship. According to the NCAC, the school district’s superintendent, Mike Thomas, issued a directive “which prohibits the school district from purchasing and/or using ‘instructional materials (textbooks, library books, classroom novels, etc.)’ that ‘contain any profanity, cursing, or inappropriate subject matter …’

The NCAC notes:

Excluding material because it may be subjectively considered “inappropriate” and “questionable” potentially affects a wide range of materials that address race, gender, religion, sex, political violence, history, science, politics, the environment, or any other issue on which people may disagree.

Of course, the subjects I perk up at are “science” and “the environment.” I’m not aware of science materials being directly targeted in Dixie County, but I also don’t know much about what’s going on there as information about this issue is scarce on the Internet. However, I am concerned when I see in the NCAC letter that the superintendent tells teachers to make instructional materials choices based on “community standards.” NCAC says:

The vague notion of “community standards” offers educators no clear guidance and impermissibly imposes the viewpoints of some community members on every student in the District.

Why am I concerned? Because the argument for matching textbooks with local community standards was used by proponents of Florida’s new instructional materials law. (See our Instructional Materials bills ’17 blog category for more on the law.) Can you imagine the argument that “we didn’t come from no monkey” being used as a community standard to ditch certain science materials? I can.

The president of the Florida Library Association is also concerned:

School officials are bound by constitutional considerations, including a duty not to discriminate against unpopular or controversial ideas. The U.S. Supreme Court has cautioned that, ‘Local school boards may not remove books from library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books …’ Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982).

Brevard County asking for help with science materials selection

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Thanks to an alert Florida Citizens for Science friend, we now know that Brevard County is looking for the public’s input about what science instructional materials to adopt for their school district.

Read this pdf listing the dates and events: Community Involvement Opportunity.

Brevard Public Schools (BPS) is inviting parents/community members to provide input for the selection of Next Generation Sunshine State Standards aligned instructional materials. There are four opportunities for parent/community input.

Brevard Public Schools (BPS) is committed to fostering high-quality learning experiences we know students need to ensure they have a solid K-12 science education. The upcoming instructional materials adoption cycle for science is an opportunity to select high-quality instructional materials for the beginning of the 2018 – 2019 school year. Participating in the instructional materials review process is a powerful opportunity for teachers, administrators, parents, and community members.

October 12, 2017 6pm – 8pm Parent/Community Information Night
October 12 – November 9, 2017 Parent/Community Input Survey
October 23, 2017 8am – 12pm Parent/Community Information Day
November 13 – 14, 2017 8am – 4pm Brevard Instructional Materials Selection Committee Meeting

It’s definitely time for everyone to monitor your own school district for events like these! Let us know about them and we’ll post information for all to see.

 

“Pure and unadulterated false propaganda”

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

It’s been mighty quiet out there, folks. A month ago I told you that the Florida Department of Education launched their instructional materials review for science and they were accepting applications for reviewers. The response from all of you was awesome and I’m confident several of you applied. So, now I’m following up. Have any of you been accepted? Did you get a “no thanks” response? The DoE hasn’t issued any announcements or updated their website in the past month. Of course, these processes take time, but we can’t let the silence lull us into forgetting. Please report in if you have any information.

And let’s also not forget that Marion County isn’t bothering with the state review process, instead choosing to do it all themselves. This notice was recently published in the Ocala Star Banner:

Textbook committee
Marion County Public Schools is looking for five people for a textbook adoption committee that will review and approve instructional material for 17 courses for the next school year. Committee members must commit to at least 10 hours of work time, per course, mandatory overview and final vote meetings, and must attend one of two training sessions Oct. 4. Applications are on marionschools.net and can be submitted by emailing crystal.cizmar@marion.k12.fl.us by 11:59 p.m. Saturday. Call 867-2121.

And let’s not forget why paying attention to textbook reviews is important. The Florida Citizens’ Alliance posted last weekend a couple of their reviews of history textbooks in Brevard County. Of interest to us science advocates is their disdain for mentions of man-made climate change. For example:

This statement leads the child to believe that man made global warming is a scientific fact, when it is not. Man made global warming is a hoax, based only on computer models and false data, and is an injustice to the child, by not teaching scientific fact. It is pure and unadulterated false propaganda.
[…]
The most disturbing aspect is that children are propagandized and being led to believe a falsehood; that man is more powerful than the forces of nature, and therefore can control earth’s climate. Completely ignored is the fact that global warming and cooling are cyclical, occurring for million of years, and man has no effect on that cycle. Ignored is the fact that man made global warming is based on computer models and not the scientific method.

Stay alert, everyone!

Marion County to review and approve textbooks on their own

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

There’s a new wrinkle in the Florida instructional materials world. We already know that the Florida Department of Education is in the process of reviewing and approving new science textbooks that school districts could then pick from to purchase for their schools. We already know that two new laws could dramatically impact how textbooks are challenged by Florida citizens and we know that certain science topics could be in the cross hairs.

But here’s the new twist that will require our vigilance: Marion County has decided to review and select textbooks completely on their own.

The way textbook selections have worked for several years now is that the state Department of Education solicits for bids from textbook publishers. Then the DoE assembles committees to review all of the submissions and choose the best ones that align with the Florida state education standards to be on the state’s approved list. (It needs to be noted that those committees have changed. It used to be that the committees were comprised of people from all across the state. However, in 2011 the committees were reduced to just three “subject matter experts.” See our old posts about this: Textbook selection process to change? and New textbook selection process now law.) Finally, school districts choose from the approved list the materials they want to buy for their schools.

But in 2013 a state law was passed that allowed school districts to review instructional materials on their own and not have to choose from the state’s approved list. In the years since, no school district has chosen that route primarily due to the time and expense it would take.

But now Marion County is taking the plunge. Here is a news story about it: Local schools, not state, will select textbooks. But the story doesn’t have much original reporting. It’s just a rewrite of the school district’s press release: Parents and Teachers: Choose Textbooks for Next School Year.

Why is this concerning?

Yes, some of my points are old news, but they show a potential trend. If you’re in Marion County, please consider signing up to be on a textbook committee. And it would be helpful to know where the idea for Marion County to do its own textbook review came from. Who suggested it and what was the justification for approving it?

Get to work! It’s science textbook review time!

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

The Florida Department of Education has now issued a “Call for Reviewers Invitation for Science.”

Every year the FDOE reviews and approves a list of recommended textbooks for that year’s academic subject. Last year it was Social Studies. This year it is Science. Once the state compiles a list of approved instructional materials, each of the state’s school districts then select from the list the books they want to purchase to be used in their classroom for the next several years. Reviewing and approving these instructional materials is important work and we know without a doubt that our opposition — those who challenge the validity of evolution and climate change and vaccines — will be out in force. We need to step up to the plate to ensure that the textbooks selected are of the highest quality.

We need you. Without you, we can’t do this.

Go to the FDOE Instructional Materials website. Go to the pdf document “Call for Reviewers Invitation for Science”. Below is a copy and paste of some of the relevant sections (but please go read the full document for yourself, these are just excerpts):

To evaluate the quality of instructional materials for use in district classrooms, the Florida Department of Education (the department) is seeking reviewers with content expertise and an indepth understanding of the current Florida Standards. State standards detail what students should know and be able to do as the result of a quality educational program. Instructional materials shall be made available electronically to the state instructional materials reviewers, who shall complete an electronic evaluation of the items to assess whether the materials align to the Florida Standards.

[…]

State Reviewer Qualifications:
State instructional materials reviewers will hold one or more of the following credentials in the field of Science:
1. A master’s degree or higher;
2. Certification;
3. Substantial experience with evidence of Science content expertise and student achievement;
or
4. Recognition as a Science content expert. Such recognition may include, but is not limited to, awards received or publications related to the field of Science.

[…]

State Instructional Materials Reviewer Registration:
To register as a reviewer:
Open the hyperlink https://app2.fldoe.org/BII/InstructMat/Evaluation/Account/Login.aspx and select the Register link.
Select State Instructional Materials Reviewer under account type, and complete the  required registration information page.
Please be sure to retain your Login Name and Password; you will need to access the IM Review Portal upon your account being activated.
All reviewer notifications for the review process will be sent via email; hence, please be sure to provide an accurate email address.

Sign up, folks. It’s time to get to work!

 

The Heartland Institute, Truth in Textbooks, and Time magazine are interested in Florida

Monday, August 28th, 2017

The interest in Florida’s new textbook law might have faded into the background lately but today it’s jumped back into the spotlight with a vengeance. The Heartland Institute, the purveyor of climate change denial nonsense, is definitely aware of what’s going on here in the Sunshine State as is an organization called Truth in Textbooks. And Time magazine published a story online today about the new law.

I’ll start briefly with the Heartland Institute. The originator of the textbook law, the Florida Citizens Alliance, is likely now cozy friends with Heartland. I stumbled across this web page at the Institute’s publications and resources section of their website. They added to their collection the Alliances’s bogus list chock full of complaints about textbooks used in Florida. For instance:

Unacceptable curricular examples included the glorification of teen sex and distorted accounts of America’s founding. One sixth grade history textbook explicitly stated children are descended from apes, and another declared anyone can qualify as an American citizen simply by wanting to be one.

So, we definitely want to be on the lookout for any future teamwork from Heartland and the Alliance. Keep in mind that Heartland has deep pockets.

The Alliance was also prominently featured in an article published at Time magazine’s website: Florida’s Textbooks Are a New Battleground in America’s Fight Over Facts. I spoke with the reporter quite a bit and so did someone from the National Center for Science Education and yet neither one of us are mentioned in the article at all, which is deeply disappointing, especially since the Alliance wound up being the centerpiece of the story. However, despite that omission I thought the story was good. It revealed yet a little bit more about the Alliance’s activities and players.

Mike Mogil doesn’t believe climate change is caused by humans. The 72-year old former National Weather Service meteorologist says global temperatures have been fluctuating for millennia, and recent extremes could very well have nothing to do with mankind. Now, he wants to make sure Florida’s public school students get the same perspective.

To Mogil, who is a member of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, the conservative group that helped write the bill, “objective” means that any textbook including climate change information should leave open the possibility that humans are not at fault, even though that goes against the overwhelming scientific consensus that global temperatures are rising and carbon emissions by humans are to blame. “You shouldn’t start off with a political agenda from either side,” he says. “We’re all taxpayers in one form or another, and I would like to have a say in how that money is being spent.”

We here at Florida Citizens for Science didn’t get a voice in the story, but others on our side did.

“This could be really misused by a lot of people to the detriment of the job of educating our kids,” says Richard Grosso, a Florida attorney and Nova Southeastern University law professor who believes the new law is unnecessary. He is concerned that already-underfunded districts will have to spend time and money hearing textbook challenges even if they’re “completely frivolous.”

Have you heard of Truth in Textbooks? The Alliance has …

In the meantime, the Florida Citizens’ Alliance urged its 20,000 supporters to become “textbook reviewers” by taking a three-month, mostly online training course run by Truth in Textbooks, a Texas-based conservative group that encourages its volunteers to oppose what it calls a “pro-Islam/anti-Christian” bias in history books. The Truth in Textbooks course doesn’t officially give participants a leg up in textbook objections, but the Florida Citizens’ Alliance hopes the training will add credibility to members’ challenges to school boards this fall.

Truth in Textbooks, which started in Texas and is expanding nationwide, now has their fingers firmly in Florida and we’ll undoubtedly be hearing from them and their trainees quite often in the near future.

And the Time story ends with this interesting tidbit:

Mogil, the former meteorologist, spent the summer teaching about weather and sharing his views on climate change with about 30 middle and high school students at a summer camp he runs in Naples, Fla. He hopes that by offering a different view than what the kids learn in school, and by challenging textbooks under Florida’s new law, he will teach students to be skeptical, like him, of widely accepted knowledge.

Are any of you reading this in the Naples area? Can I talk you into finding out more about this summer camp?