Educational Research Analysts  November 2006 Newsletter  
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5 new California texts, 427 factual errors

All are 2+2=5-type mistakes
High cost of undemocratic state approval process
Accuracy tied to more public access

September 25, 2006, Longview, TX  The California State Board of Education, with input from two advisory panels, has approved new 8th grade U.S. History texts for 2006-07 local piloting and adoption in public schools statewide. And why is that a problem? Because, says Educational Research Analysts of Longview, Texas, these are defective products, screened by a flawed process. Publishers and the state overlooked 427 clear factual errors in five of those books, which have become the "final" California editions sent to local districts.

One text said Daniel Boone contributed to the Constitutional Convention (in fact, he had absolutely nothing to do with it). Another said Congress established the Supreme Court (in fact, the Constitution did this). A third said legislatures interpret laws (in fact, the judi­ciary does that). A fourth said the Missouri Compromise admitted Texas to the Union (in fact, it admitted Missouri). A fifth said the 1689 English Bill of Rights helped inspire the 1620 Mayflower Compact (in fact, that was an obvious chronological impossibility).

More popular involvement in California's textbook approval process would prevent such errors in the "final" California editions, says Neal Frey, senior textbook analyst at Edu­ca­tional Research Analysts who found the mistakes. Mr. Frey says that in Texas, with better availability of submitted books over more time, citizens find flaws that publishers and the state miss. But California limits effective public viewing of submitted texts. It discourages real public participation in its approval process. Mr. Frey suggests these reforms:

California now requires publishers to file just one copy of submitted textbooks at Display Centers across the state, which people may read on site but cannot take home. How many people would go to libraries if they could not check books out? California should require publishers to file four copies of submitted textbooks at each Display Center, of which people could check out three beginning in May each year, like at a library. Texas does this.

If editors missed 427 errors in five 8th grade texts that they knew California would inspect, how bad is it in high school books that they know California will never examine? Mr. Frey says error numbers are higher in California than in Texas, where textbook companies expect close scrutiny of their submissions; and that California citizens would find more errors in high school books than in lower level texts, due to greater subject-matter coverage there.