San Antonio – The Texas Public Policy Foundation has released an analysis conducted by math experts showing that many Texas school districts have adopted algebra textbooks with strong academic content, but several districts adopted some of the worst algebra textbooks available.
This type of information about curricula is a critical component of local control and allows parents and school board members to hold schools accountable.
Jeff Judson, President of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said “we will never raise the achievement of Texas math students until we raise our expectations. When we expect low performance we will surely get it, and several of the algebra textbooks being adopted by some Texas school districts will contribute to the problem.”
A group of math experts in California, who are affiliated with the organization Mathematically Correct, analyzed the twelve algebra textbooks that were earlier approved by the Texas State Board of Education. From this approved list, local school boards will adopt, by their March 1998 board meetings, books for use beginning in the 1998-1999 school year and which will be used for years to come. Many school districts across Texas have already made their decision.
The textbooks are ranked according to their treatment of 51 topics and sub topics. Each topic and sub-topic is evaluated based upon ten elements such as the quality and sufficiency of student work required by the book; emphasis on analytic methods; definitions of terms and explanations of concepts and procedures; emphasis on proof, derivation, and mathematical justification; and appropriateness of technology. The entire analysis can be viewed on the Internet at ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/mathman.
The scoring of the twelve books is on a scale of “A” to “F”. Only two textbooks among the twelve received an “A” grade, two received a “B,” four received a “C,” two a “D+,” one a “D,” and one textbook received the lowest ranking of “F.”
The textbook receiving the “F” was Addison-Wesley, Secondary Math.: Foundations of Algebra and Geometry by Cathy Seely, Barbara Alcala, Penelope, Booth, et. al. The overall summary of this book states that “[t]he book is so deficient in content that it should never be considered for use in introductory algebra.”
The selection of algebra textbooks is an important decision in Texas given our low math achievement. Statewide last year, only 20% of all students passed the Texas “end-of-course” algebra test. Only 13% of Hispanics passed the test and only 10% of African-American students passed this same test.
In Texas, the State Board of Education approves textbooks for adoption by local school districts. Recently the Texas legislature restricted the textbook approval authority of the State Board of Education limiting the grounds on which a textbook can be rejected to only three – has faulty construction, contains errors, or does not comply with Texas curriculum standards. The state then pays for whatever textbooks school districts select from the approved list. The state estimates that it will spend $177 million on textbooks this year.