Monday, February 19, 2018
Education

Study: Despite claims, many textbooks not aligned to Common Core

To sell children on math, textbooks sometimes have colorful fictions on their covers. Iguanas look through kaleidoscopes. Skunks swing baseball bats. Rabbits float away after clutching a few too many balloons.

Now, there's concern that a darker unreality is on the cover of textbooks in order to sell the books to adults: seals that say the texts are aligned to the new Common Core standards.

According to a study by a University of Southern California researcher, textbooks marketed as being in step with the Common Core and currently used in Tampa Bay classrooms fail to capture key concepts of the higher-level standards that have been adopted by Florida and most other states.

Florida education officials defended their adoption process for the books, including the Common Core edition of Go Math!, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt text used in Pinellas and Pasco's fourth-grade classrooms. Hillsborough plans to begin using this edition in the fall.

The study, by USC assistant professor of education Morgan Polikoff, found that Go Math! is about 38 percent aligned to the Common Core standards. He also says the book does not cover 16 percent of the fourth-grade Common Core content.

The previous version, aligned to Florida's old standards, wasn't much more on the ball, he says: The book was about 45 percent aligned to the Next Generation Sunshine State standards. In fact, the two versions of the book are quite similar.

Because of the time and money involved in overhauling a textbook, there are few incentives for publishers to make significant changes from one edition to the next, Polikoff says. "One of my inclinations is they don't want to make big revisions. This is what a typical textbook has looked like for a long time."

In all, he analyzed four textbooks approved by the Florida Department of Education to teach the Common Core math standards to fourth-grade students.

He found that Common Core content is left out of textbooks, the books spend pages on the wrong content, and they fail to reach the higher levels of cognitive demand that separate the new standards from the old.

For instance, the Common Core calls for 40 percent of a fourth-grader's time to be spent on advanced problem-solving such as demonstrating, generalizing and analyzing. But the textbooks require students to do so only 7 to 12 percent of the time, instead requiring them to memorize or do rote drills.

"The simple fact is that, for a lot of teachers, particularly elementary teachers, if something isn't in a textbook, it doesn't get taught," Polikoff says.

William Schmidt, the co-director of the education policy center at Michigan State University, conducted his own analysis of dozens of textbooks covering first through ninth grades and used by about 60 percent of students nationwide.

At a recent seminar hosted by the Education Writers Association in Los Angeles, Schmidt said that "page by page, paragraph by paragraph," many textbooks were identical to previous editions.

"It is a shame that all these snake-oil salesmen" say textbooks are aligned with the Common Core, Schmidt said of publishers.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt did not return calls seeking comment. Polikoff also analyzed enVisionMATH, published by Pearson, and Math Connects, from MacMillan/McGraw Hill.

Brian Belardi, a spokesman for MacMillan/McGraw Hill, said of the research, "In some sense, it's not terribly surprising."

When the Common Core was pitched in 2010, Belardi says they worked quickly to put out a book, resulting in Math Connects. They've since developed another book that Belardi says is fully aligned. He said he was not aware why Math Connects was marketed as such.

"We did the best we could under the time frame."

Richard Heater, Pearson's vice president of product for elementary math and literacy, pushed back against the research's findings that certain standards aren't well-represented in the textbook.

"Not all standards are created equal, and we should be spending the majority of the time on major clusters," Heater says.

He also questioned why Polikoff did not look at teacher's editions of the textbooks, which may contain resources to elevate instruction beyond the text.

Mary Jane Tappen, the state Education Department's vice chancellor for K-12 standards and instructional support, says the state was careful when approving these books. The department employs experts in elementary mathematics, and has local district officials and trained teachers review the books before they're considered, Tappen says.

She also thought it made sense that the textbooks were not much different from those aligned to Florida's old standards, which she says were as rigorous as the Common Core.

"We've actually gotten a lot of feedback from parents, regarding how difficult the K-5 math is," Tappen says.

In Pinellas, where Go Math! is in full swing, officials are mindful to identify gaps in the book and help teachers cover those concepts, says Pam Moore, associate superintendent for teaching and learning services.

Her staff sat down over the summer and "mapped that out so (teachers) can see where the gaps are," she says. They'll do it again this summer after conferring with teachers about what worked.

"I can't overemphasize that the book does not represent the (math) program," Moore says. "Books don't teach kids; teachers teach kids. We ensure that, because we know there are gaps."

Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @lisagartner.

Comments
50 years ago, Florida teachers walked off their jobs. Today’s union leaders are inspired

50 years ago, Florida teachers walked off their jobs. Today’s union leaders are inspired

Ulysses Floyd remembers February 1968 all too well.Teachers by the thousands walked off their jobs across Florida. Among their concerns: low pay, poor funding, a lack of planning time, missing materials, and more. "We were at the mercy of the School ...
Published: 02/19/18
ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

PARKLAND, Fla. — The sound of gunfire still ringing in his ears after his mad half-mile sprint, Jack Ciaramello was standing with friends in a grocery store parking lot when a sheriff’s deputy approached. He asked the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High se...
Published: 02/18/18
From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

Some teachers left goodbye messages to their students on classroom blackboards. Others cleared their desks.It was Feb. 16, 1968, a Friday, and a sign of what was coming that Monday in Florida: the nation’s first statewide teachers strike.When schools...
Published: 02/18/18
Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High principal Ty Thompson exuded deep emotion and a positive view forward in his first public comments since Wednesday’s mass shooting that killed 17 people.In the two-minute video posted on the school’s website and YouTube,...
Published: 02/18/18
Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

TAMPA — "Elevate," a Hillsborough County School District initiative that was to focus on seven troubled schools and use them as models for dozens more, is becoming but a memory as the district seeks instead to support all schools equally."We’re more ...
Published: 02/17/18
Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

TAMPA — Students at Plant High School honored the victims of the Parkland school shooting with a series of sidewalk chalk messages.The chalk art carried a series of messages such as "How many times?" and "Do something. Protect us." according to a Fac...
Published: 02/16/18
At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

While fielding calls from anxious parents after the Broward County high school shooting that claimed 17 lives, school officials in the Tampa Bay area took a close look Thursday at what they are doing to keep students safe.There are gates and locks an...
Published: 02/15/18
Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Assuming April Griffin follows through on her decision not to seek re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, well, meetings just won’t be the same. Chances are they’ll just be filled with boring reports, proclamations and routine business....
Published: 02/15/18
‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

A St. Petersburg High teacher has retired in the middle of the school year after students said he called them "baby," "babe," "missy," "honey," "sweetie," "little girl" and ended one girl’s name with "-licious."The Pinellas County school district fou...
Published: 02/15/18
Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE — Less than a month after taking over as interim principal at long-struggling Moton Elementary School, Brent Gaustad says teamwork by educators across the district has things looking up.Behavior has improved, he said, and innovative proce...
Published: 02/15/18