How can we end corruption in the NY Board of Education?

Alas, my first two years as a math teacher have ended with one thing on my mind. I have not been able used the book a single time because it is not aligned with the standards. And the bottom line is that it is a poor quality book. All of the math teachers and administrators I have talked to agree. They say that there is nothing we can do about the powers that be.

For those of you who are curious, the contract is with McGraw Hill, the book set is called Impact Mathematics.

This contract is one of the clearer cases of corruption in the Board of Education because of the fact that this book is highly useless and simply a leech on our taxpayer money. I am not here to flame the board of ed. I want to provide a solution.

Instead of allowing for MAJOR, multi-billion dollar contracts with private companies (smells like the culture for a corrupt stew); we can internalize the whole process.

The city can hire a panel of bona-fide experts, such as teachers, professors and the like, to create one set of books that will align perfectly with the standards. This will also allow for the elementary school math books to lead directly to middle school books, which will, in turn, lead into high school books.

I just have a funny feeling that I am missing something here. So the real question here is: how can we end this corrupt business that is directly hurting our children’s education?

Do you have any idea how hard it is to write texts? For it not to line up with your standards and be unusuable is total crap, of course, but replicating a math book without a whift of copyright infringement would be a bitch. It would be the height of inefficiency to have every school district go through this process. It would cost millions, and (worse) the final product would be buggy, buggy, buggy.

I am not just talking out of my ass on this one. I am one of the people that writes the benchmark tests and the district-wide exams that my school district gives at semester. We are not professional test writers–we are teachers–and it shows. We don’t have the funding to do what the big guys can do–for one thing, we don’t have the time and money to field test anything, nor to really have stuff copy-edited, and we have to cram everything in in a couple weeks in the summer. And that’s just writing tests. I can’t imagine writing a textbook.

Now, there is an arguement to be made that textbook adoptions should be made on the local level and that the people that make the choice should be mostly teachers. If nothing else, it means the teachers, not the politians, get the free totebags and sandwitch platters around adoption time. But I don’t see recreating a textbook in house as a feasible solution.

Another poster speaking up with the belief that you’ve grossly underestimated the costs of producing, not just one text, but it sounds like a text for every grade in the school system. I grant you, if any single school district could afford to do it, it would be NYC schools, but I believe that the costs would still rise. Even if you managed to remove corruption from the process completely.

Which has nothing to do with the asshattery of having texts that worthless for your teaching standards.

You can sue McGraw Hill for not providing compliant textbooks, unless of course the board didn’t build that into the contract?

Having said that, this mess suggests a cheap, effective, flexible solution: hypertexts.

Subject matter experts customise web-based hypertexts per spec, via the standards.

Of course the textbook mafioso would oppose this, it’s school, you simply must have old fashioned textbooks!

The sneakaround is to prepare compliant, customised materials, actually use them, whilst “officially” using the “standard textbook.”

Romanu has an interesting complaint. Without knowing the specifics of her situation, I can’t validate the issue, but the bottom line is: New York State bureaucrats at the State Department of Education define the standards, on a statewide basis. New York City school boards – the citywide one and the local district boards – are faced with implementing the standards locally. And, because New York City is national (perhaps world) capital for the textbook publishing industry, there is intense lobbying on the part of the publishers to get their textbook accepted and mandated in the nation’s largest school system, the NYC system. Whether or not it meets the standards laid down by insulated-from-reality bureaucrats in Albany or not.

I believe I’ve mentioned once my tangential involvement in providing technical help to the Town of Pinckney, in Lewis County, in complying with the results of a state audit of their books. (Nothing criminal; a lot of failure-to-properly-document on the part of small town part-time officials.) But the one item that really showed the insulation from reality of the Albany bureaucrats was a write-up in which the Town failed to deposit tax receipts for a seven-day period, when state regulations required it be done within three. During that seven-day period, the highway leading to the Town’s bank, 17 miles away (and the nearest bank available to the town), was closed by the State Police owing to a major multi-day blizzard. That it was literally physically impossible to comply with the regulations did not bother the wonks at Audit and Control, though.

The problem is not the books themselves, it’s 1) producing the material and 2) not infringing copyright. All teachers --well, the vast majority of good teachers–produce materials. But that’s a far cry from writting from scratch all the math problems for all the home work and all the tests and all the in-class work your kids do, and have everye one be exactly as difficult as you want it to be. A science teacher can list what the kids need to know, but the illustrations, diagrams, photographs, examples. . . all that takes time and expertise to assemble.

Just wanted to point out that Texas and California also get a lot of heat, as both states adopt textbooks on a state-wide level: those are enourmous contracts, and the pressure is intense. It does mean that there are Texas and California-specific editions of all the major textbooks, which will probably be compared by the grad students of a millenia hence when they want to make pithy statements about why Western Civilization fell.

As far as mathematics textbooks go I’ve never seen one that was worth a damn when it came to actually learning how to solve math problems. I’ve always relied on teachers to show me how to solve math problems and only used the books for practice problems or homework. That’s just my experience but I’m curious as to how many people here actually learned how to solve math problems via the textbook or did a teacher show you how to do it?


I am basing my comments on these facts:

  1. Curriculum does need good teachers to implement it, but there is something to be said for having a good, usable book. The new impact series has no more than 5 questions PER TOPIC.

So for example, it talks about combining like terms. It gives the reader 5 practice questions and then continues to the next topic.

  1. There needs to be some consistency with the standards. We cant just teach completing the square (a pre-calculus skill) in the eighth grade!! The book actually teaches it in one of its middle chapters. This is sooooo far off standards that it made me laugh a bit. Then I remembered that it was not a joke.