Did PWCS follow the law when it selected Investigations for K -5 students in county schools?
The answer to that question should be a resounding Yes and easily verified. But here we are, almost 2 years since that question was first asked, and we still don’t have an answer.
The Virginia Department of Education reviews textbooks submitted to it for content match with the SOLs. Reviewed textbooks are then listed as either state recommended or non-state recommended, based on that review. The state allows local school districts to select any textbook they want for their students, whether the textbook is or is not recommended, provided they follow the appropriate regulations.
The state has issued two regulations local school districts are supposed to follow when selecting a textbook – local adoption of state adopted textbooks and local adoption of non-state adopted textbooks. Investigations, the textbook PWCS adopted for use in grade K – 5 in all county schools, was not adopted by the state for Grade 5 because it didn’t meet enough state standards of learning. To select Investigations and follow the law, PWCS needed to follow the procedure provided in the regulation governing local adoption of non-state adopted textbooks.
The state regulation governing local adoptions of non-state adopted textbooks is pretty straightforward. The school district has to convene a committee that’s representative of the district in general, it has to consider the state adopted textbooks, it has to develop a list of evaluation criteria and have those criteria approved by the local school board, and it has to let the state know which textbooks it selected.
Determining whether PWCS did or did not follow these simple steps has been extremely difficult – particularly determining whether the PWC school board approved the textbook evaluation criteria – a step which was only necessary because the textbook the school district was considering was not recommended by the state.
Initially PWCS officials claimed that Investigations was approved by the state. These statements were made by various officials in writing, in testimony before the PWC School Board, and in statements at Math Nights.
Then, after admitting that Investigations was not state adopted for Grade 5, PWCS officials asserted that they didn’t need to follow the state regulation because they’d adopted a subsequent edition of Investigations. Unfortunately, the subsequent edition hasn’t been reviewed by the state which means that the county would still need to follow the state regulation for non-state adopted textbooks.
Then, in written responses to questions submitted under FOIA, PWCS officials asserted that the textbook evaluation criteria hadn’t been approved by the school board because it wasn’t the school board’s job to approve the textbook evaluation criteria.
Finally, in response to a request that the Attorney General review the applicable regulations to ascertain whether they did or did not apply to PWCS, the attorney for the PWC school board claimed that the textbook evaluation criteria had been approved by the school board when it approved regulation 653-2.
As before, this claim seems to disregard reality in two key areas:
- The textbook evaluation criteria PWCS officials claim are contained in regulation 653-2 in part II D aren’t contained anywhere in the rubric of criteria PWCS officials admit was developed to select a math textbook; and,
- PWC regulation 653-2 was approved by the PWC School Board in September 2004. The VA Board of Education approved the list of recommended and non-state recommended textbooks on January 15, 2005. The regulation PWC officials claim contains the actual textbook evaluation criteria was approved by the PWC School Board four months before the list of state adopted and non-state adopted textbooks was released.
By that logic PWC could select a non-state adopted textbook that teaches that the earth is flat and not obtain school board approval for the criteria used to select that textbook because the actual criteria were contained in a county regulation passed in 2004.
Determining whether PWCS followed the appropriate state regulation or not shouldn’t be this difficult.
Maybe it’s time for the State Board of Education to investigate.