At its regularly scheduled meeting Friday, the Tennessee State Board of Education approved a list of eligible materials for K-12 instruction of mathematics by local districts. The list is compiled by the Tennessee Textbook Commission and presented to the state board by the Tennessee Department of Education (TNDOE).
The submission and subsequent approval are part of a legally mandated review process conducted by the state. Every six years, one core subject is slated for review, and districts must select materials they intend to purchase and implement to educate students in that core subject for the next six years. English language arts went through the process in 2019, and social studies in 2020. Math was slated for review in 2021 but was delayed for two years, so as not to conflict with a state review of math standards.
The math standards were reviewed by the state board of education in 2019-2020, and go into effect for the 2022-2023 school year. The revision of math academic standards was undertaken to align the math standards review process with the next math textbook adoption cycle. To accommodate the standards review process, the textbook adoption process was delayed, and local districts were granted a waiver to allow them to use previously adopted materials to fill the gap until the new adoption process was complete.
The Tennessean Textbook Commission oversees the adoption process, with nominal influence from the TNDOE. Publishers who want their materials considered for adoption must submit them to the commission for review and approval. Submissions are reviewed by a panel of expert teachers in each subject area or grade level to advise the commission on book selection. If approved, materials are then placed on a list submitted by the state board of education. Once approved, local district officials and the general public will have an opportunity to review and select materials. Districts must choose and adopt from the state-approved list unless a waiver is granted from the state board of education. Districts must use adopted materials until the next adoption period.
After a tumultuous English Language Arts (ELA) adoption period in 2019 that drew charges of undue influence by the commissioner and the TNDOE, changes to the process were made to limit their influence. Legislators passed a bill removing the commissioner as a voting member of the Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission and the commissioner’s ability to grant waivers for school districts seeking to use unapproved books and materials. Early in the process, Chair Linda Cash indicated a pledge to ensure that the letter of the law was followed, and she has adhered to that pledge.
The list, approved last week, includes newer publishers like Great Minds, publisher of Eureka Math, and Amplify, publisher of Amplify Math TN, as well as longtime names like Houghton Mifflin, Intro Math, and McGraw Hill, publisher of Tennessee Reveal Math. Great Minds and Amplify are also the producers of ELA curricula Wit and Wisdom as well as Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA), respectively. Both have been subject to controversy since adoption.
Two publishers, Cengage Learning and Pearson Online failed to win approval for inclusion through the appeals process after initially having their bids rejected. The former made no upgrades to their materials after seeing what reviewers found as deficient – a decision not viewed favorably by the commission – while the latter was rejected because they still had “Common Core” referenced throughout their materials. Tennessee state law prohibits the use of Common Core-related materials in instructional materials.
It initially appeared that the publisher Mathspace had lost several grades in the final review round. Still, in response to questioning by the board, TNDOE representative Virginia Mayfield revealed that the department had made a mistake in listing those grades for the publisher, as they had never actually submitted materials.
Over the next several months, districts will review the list and select their instructional material with input from the public. Selections are due by June 2023.
The review of science materials is slated to begin in the Spring 2023. There is talk of the process being delayed, but as of now, there is no official communication of that intent.
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TC Weber is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. He also writes the blog Dad Gone Wild. Follow TC on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected] He’s the proud parent of two public school children and the spouse of a public school teacher.