Va. Schools Get Free (and Error-Free) Textbooks

By Liana Loewus — January 14, 2011 1 min read
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Five Ponds Press, which published two error-ridden Virginia history textbooks—leading to a media feeding frenzy—said it will distribute the corrected second editions at no cost to the school districts.

The original books contain wrong dates and the largely discredited claim that thousands of African Americans fought for the South in the Civil War, among other errors.

In a notice on the company’s website, Lou Scolnik, the publisher, wrote:

We strive to provide high quality textbooks for Virginia students and are embarrassed that we failed to detect these mistakes during our production process. However, we hope that replacing the books will meet educators' and students' needs.

The letter from Scolnik also contended that the textbook situation has been portrayed inaccurately.

[M]any of the issues identified by the Department of Education's reviewers were corrected before we printed the First Editions and do not appear in the books students are currently using. Additionally, many of the reviewers took issue with the scope and content of the Virginia Standards of Learning, which our books adhere to, and are not technically "errors."

Even so, a first set of revisions will be available online starting this weekend, according to the notice.

Looks like Jay Mathews’ pitch for teachers to use intentionally error-ridden textbooks to “motivate careful student reading” won’t get any play time in Virginia.

UPDATE: Yesterday, the Virginia Board of Education directed the state superintendent of public instruction to create a process by which to decide whether to pull the textbooks from the state-approved list of books, according to Charles Pyle, the VDOE spokesperson. The board also said all Five Ponds books being used must be reviewed by experts and that the superintendent must “explore other potential remedies” from the publisher. In other words, there’s a chance those free second editions won’t be of any value to the schools who receive them.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.