This is equivalent to: “Show your work”. To help explain its puzzling rejection of dozens of math textbooks, Florida State released nearly 6,000 pages of reviewer comments this week and revealed an often confusing, contradictory and divisive process.
A conservative activist turned textbook critic is looking for mentions of race.Another reviewer doesn’t seem to know social emotional learning According to the state, concepts such as developing perseverance should be banned. The third posed the word problem comparing the wages of male and female football players.
As part of the official review process, the state assigns educators, parents and other residents to review textbooks, in part to determine whether they adhere to Florida’s math teaching standards — from simple additions in kindergarten to graphical interpretations in high school statistics.
But Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and allies in the state legislature also opposed what he called “thewake instillation” and proposed a series of regulations and laws aimed at restricting the way race, gender and socio-emotional subjects are taught.
According to the document, reviewers were therefore asked to flag “Critical Race Theory,” “Culturally Responsive Teaching,” “CRT-Related Social Justice,” and “Social Emotional Learning.”
To illustrate how politicized and subjective these terms have become, different critics rarely agree on whether these concepts exist—and if so, whether books containing them should be accepted or rejected.
While many states and school districts appoint textbook reviewers, Florida’s process is very unusual. Some reviewers considered race and social-emotional learning and detailed points of math content and pedagogy, while others focused solely on critical race theory, the documents show.
It was unclear why specific reviewers were given narrower assignments, and the Florida Department of Education did not immediately respond to a list of written questions about the review process.
but in a April press release In announcing the textbook rejection, the department said, “Florida’s transparent instructional material review process ensures that the public has an opportunity to review and comment on submitted textbooks.”
Governor DeSantis has said he thinks concepts like social-emotional learning can distract from math itself.
“Math is about getting the right answer,” he said at a news conference last month, adding, “It’s not about how you feel about the question.”
Conservative activists have been involved in the review process. For example, five reviewers read the publisher Savvas Learning Company’s “Mathematical Thinking,” a rejected high school textbook. Only one reviewer — Chris Allen, a parent in Indian River County and an activist with the conservative Liberty Moms group — flagged the book as containing critical race theory and social-emotional learning.
In detailed comments, Ms Allen, 33, spoke out against the math problems, which she wrote showed a correlation between racial bias, age and education levels, and called attention to the wage gap between men and women.
She also cited several “age-inappropriate” topics, such as mentioning divorce and drug and alcohol abuse.
In an interview, Ms. Allen, who works in engineering, said she first heard about the opportunity to review textbooks in January through a local activist email list called the Education Action Coalition. At the time, Florida had called for volunteer “guest commentators.”
She describes herself as a “newcomer” to state politics, first engaging during the pandemic to boycott school mask regulations.she also Active efforts Remove what she calls “pornographic books” from the school library.
Learn about the debate on critical race theory
She said the Florida Department of Education was more sensitive to her concerns than her local school board.
“These are for high school students,” she said. “You’re still looking for who you are and figuring out your place in the world. This math book tells you that depending on your age, you can be racially biased.”
Judging from the documents, some commenters don’t seem to understand that they should reject textbooks with social-emotional learning, a mainstream educational movement designed to help students develop skills such as cooperation and perseverance. It is widely taught in the Faculty of Education and professional development courses.
For example, a first-grade book published by Savvas includes concepts such as trying to “respectfully disagree” on how to solve math problems, and prompts students to “use a growth mindset” when they get stuck.
One critic, apparently a teacher, noted that the book “provides a great strategy for SEL.” But then, the same reviewer also said that the book had nothing to do with social-emotional learning. In any case, the textbook was rejected.
Study Edge’s Grade 7 “Accelerated Math” textbook was rejected because one of the reviewers who recommended it raised questions about a “warm-up” activity that “includes controversial topics about equal pay and discrimination.”
A look at the textbook shows that the reviewer, an algebra teacher in Orlando, was referring to a word problem comparing the salaries of male and female football players, using Megan Rapinoe as an example.
Despite strong reviews from math teachers, many textbooks were rejected by the state, who praised them as engaging, comprehensive and rich in digital resources. Some teacher reviewers provided detailed feedback on how various textbooks helped or hindered students’ math, often with reference to their own classroom experiences.
But ultimately, for dozens of books, these reviews are less important than those iconic issues of race, gender, and social-emotional learning.
In the past few weeks, some publishers have agreed to revise their rejected books. Florida law also allows companies to appeal denials.