How Florida math textbook reviewers determine what gets rejected

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

The School District of Collier County School Board has approved eight math and English language arts textbooks that state reviewers previously objected to over topics like race and political content.

Florida released the longest list of rejected math textbooks in state history earlier this year. Some of the textbooks contained special topics like social-emotional learning and critical race theory.

“We don’t want things like math to have some of these other things introduced. It’s not been proven to be effective, and quite frankly, it takes our eye off the ball,” said Governor Ron DeSantis in April.

Weeks later, the state provided a few examples. One of the examples posted on the Florida Department of Education website says, “What me? Racist?” Another directly references social-emotional learning.

“You know, the fact of the matter is math textbooks don’t get into social-emotional learning, don’t get into other stuff that the governor has put out there that there were somehow indoctrinating our students, math textbooks talk about math. And, and so that’s the bottom line,” said Andrew Spar, the president of the Florida Education Association.

What is the background of the reviewers deciding what is appropriate and what’s not? The state provided a list of reviewer names and the questions they answered during the review process.

Spar said that’s not what matters most. “I think the question is, what was it that the committee was really looking at? And why were these textbooks rejected in the first place? Because I don’t think we still have a complete understanding as to the why, these textbooks were rejected, rejected,” said Spar.

“We’re going to continue to focus the education on the actual strong academic performance,” said DeSantis.

Some people in Collier County have objections to what is in the math textbooks.

“Florida has always had a process in which they adopt textbooks, put them on a list. And then school districts from that list, choose the textbook that they best feel meets the needs of their school district and their communities,” said Spar.

WINK News talked to Spar about textbook review. “There is social and emotional aspects to all of human life, you can’t say we’re going to take it out of human life,” said Spar.

“I don’t remember any problems about voters or registration etc. In my math textbooks back in college,” said a community member during Tuesday’s Collier County School Board meeting.

Members of the community publicly objected to the list of approved Collier County textbooks.

“We give you the numbers, but we put a spin on it. That’s what we are doing in the math textbooks,” said one community member.

“We are teaching the students how to solve the problems, not why we are solving them the way that we are,” said another during the school board meeting.

The district’s response is mixed.

“I don’t agree that the books are so distracting that our kids are not going to get a good math education out of them,” said School Board member Stephanie Lucarelli during the meeting.

“I’m very and extremely conflicted because I really don’t want to vote for these books,” said Erick Carter.

Nonetheless, the textbooks were approved.

The district had a 30-day objection period prior to Tuesday’s hearing. Two objectors stood up against math books and two against English language arts. All of the books approved were on the state’s list of approved textbooks.

Below you can find the rubric questions provided to Florida textbook reviewers and the Department of Education’s call for reviewers document that lists the requirements for math textbook reviewers.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.