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The Growing Mystery Surrounding Florida’s Rejected Math Textbooks: Despite High Scores From State, Claims Texts Could ‘Indoctrinate’ Kids

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Go Math! Florida Reveal Math. Thinking Mathematically.

Those math textbooks and dozens more have been ditched by Florida’s Department of Education because some of the math books could indoctrinate students, according to the department.

So far, state education officials aren’t explaining why —  to the media and even to educators and textbook companies.

The department claims that the books were rejected due to a variety of reasons, from not being aligned with new state math standards for schoolchildren to claims about so-called critical race theory.

But how can a math textbook “indoctrinate” students, and which textbooks were rejected for doing so?

The publishers of these textbooks don’t seem to know either, even through the department gave high scores to some of their mathematics books but the books were rejected as part of a state review on math textbooks in Florida.

Savvas Learning Company, formerly Pearson K-12 Learning, submitted 29 textbooks for the education department’s consideration, but 15 books were rejected.

“Savvas has a long and successful track record of working with the Florida Department of Education to ensure that our instructional materials deliver high-quality, research-based pedagogy designed intentionally to align with the current Florida standards for mathematics,” according to a written statement from the company.

The statement continues: “Like many other companies that submitted bids to the Florida DOE, Savvas has been notified that some of our math programs developed specifically for Florida have not been recommended at this time. Once we obtain additional information from the state as to the specific reasons why, Savvas will work toward an appropriate resolution.”

‘Inclusion of Special Topics?’

According to a new link from Department of Education, one of Savvas’s books, enVision Florida B.E.S.T Mathematics Grade 2, received a high score from the department for aligning to new state standards, but was rejected for “Inclusion of Special Topics.”

Which topics? The document does not elaborate.

The new link showed up Monday on the department’s website, outlining the 54 books that were rejected; a score indicating the books’ alignment to state math standards, and a “yes” or “no” response to the prompt “inclusion of special topics.”

Yet, a Friday Department of Education press release promoted the department’s rejection of “Publishers’ Attempts to Indoctrinate Students,” reasons for which included “references to Critical Race Theory (CRT), inclusions of Common Core, and the unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in mathematics.”

(Common Core is an earlier initiative that involved K-12 math and English standards for what students should know and would be considered consistent across states. The initiative became controversial. As to critical race theory, that originated in graduate level law studies decades ago, according to the American Bar Association.)

Another rejected Savvas math textbook, simply titled Precalculus, received one of the highest scores on the the list in aligning with state standards. Yet it also had “Inclusion of Special Topics.” It was rejected, according to state documents.

McGraw Hill, another textbook industry staple, had eight of their books rejected by the department out of 16 submitted titles.

One of their books, Florida Reveal Math, Grade 2, was also fairly aligned to state standards, and did not have so-called “special topics” included, but was not approved by the department, according to state documents.

McGraw Hill seems fuzzy on the details of their rejection too.

“We’re reviewing the matter and are seeking detailed feedback from the FL DOE process administrators,” a communications staffer with McGraw Hill said in an email to the Phoenix.

Meanwhile, for K-5 grades, the state department approved math textbooks from only one company, Accelerate Learning, even if the department found those textbooks were less aligned to state standards than the ones they rejected.

For example, Accelerate Learning’s STEMscopes Florida Math for fifth grade earned a lower score than Big Ideas Learning’s Florida B.E.S.T for Math, Grade 5. But Big Ideas Learning’s book did not make it on to the approved list, even though it did not include so-called “special topics” and had a higher score.

The mathematics textbook review is part of a transition into new Florida standards for public schools. The textbooks on the department’s approved list will be considered by Florida school districts to potentially adopt for school use.

Russell Bruhn, a communications staffer for the Brevard County school district located on the Atlantic Coast, told the Phoenix that some money is permitted for districts to use non-state approved textbooks, but Brevard probably will stick with the state-approved list.

“What we do is we follow state curriculum, we follow state book adoption criteria, and we would choose our books from the approved lists,” Bruhn said.

“In the past these books have been fine for our community and great for our schools,” Bruhn said of the state-approved textbooks.

Social-emotional learning and critical race theory

When asked by a reporter about the textbooks Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, did not harp on the department’s claim of some textbooks incorporating critical race theory.

Railing against critical race theory is a regular talking point for DeSantis’ political platform.

“I think there was a number of reasons. So we got rid of Common Core, as you know. We have B.E.S.T. standards, which is a better way to do a lot of things but particularly math. I mean, one of the criticisms was the parents couldn’t help their kids with the math homework,” he said at the Monday press conference in Jacksonville.

DeSantis continued:

“So any of the books that don’t meet the best standards are not going to be appropriate for us to use. You do have things such as social emotional learning and some of the other things that are more political in there, in our view, on something like math.

“First, it doesn’t meet the standards. But second, you know, math is about getting the right answer. And we want kids to learn the things that they get the right answer. It’s not about how you feel about the problem or to introduce some of these other things. It’s – there’s a right answer and a wrong answer. And we want all of our students getting the right answers.

“And so, most of books that did not meet Florida standards, for whatever reason, happen to be in the early grades. As you get into the older grades most of those books did meet the standards. But we’re going to continue to focus the education on the actual strong academic performance of the students. We don’t want things like math to have, you know, some of these other concepts introduced. It’s not been proven to be effective. And quite frankly, it takes our eye off the ball.”

A May 2020 article by the NWEA, a non-profit assessment organization, suggested that schools consider incorporating Social Emotional learning in math classes as most public schools, including Florida’s public schools, had shut down for the then-novel coronavirus.

The article says: “While SEL is beneficial in all curricular areas, the five SEL core competencies—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making—are natural components of an engaging, process-oriented, problem-rich math classroom. Explicitly incorporating SEL into your math instruction is a great way to both foster a growth mindset and undermine math anxiety.”

Here are the 54 textbooks that were rejected by the Department of Education:

Elementary School

  1. Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards for MATH Grade K, Big Ideas Learning, LLC
  2. HMH Florida’s B.E.S.T. Go Math! (Kindergarten), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  3. Florida Reveal Math, Grade K, McGraw Hill LLC
  4. enVision Florida B.E.S.T. Mathematics Grade K, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  5. Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards for MATH Grade 1, Big Ideas Learning, LLC
  6. HMH Florida’s B.E.S.T. Go Math! (First grade)Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  7. Florida Reveal Math, Grade 1, McGraw Hill LLC
  8. enVision Florida B.E.S.T. Mathematics Grade 1, Savvas Learning Company
  9. Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards for MATH Grade 2, Big Ideas Learning, LLC
  10. HMH Florida’s B.E.S.T. Go Math! (Second Grade), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  11. Florida Reveal Math, Grade 2, McGraw Hill LLC
  12. enVision Florida B.E.S.T. Mathematics Grade 2, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  13. Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards for MATH Grade 3, Big Ideas Learning, LLC
  14. HMH Florida’s B.E.S.T. Go Math! (Third Grade)Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  15. Florida Reveal Math, Grade 3, McGraw Hill LLC
  16. enVision Florida B.E.S.T. Mathematics Grade 3, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  17. Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards for MATH Grade 4, Big Ideas Learning, LLC
  18. HMH Florida’s B.E.S.T. Go Math! (Fourth Grade)Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  19. Florida Reveal Math, Grade 4, McGraw Hill LLC
  20. enVision Florida B.E.S.T. Mathematics Grade 4, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  21. Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards for MATH Grade 5, Big Ideas Learning, LLC
  22. HMH Florida’s B.E.S.T. Go Math! (Fifth Grade)Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  23. Florida Reveal Math, Grade 5, McGraw Hill LLC
  24. enVision Florida B.E.S.T. Mathematics Grade 5, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  25.  STEMscopes Florida Math Grade 4 Accelerated, Accelerate Learning
  26. Florida Reveal Math, Grade 4 Accelerated, McGraw Hill LLC
  27. STEMscopes Florida Math Foundational Grades 3-5, Accelerate Learning

Middle School

  1. HMH Florida’s B.E.S.T. Into Math Accelerated 6, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  2. Florida EdGems Math Course 2, EdGems Math LLC
  3. enVision Florida B.E.S.T. Mathematics Grade 7, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  4. Math Nation: Florida’s B.E.S.T. 7th Grade Accelerated Math, Math Nation (a division of Study Edge)
  5. Florida EdGems Math Course 3, EdGems Math LLC
  6. Florida Reveal Math, Grade 8 Pre-Algebra, McGraw Hill LLC
  7. Carnegie Learning FL Foundational Skills in Mathematics 6-8 Digital Student License, Carnegie Learning, Inc. dba EMC & Mondo Ed

High School

  1. Sofia (Alegbra I)Link-Systems International, Inc.
  2. Florida B.E.S.T Standards for MATH Algebra 2 with CalcChat and CalcView, Big Ideas Learning, LLC
  3. Sofia (Algebra 2), Link-Systems International, Inc.
  4. Math Nation: Florida’s B.E.S.T. Algebra 2 Honors, Math Nation (a division of Study Edge)
  5. Intensified Algebra I (Vol 2), Agile Mind Educational Holdings, Inc.
  6. Thinking Quantitatively: Communicating with Numbers, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  7. Carnegie Learning FL Foundational Skills in Mathematics 9-12 Digital Student License, Carnegie Learning, Inc. dba EMC Publishing & Mondo Ed
  8. Algebra and Trigonometry, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  9. Precalculus with Limits: A Graphing Approach, Cengage Learning
  10. Functions Modeling Change, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  11. Precalculus, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  12. Precalculus: Savvas Learning Company LLC
  13. Precalculus: Enhanced with Graphing Utilities, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  14. Sofia (Geometry), Link-Systems International, Inc.
  15. Math Nation: Florida’s B.E.S.T. Geometry, Math Nation (a division of Study Edge)
  16. Elementary Statistics: Picturing the World, Savvas Learning Company
  17. Stats In Your World, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  18. Statistics and Probability with Applications, Bedford, Freeman and Worth Publishing Group
  19. Stats: Modeling your World, Savvas Learning Company LLC
  20. Thinking Mathematically, Savvas Learning Company

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: info@floridaphoenix.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

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