The Mad, Mad World of Textbook Adoption

Vertical Tabs

Statewide textbook adoption, the process by which 21 states dictate the textbooks that schools and districts can use, is fundamentally flawed. Textbook adoption distorts the market, entices extremist groups to hijack the curriculum, enriches the textbook cartel, and papers the land with mediocre instructional materials that cannot fulfill their important education mission. The adoption process cannot be set right by tinkering with it, concludes The Mad, Mad World of Textbook Adoption, the latest release from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Rather, legislators and governors in adoption states should eliminate the process and devolve funding for and decisions about textbook purchases to individual schools, individual districts, even individual teachers.
The Mad, Mad World of Textbook Adoption is the first of a new Fordham Institute series, "Compact Guides to Education Solutions," that provides practical solutions to K-12 education problems for policy makers, legislators, school leaders, and activists. These concise guides are meant to help drive reforms at the local, state, and national levels by offering actionable policy recommendations.

The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America's History Teachers

Vertical Tabs

Widely used supplemental materials may be dangerous to educational health! These works often include hefty doses of political manipulation and ideological bias, courtesy of their authors. This study casts a wary glance toward materials that seldom come under scrutiny. This study is the fifth in a series dedicated to reforming social studies education.

A Consumer's Guide to High School History Textbooks

Vertical Tabs

A Consumer's Guide to High School History Textbooks is a summary review of 12 widely used U.S. and world history textbooks.

Terrorists, Despots, and Democracy: What Our Children Need to Know

Vertical Tabs

This new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation includes the voices of 29 political leaders, education practitioners, and cultural analysts who discuss what schools should teach about U.S. history, American ideals, and American civic life in the wake of 9/11, the war on terror, and the liberation of Iraq.

Six Questions to Ask on Back to School Night

Vertical Tabs

A good, well-organized social studies curriculum seeks to teach students the key events, issues, and people in America's past, how our government works, our rights and responsibilities as citizens, and how our predecessors fought to defend democracy. How can parents tell whether their children are getting such a curriculum in school?one that is rich in historical content and provides a solid base for future learning? The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation suggests asking teachers and principals these six questions on back to school night.

1. What are your goals for this course?

Beware! If the goal is to "improve critical thinking skills" or "help children understand the world around them," you can bet there's little focus on vital historical content.

2. In this course, do you follow a chronology of history, or do you teach thematic units?

Many educators belittle the chronological study of history?"what happened when?"?and prefer to base their curriculum on such "themes" as "community helpers" or various cultures. While some of that is valuable to the study of history, such themes do not give students the knowledge they need to understand the past and develop informed opinions about the present.

3. What textbook do you use for this course?

When you find out which textbook is used, search on the Internet for an expert review of it. Or just read a few pages yourself. Look, in particular, to see how it handles key events like the American Revolution, the framing of the Constitution, World Wars I and II, etc. Many texts gloss over such events and the people who caused them, or focus on what America did wrong?as judged by today's standards?rather than helping children understand why things happened the way they happened, and when they happened.

4. Besides the textbook, what additional resources do you use in this course?

Over-reliance on the textbook is a bad sign, especially if the book is weak. It may signal a teacher with little personal knowledge of history. If the teacher does use additional resources, ask to see samples. Do they help explain complex historical lessons? Do they present a biased or balanced view of history?

5. How important is it to you that students get a multicultural view of history?

Listen closely to the answer. Multicultural history often overlooks or undervalues the Founders' contributions and the chronological sequence of key historical events.

6. May I have a copy of the syllabus or "scope and sequence" for this course?

A detailed syllabus or (as educators often call it) "scope and sequence" should set forth just what the teacher plans to cover during the year, and how s/he plans to cover it. This is often more informative than the textbook alone and more complete than the verbal answers you get on "back to school" night.

Are you satisfied with the teacher's (or principal's) answers? Worried? Want to learn more? Be a fussy consumer. Don't hesitate to press for more information, even to argue for a different approach. If the school won't cooperate, supplement your child's historical education at home. That's a pretty good idea even when the school is doing a good job. Few schools today teach as much history as children need to learn.  We'll give you the inside scoop on what went wrong with social studies, and how to fix it.

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation supports research, publications, and action projects of national significance in elementary/secondary education reform, as well as significant education reform projects in Dayton, Ohio and vicinity. The Foundation is neither connected with nor sponsored by Fordham University.

Better Leaders for America's Schools: A Manifesto

Vertical Tabs

This report, published jointly by the Fordham Institute and The Broad Foundation, contends that American public education faces a "crisis in leadership" that cannot be alleviated from traditional sources of school principals and superintendents. Its signers do not believe this crisis can be fixed by conventional strategies for preparing, certifying and employing education leaders. Instead, they urge that first-rate leaders be sought outside the education field, earn salaries on par with their peers in other professions, and gain new authority over school staffing, operations and budgets.

The Best of Both Worlds: Blending History and Geography in the K-12 Curriculum

Vertical Tabs

Geography plays a crucial role in shaping history, and the study of history provides an important context for students learning geography, but teachers rarely take advantage of the complementary nature of these subjects. This report shows how the study of U.S. history can be enriched by blending geography into the curriculum. The centerpiece is an innovative curriculum framework in which each historical period is supplemented and enriched by the introduction of relevant geography

September 11: What Our Children Need to Know

Vertical Tabs

Our report features timely advice on what schools should teach and children should learn about September 11 and about history, civics, heroism and terrorism. Featuring 23 statements by leading educators and experts, plus an extensive bibliography, the report is a constructive, hard-hitting alternative to the "diversity and feelings" approach that many national education groups have taken to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Autonomy and Innovation: How Do Massachusetts Charter School Principals Use Their Freedom?

Vertical Tabs

Charter schools grant significant autonomy to their principals, but do their principals make decisions that would not be possible in ordinary schools? Are they creating schools that are truly different from (and potentially better than) regular district schools? For this report, Bill Triant conducted extended interviews with eight charter school principals in Massachusetts on five dimensions of school operations (teacher hiring, budgetary control, instruction and curriculum, organizational design, and accountability) to shed light on how they use their autonomy. He finds that when charter school principals are given the opportunity to innovate, they do so.

Rethinking Special Education for a New Century

Vertical Tabs

Recommending sweeping changes in federal special ed policy, this new volume of 14 papers scrutinizes the education now being received by 6 million U.S. children with disabilities. Jointly published with the Progressive Policy Institute, the report will help shape discussion of the next reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It identifies the problems that now beset this important program, analyzes their causes, and suggests solutions. All who care about the education of children with special needs will want to read it for themselves.