The weirdest thing about the textbook kerfluffle that broke out in Florida over math textbooks (of all things) is the timing. It generally takes a year for a school district to go through an adoption cycle and put new textbooks into the classroom.

Back in high school, an English teacher introduced Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) to the subversive mathematics in this book. Wonder why Florida left it off the banned list?

Florida has a 5-year life cycle for classroom textbooks for any course that is state-tested, in particular ELA and math. Every five years, districts go through an evaluation and procurement cycle. The process takes a full year.

In the year preceding new textbooks, GOT’s district assembles district committees, including classroom teachers, to meet over a 3 to 4 week period to review books from publishers who were invited to submit their products to the district. These products have to come from the state-approved list of textbooks because no district is allowed to purchase other publications.

Usually, the committees work through the month of October with recommendations due at the end of the month.

For math, adoption of new books is overdue. We have been using the current books for eight years. The delay was caused by the new B.E.S.T. standards (that GOT sarcastically called the Be Best standards since you-know-who was occupying the East Wing) that Florida’s 2018-elected governor decided was needed because … well, Rick Scott.

For those who don’t know, the current and the former Tallahassee Cocks of the Walk don’t like each other. The enmity is best illustrated by the outgoing COTW appointing new people to every position he could think of to deny his successor the chance to put his own people into the state government. Not to be outdone, the incoming COTW rescinded every last appointment the moment his inauguration ceremony was done.

Scott had made a big show of ridding Florida of the Common Core. That is how we got the Florida Standards, basically a minor edit job that mostly added explanatory comments to the math standards. DeSantis, in an effort to outdo Scott, made a big show of being the one to finally rid Florida of the Common Core, which is how we got to B.E.S.T.

But the new standards threw off the adoption cycles for new books. If they had proceeded on time, Florida would have bought books for the discarded standards and schools would have been stuck with them for five years. Thus, Florida delayed the adoption cycle, in the case of math, for three years.

Preceding the autumnal formation of district review committees, the state has to approve new materials. Publishers submit their work to the state and volunteers receive submissions at the beginning of the summer to review and make recommendations to the state. In the last adoption cycle, GOT was one of those volunteers. He received a rather poor curriculum to evaluate at the beginning of July. His work had to be done by the end of that month. That would allow the state department of education time to consider his evaluation along with others who had been given the same publication in August and come up with an approved list in September from which the districts could work.

April ain’t August. After the end-of-October recommendations of district review committees are sent to the superintendent, district administrations go through their analyses to select the new books. Those recommendations result in negotiations with the chosen publishers throughout the winter. As spring arrives, superintendents have finalized contracts to present to their Boards of Education for approval in March and April.

Contracts are signed and orders are placed. Now the publishers have about two months, May and June, to print the books and deliver them to district warehouses, where the personnel have to sort them out and ship them to schools in time for the beginning of the new school year in August.

It’s a tight timeline. We are in an adoption year and at the point where Boards of Education are approving contracts for the purchase of new books. Suddenly, the Commissioner of Education is banning more than 40% of the list for unspecified reasons, even more if you only consider K-5 books.

If you’ve never thought before that Florida doesn’t do anything in a way that makes sense for the actual running of a school system, you must be thinking it now.

It’s the tablecloth trick. The table is set, silverware in place, drink glasses filled, salad and rolls sitting at strategic elbow positions for passing. The cruets sit empty, ready to receive the hot dishes from the kitchen. The diners have gathered and then the butler appears, grasps the edges of the tablecloth, and attempts to pull it from under the dishes without causing everything to crash on the floor.

Districts have approved contracts based on the state lists, but now, the chief servant buttles in to grab the tablecloth and jerk. Contracts will be rescinded; delivery deadlines missed.

Years ago, in the last adoption cycle, GOT’s district experienced chaos. Books and curriculum materials were shipped to the wrong schools. Some had too many, some got nothing, and the district staff from the superintendent on down spent the pre-opening weekend driving their cars around the city to redistribute the books. Some schools never got all the books and materials they were supposed to.

That simply happened back then. This time it seems planned.

C’mon! The Commissioner would like to tell you about when he was House Speaker and did a strike-all amendment in the last hours of the session to upend a carefully negotiated education bill between House and Senate leaders, including the Democrats. He believes in his tablecloth trick.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s