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Published in Print: September 6, 2000, as Publishers Create Online Quality Check

Publishers Create Online Quality Check

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Heeding the call for greater accuracy in its members' products, the Association of American Publishers has created a way for teachers and students to alert publishers online to possible errors.

Accuracy e-line, which is expected to be available this month, will enable the submission of questions or suggestions for improving the quality of textbooks and other instructional materials.

The online service will "provide for quicker responses to inquiries and enable publishers to better track public concerns with specific materials," said Stephen D. Driesler, the executive director of the AAP's Washington-based school division.

In recent years, some states have taken steps to ensure greater accuracy in textbooks. California began setting up panels to review the materials, and Texas has fined publishers. ("States Setting Strategies To Reduce Mistakes in Textbooks," June 2, 1999.)

At the same time, publishers have made good-faith efforts toward the same goal, said Gilbert T. Sewall, the director of the American Textbook Council, an independent research organization based in New York City.

"Publishers are in a fix to meet demands," he said. "This reassures the public that they are trying their best to address the issue of textbook quality. Textbooks are more carefully reviewed today than a decade ago."

Misinterpretation or Error?

According to Mr. Driesler, most of the comments and queries publishers receive about textbooks fall into three categories: spelling, typographical, and other technical errors; factual errors; and comments that reflect differences of opinions or interpretation.

"So many times it is not error but a matter of interpretation. There is a fine line between what a person thinks and what is an error," Mr. Driesler said.

Mr. Sewall agreed: "You will have errors, but a bigger problem is misinterpretation or distortion."

Even so, the AAP is encouraging educators and others to report inaccuracies or differences of interpretation along with the reasoning. Publishers will consider all comments, Mr. Driesler said.

"In spite of all of our efforts, we recognize that errors do slip in, and we want to catch them and correct them," said Mr. Driesler.

The AAP will channel comments to the appropriate publishers. If an error is verified, the publisher will take the necessary steps to correct it, he said.

Vol. 20, Issue 1, Page 20

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