SACRAMENTO — School districts for the first time will be able to use state money to buy math textbooks that fully meet the state’s tough 1997 standards that call for algebra in eighth grade.
The state Board of Education, by an 11-0 vote Wednesday, approved a dozen math textbook programs offered by nine publishers for elementary and middle-school students.
“I’m pleased to say these materials will place good instructional materials in the hands of students and teachers,” said Susan Stickel, an assistant superintendent in Elk Grove.
The board also rejected 11 programs by seven publishers as not meeting the standards that outline in detail what students should learn in each grade.
Dozens of teachers and school officials and state Superintendent Delaine Eastin asked in vain for the board to approve a set of books for kindergarten-through-third grades by Everyday Learning Corp.
However, the board did allow districts that are currently using Everyday’s books and can show “exemplary achievement” by students on the statewide test to apply for a waiver to use state funds to buy the books.
School officials have been complaining for years that the state’s effort to improve student learning and test scores was a bit disjointed. The standards were approved for math, English, science and social studies in 1997 and 1998 and statewide testing began in 1998. However, getting textbooks that reflect the standards in classrooms has lagged behind.
A new rating released Wednesday makes that point. California’s grade for having tough standards and accountability slipped from a B-plus last year to a B, said the report card issued by Education Week magazine for all states.
The report said California has tied rewards and other funding for teachers and schools to the statewide test, but that test, the Stanford-9, is a standardized national exam not related to the state’s own standards.
The state has started adding questions to the test that reflect the standards, but the ones for math will not be used for the state ranking of schools until 2003.
Gov. Gray Davis’ spokeswoman said Wednesday that the Education Week report card uses some outdated statistics and information.
“It’s not taking into account the things that are happening now to make sure students are getting the benefits of the standards,” said spokeswoman Hilary McLean.
In approving the 12 textbook programs, the state board accepted the recommendation of its Curriculum Commission, the final of four committees that spent 18 months intensively reviewing the books.
In most cases, all four of the committees agreed on the books. However, for a few submissions, the Curriculum Commission and the board reversed recommendations made by panels of math scholars, teachers and parents.
For example, the commission recommended books for kindergarten-through-sixth grade by Saxon Publishers Inc., even though previous panels said they did not meet the standards. Saxon textbooks are popular among back-to-basics schools.
The opposite occurred for Everyday Learning’s books, which were developed by University of Chicago mathematics professors. The K-3 books were recommended by the first two panels, but rejected by the Curriculum Commission.
Stickel, the commission’s math chairwoman, said the commission decided Everyday’s books did not meet the standards and were difficult for teachers who were not math majors to teach.
Stanford University math professor Jim Milgram said Everyday’s program “would be a disaster” when used by teachers who don’t have math knowledge equivalent to a third-year math major in college.
Teachers and officials from dozens of districts that have been using Everyday for several years disagreed and said their test scores had risen with the books.
“Districts should have the right to choose and then they should be held accountable for the results,” said Mary McKee, assistant superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District.
Everyday vice president John Atkocaitis said the program is not difficult to teach and is used not only in California, but also in schools in New York City, Dallas, Memphis and Minneapolis with test score increases.
Ruth Cossey, a math education professor at Mills College in Oakland, said the arguments against Everyday imply that teachers who are working with minority and poor students are not capable of teaching rigorous material.
“For the next seven years, it’s OK for them to wallow with inferior materials,” she said.
The board’s student member, Jacqueline Boris, a senior at Buchanan High School in Clovis, said the board should allow districts to continue to use textbooks that work.
“So few kids are excited about math,” she said.
On the Net:
The state board is at http://www.cde.ca.gov/board
Read the math standards at http://www.cde.ca.gov/board/pdf/math.pdf
Read about state textbook lists at