New California Standards Pose Dilemmas for Text Publishers

By Cindy Currence — November 07, 1984 5 min read

San Francisco--Publishers who conferred with educators here late last month said they faced several obstacles in meeting new California standards that seek to put more content and substance into textbooks.

Specifically, representatives of the textbook industry said their efforts to comply with new requirements to include classical literature in texts may bring them into conflict with other state regulations pertaining to “social” content. And they also expressed concern that making the content more substantive could bring the wrath of special-interest groups and “book protesters” down upon them.

The conference, jointly sponsored by the California Department of Education and the Association of American Publishers, provided a forum for textbook developers and educators to discuss new standards adopted by the state board of education last summer.

‘Radical’ Standards

Terming the new standards “fairly radical,” Bill Honig, California’s state superintendent of public instruction, said they were designed to promote the development of upgraded elementary-school reading and mathematics textbooks.

The state is scheduled to select new reading textbooks in 1987 and new mathematics textbooks in 1986.

The standards require that reading textbooks contain “classical and contemporary works of literary merit” and stress the development of critical thinking and reading for comprehension.

Standards for the selection of mathematics textbooks include greater emphasis on problem solving, applications of higher-order practical skills, and instruction in using electronic calculators.

Conflicts in Requirements

Kathy Costello, assistant national sales manager for the school division of Harper & Row Publishers Inc., congratulated California educators on developing a “model for excellence,” but said there were several hurdles to overcome in implementing the new standards.

One such hurdle, she said, is the conflict between the new standards and the state’s current compliance guidelines for the “social” content of textbooks.

For example, she explained, the new requirements call for the inclusion of “classical” works of literature, but many such works may not be acceptable under other guidelines that require textbooks to portray males and females engaged in nontraditional activities.

State education officials are in the process of examining those conflicts, a spokesman for the department said after the meeting.

Teachers’ Views Checked?

Ms. Costello also questioned participants about whether or not the new standards were an accurate reflection of what teachers actually wanted and would use.

“Often, what the state wants is not what the teachers want,” she said.

Several educators assured the publishing representatives that4there is broad-based support among educators for the development of more challenging reading and mathematics textbooks.

“We are overcoming inertia,” said Sandra Boese, president of the state board of education, “and when new reading books come down the line in four years, people will be ready to use them.”

“The challenge now is in your lap,” she told the publishers. “Please rise to the occasion.”

Ms. Costello and other publishing company representatives also told conference participants that the process of developing textbooks to respond to the new standards could not be rushed and that “lead time” is necessary for the research, writing, and testing involved in textbook production.

Special-Interest Groups

Educators and publishers both expressed concern about the influence of special-interest groups in textbook development.

One educator asked if in improving the quality of reading textbooks, the publishers thought they would open themselves up to the “book protesters,” since some of the best literature is also some of the most controversial.

John Ridley, vice president of Houghton Mifflin Company, acknowledged that there is “some anxiety” about the book protesters, particularly related to California’s new requirement that reading materials be representative of the country’s “rich, diverse literary heritage [and connect students] to political, social, and ethical issues central to our society.”

Asked Not To ‘Give In’

Mr. Honig, who moderated the discussion, added that he hoped the publishers would not give in to the “fear” of special-interest groups.

He also said that book publishers who do not commit themselves to the development of more challenging textbooks will be left behind. “My sense is that this is how the whole country is moving,” he said, adding that educators across the country are in the process of getting “control of the system” and demanding better textbooks.

Developing Movement

The new standards addressed at the conference are part of a textbook-reform movement spearheaded by Mr. Honig and other prominent education officials, including Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell.

The movement grew out of concern that the textbooks of recent years ''have relied too much on readability-skills development and not enough on content--we’ve taken out the emotional power of the language,” Mr. Honig said. (See Education Week, May 23, 1984.)

California Standards

The new California standards require that reading textbooks include:

A balance of fiction and nonfiction.

Classical and contemporary works of literary merit that exemplify the best of language usage.

Examples of major literary forms--essays, speeches, poetry, and drama--to help students expand their understanding and appreciation of literature.

Themes that broaden students’ awareness of their own and other societies.

Works that involve values such as truth, justice, and compassion.

Under the new standards, mathematics textbooks must:

Include major concepts from every math area--number, measurement, geometry, relations and functions, statistics and probability,3logical reasoning, and algebra--and incorporate and interweave the concepts throughout the text at every grade level.

Require the student to apply concepts and skills from all of the areas in a variety of practical situations.

Provide examples and exercises that show how mathematics is applied in other disciplines such as natural science, social science, art, music, business, medicine, and law.

Include a glossary or index of mathematical terms, with accurate definitions matched to the understanding at each grade level.

A version of this article appeared in the November 07, 1984 edition of Education Week as New California Standards Pose Dilemmas for Text Publishers