State Board of Education Sets New Guidelines for Textbook Reviewers

The State Board of Education last week adopted some new rules that offer hope for a more temperate, scholarly approach to the evaluation of proposed textbooks to be used in our public schools.

Volunteer textbook reviewers without appropriate subject-matter expertise but with an ideological agenda have wielded inordinate influence over Texas textbook reviews in the past, most recently in the consideration of proposed science textbooks last fall. The new rules would place limits on that sort of influence. For instance, educators with actual expertise in the subject matter of the textbook will be given preference when it comes to appointments by SBOE members to serve on review panels. No longer will it be possible for an objection from a single reviewer to hold up a book’s approval; objections from multiple reviewers will be necessary. SBOE members also will not be able to contact reviewers to influence their deliberations on a textbook.

The first test of the new rules will come later this year as the State Board considers adoption of social-studies textbooks.