Texas Board Votes Against Academic Panel for Textbook Review


Although several other changes to the adoption process used for textbooks in Texas have been approved, the Board of Education has rejected a proposal that would have allowed for the creation of an expert panel to identify errors in textbooks.

The board voted 7-8 against the amendment, which had been proposed by vice chairman Thomas Ratliff. Ratliff has continuously met with conflict when dealing with more conservative board members.

Those who voted against the measure, including David Bradley of Beaumont and Geraldine Miller of Dallas, said that approving it would have suggested that the current process used is not stable while at the same time adding additional bureaucracy to the process, writes Kiah Collier for The Star-Telegram.

They added that a provision giving the state's education commissioner the capability to appoint Texas-based academics to the panel would not work, suggesting that too many "philosophical differences" exist between the board and the professors who would be reviewing the textbooks.

Currently in the state, only the public and textbook publishers hold the responsibility to fact-check. However, Ratliff believes this system to be inefficient, claiming that too much is being looked for because the group must also determine that instructional material is aligned with curriculum standards in the state, reports Melissa B. Taboada for The Statesman.

Meanwhile, a number of academics and other members of the public continue to express what they look upon as "crucial flaws" located within a social studies textbook that was approved by the board last fall. It included inaccurate descriptions of world religions and out-dated racial terminology. As a result, publishers have made dozens of updates to the text.

Ratliff argued that the creation of such a panel would display to the public that the board is concerned about errors within educational textbooks and is active in its efforts to correct them.

The proposition came after Roni Dean-Burren, a Houston mother and doctoral candidate, discovered a reference to slaves as "immigrants" and "workers" in her son's McGraw-Hill textbook. After posting the issue on social media, it went viral. The media coverage was enough to cause the publisher to correct the textbook free of charge in addition to offering free cultural competency training, writes Casey Quinlan for Think Progress.

Although the board rejected Ratfliff's proposal, it offered preliminary approval to several other changes, including giving a clear definition to the powers held by the board that allowed them to punish publishers for errors made.

According to a Texas Education Agency spokeswoman, those modifications came not from the controversy in October, but because "new staff over that area wanted to clean up and update this rule."

One board member who voted against Ratliff's amendment, Marty Rowley, said he hopes the other changes "will remedy the issues that maybe [Ratliff's amendment] is designed to address."

"I just want to speak in opposition to the proposed amendment, but also in support of our current system because I think we're making it stronger and better and more expert-laden than it has been in the past," he said before the vote.

Although the changes will allow for inaccuracies within state textbooks to be more easily found, Ratliff maintains that a panel whose sole job it is to look for errors would have been a better option "than the shotgun approach of looking for everything."

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