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?
- Marion County experienced a textbook controversy back in 2013: Local GOP leader goes after history textbook as ‘propagating’ Islam.
- The Florida Citizens Alliance is the group that successfully passed the new instructional materials state law that allows any citizen to complain about what’s in textbooks, and they don’t like how evolution and climate change are portrayed in those textbooks. One of their Advisory Council members is in Marion County. And the group has already noted “factual errors and half-truths” about evolution in a textbook used in Marion County.
- In my book, Going Ape, I noted that Marion County schools included an intelligent design book and DVD in their libraries in 2005.
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?