…as a primary text, based on my review of the Virgina Administrative Code, regulations promulgated by the state Board of Education, policies and procedures promulgated by PWCS and the procedures followed by county staff to select Investigations.
It gets kind of tricky and involves state and local regulations and procedures, but in short the county failed to follow the procedures set forth in the Virginia Administrative Code when it selected Investigations for use in PWC K-5 classrooms. What effect PWC school district officials failing to follow the regulations and procedures established by the VA General Assembly and State Board of Education will have on Investigations expansion into Grade 5 is unknown. From a personal perspective I have to say that local government officials subverting the processes established to provide an open and transparent government isn’t necessarily something I’d tout as a success.
Let’s start at the beginning, in the Virginia Administrative Code (VAC).
Under FOIA, county staff stated that sections 22.1-238 to 253 of the VAC were followed when Investigations was selected as the primary text for Grades K-5. Section 22.1-238 Approval of Textbooks provides the authority for local school districts to select materials which meet their students needs. Point B of that section states, “Any school board may use textbooks not approved by the Board provided the school board selects such books in accordance with regulations promulgated by the Board“.
So what are those regulations? You can find them in Title 8 – Education, Agency 20 – State Board of Education, Chapter 230 – Regulations Governing Textbook Adoptions Local Level, in Sections 10, 20, and 30 which are discussed in more detail below.
Section 10 (8VAC20-230-10) states that “The Constitution of Virginia gives the state the authority to select textbooks for use in the public schools of Virginia. To fulfil its duty, the Board adopts a multiple list of textbooks in each grade and subject in which basal adoptions are made. In turn local school boards select materials to meet local needs from this multiple listing. In addition, the Code of Virginia provides that any local school board may use textbooks not approved by the board, provided the school board selects in accordance with regulations promulgated by the Board of Education.”
So the Constitution of VA gives the state BOE the authority to select textbooks for use in local public school districts. How does that happen?
Every few years the Standards of Learning (SOL’s) are reviewed, revised, and the “new” SOLs are published. Textbook publishers submit their textbooks to the state along with a self completed assessment of their textbook’s alignment with the SOLs. The state convenes a committee of education experts who review the submitted textbooks for alignment with the SOLs. The review process is iterative and textbook publishers are given an opportunity to respond to the state’s assessment. At the end of the process two lists of textbooks are prepared and presented to the Board of Education – an approved and a not recommended list. This list, from January 2005, contains the most recent list of state adopted and not adopted mathematics texts.
Pay close attention to the not recommended list. You’ll find Investigations in Number, Data, and Space for Grade 5 on that list.
Because students in different VA school districts have different needs the state lists include multiple textbooks and local school districts are provided the ability to select from either the state adopted or the nonstate adopted lits, provided the follow the procedures promulgated by the Board of Education for each.
Section 20, referenced above and entitled Local adoptions of state-adopted material, establishes the procedure local school districts are supposed to follow when selecting texts from the state approved list. Section 30, Local adoptions of non-state adopted material, establishes the procedure local school districts are supposed to follow when selecting texts from the nonstate adopted list. This procedure has multiple steps, but the one we’re interested in is point #5, which states, “Criteria to be used by the evaluation committee in the review and assessment of textbooks must have the official approval of the local school board. The criteria, as approved, shall be on file in the office of the local school board.”
To recap, the state assess textbooks and prepares a list of adopted and not adopted materials. Local school districts are allowed to select the materials their students will use from either the state adopted or nonstate adopted lists. If a local school district selects material from the nonstate adopted list they have to follow a few additional steps, one of which requires them to have the criteria they use to assess the textbooks be officially approved by the local school board.
Seems pretty straight-forward, right? So what happened in PWC?
In the spring and summer of 2005 PWC convened a committee to review and select textbooks for use in elementary schools throughout the county. A rubik of criteria was created to aide in the review of textbooks. All of the textbooks the committee reviewed are on the state adopted list for Grades K – 5, except for the one, and that one textbook is the one the committee ultimately selected for use in Grades K-5. Investigations in Number, Data, and Space is not recommended for use as a K-5 series. It is approved for use in grades K-3 and Grade 4 but not for Grade 5.
Here’s the problem. Remember point #5 mentioned above regarding local selections of materials on the nonstate adopted list which requires that the criteria used to assess textbooks be officially approved by the school board? Didn’t happen, per school officials statements regarding that very question under FOIA. The criteria the committee used weren’t officially approved by the school board becasue, as per school officials statement in the FOIA, they didn’t have to be.
That’s where the whole transparency in government thing fell apart because our elected school board officials, who are supposed to act in the best interests of the citizens of this county, never publicly discussed, debated, or approved the criteria school officials had selected to assess textbooks. In fact, there is no record of any representative of the school system informing the school board that the textbook they selected was not recommended by the state for use in Grade 5. And public debate is very important thing in a free and open socitey.
It gets a little trickier. See, we’re using version 2 of Investigations not version 1. Version 2 of Investigations has never actually been reviewed by the state. The state doesn’t have any regulations regarding the use of a newer version of a textbook.
But PWC does.
It’s regulation 653, SOP 6-15 dated September 2004 and it states the following regarding newer releases of textbooks (bolding mine for emphasis):
If a newer edition of an approved textbook is available, schools may request permission to purchase it after they have reviewed it to determine the content appropriateness of the revised edition. A written request must be made to the Associate Superintendent of Instruction.
Whether school officials reviewed a physical copy of version 2 of Investigations for content appropriateness before recommending it or whether they simply read a letter from TERC regarding improvements in the text from version 1 to version 2 is unknown and the subject of ongoing attempts to obtain information. But read the bolded section again – approved textbooks. Version 1 of Investigations was never approved for use in Grade 5. Because Grade 5 Investigations was never approved in the first place that regulation doesn’t apply. That means the county had to follow the state procedure set forth in the VAC which required the school board to officially approve the criteria they intended to use to review the textbooks. And that never happened.
Ok – so what’s it all mean to PWC students? That’s an interesting question, but PWC does have a regulation on that issue as well. It’s regulation 653, SOP 6-15 which states “If a school identifies a textbook not on either the Prince William County or the Virginia approved list, the text can only be purchased as a supplemental text and cannot be adopted as a basic textbook.” That means, per my interpretation, were PWC to actually follow it’s own policies and procedures, Investigations can not be used in Grade 5 as a primary text.
The PO’s to purchase Investigations will be going out in a few short weeks. School officials disregarded state procedures in selecting Investigations and the only way the school board will be enticed to act is if they get enough public pressure to do so and a handful of parents speaking at one school board meeting isn’t sufficient. If you’re concerned you need to speak out in public at a school board meeting if possible. Email is easy to ignore but send one to your board member and the Chairman if you prefer.
Comments are open…….