TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Education released a set of reviewer comments on books that were examined for inclusion in the state’s upcoming math curriculum. The reviews are the first set of examples that specifically show why some materials were included in the initial rejection of 54 math books from the coming school year’s teaching.

While the state itself made headlines for rejecting the books for including things related to Critical Race Theory, Common Core, and Social Emotional Learning, examples of reviewers identifying those concepts for reason to reject or not recommend a book be included were only a portion of reasons for rejection.

Almost 6,000 pages were released of the reviews. Review examples were from multiple publishing companies, including Big Ideas Learning, LLC., EdGems Math LLC., Accelerate Learning, Agile Mind Educational Holdings, Inc., Mathspace Inc., Carnegie Learning, Inc., Savvas Learning Company LLC., McGraw Hill LLC., Math Nation, Cengage Learning, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Link-Systems International, Inc. The review sets spanned multiple grade levels.

Previously, the state of Florida had given examples of some material from inside the books themselves, though the visual examples have not been added to since.

Note: This analysis of the reasons for rejection of portions of books from each publisher is by no means exhaustive.

CRT, SEL content and other prohibited topics

Interestingly, while books recommended for rejection largely did not include references to prohibited topics like Critical Race Theory, Social Emotional Learning, Social Justice, or other topics of that nature, some of the books approved for use in the curriculum did.

A McGraw Hill Grade 1 book did have elements of SEL, according to the reviewer, but was still recommended for approval. It did not contain references or evidence of CRT or Culturally Responsive Teaching.

One book, from Savvas Learning Company, “Mathematics for College Liberal Arts” was flagged by a reviewer for having “Critical Race Theory elements” and was described by them as “agenda driven and biased to the issues the author considers ‘important.’”

The reviewer notes within the book, bid ID 401, that there are references to “measuring racial prejudice by age,” discussion of whether or not the “United States has eradicated poverty or racism,” “the relationship between education and prejudice,” materials about “implicit” or “unconscious bias” and an argument between Al Gore and Rush Limbaugh, where “the author favors Al Gore and dislikes Rush Limbaugh, based on the questions.”

Another section is reportedly about “global warming and climate crisis,” which the reviewer takes issue with as the author “talks about a climate crisis as if it’s a proven fact.”

The reviewer also mentions sections of the book about “cause of eating disorders among adolescent women” and notes about the Electoral College. A lack of “mention of the Federalist Papers to understand why the Electoral College was established” is also listed as a reason that the book comes off as biased or containing inappropriate topics. The use of marijuana is also apparently mentioned in the book, as well as “jokes about marriage and divorce,” and “white population” decreases.

The reviewer found all of these topics, and others, as examples of content unsuitable or “not relevant or meaningful to students.”

Political leanings of reviewers, as well as other demographic information were not provided. While reviewer names were included, WFLA did not publish them.

In the first set of book reviews provided by FLDOE, some bids used as examples had multiple reviewers. Not all who examined the books agreed on use of a textbook, or rejection.

The first mention of the concepts prohibited by state standards in the books from Big Ideas was in reference to optional materials which reportedly referenced SEL in a “Math Musicals” content set. Even that wasn’t fully rejected, but graded with a “Fair Alignment” to state standards, ranked with a 3/5 on a 1-5 scale for alignment. The first book in the review list was intended for Kindergarten math, by Big Ideas Learning, LLC.

Still, that bid was not rejected.

The second book from that publisher was reviewed more poorly, though the reasons for rejection included items like font size, tech integration for text-to-speech support, and lack of inclusion for braille displays used by blind students, among others.

Many of the review examples contain notes with concerns of reviewers focused on readability, ease of navigation, and questions on curriculum’s level of complexity for its grade level.

The first explicit “No” for a final recommendation from Big Ideas comes in the third of three reviews on bid 306, a Grade Eight Pre-Algebra text book. The third reviewer expressed concerns that the materials were “a rebranding of something existing to align with” the new state standards, rather than actually redesigned for the new curriculum requirements.

Additionally, while the book was recommended for rejection, the reviewer notes that the book did not appear to contain Critical Race Theory, Social Justice, or Social Emotional Learning concepts. In that respect, the reviewer said the book was aligned with the state standards.

Another book for middle schoolers from Big Ideas, this time for sixth graders, also received one recommendation to reject, out of three on the bid. For bid 307, the single negative reviewer found the materials did not contain real-world context as required by the new B.E.S.T. standards. Additionally, a lack of providing multiple ways to solve math problems, rather than just one method, were a concern for the reviewer. Materials to encourage discussion among classmates were also “very minimal,” with the reviewer saying “priority should be building a classroom culture of learning” to encourage student participation.

As with bid 306, the reviewer noted a lack of CRT, Social Justice, or SEL concepts. The next bid to receive rejection recommendation was bid 314, from EdGems Math. Again, only one of three reviews provided recommended that the book not be used.

Reasons for rejection from the reviewer were based on how the book was more “workbook than like a grade 6 math textbook.” They said the lessons were not provided in a way that was good for learning, with “descriptions” that were “long-winded” and not user friendly. Despite rejection, the reviewer noted that there was “no mention of CRT.”

All reviewers for the next bid, 316, rejected the Grade 7 math book from EdGems Math. Despite the instructional material being rated as aligned with state curriculum, one reviewer took issue with the standards not requiring memorization of formulas, and providing it to students, while the other found some examples where graphics and explanations could “create misconceptions” and lacked “multiple strategies for students to solve problems,” describing the book as “very procedural.”

From bids listed in the first document, no reviewer listed inclusion of CRT, SEL, or Social Justice content within the materials reviewed.

Bid 320, also from EdGems Math, was the first to receive a rejection in the second review set. Based on the evaluation, the Grade 8 math book for pre-algebra was not recommended because the material did not meet “content expectations of the B.E.S.T. Standards,” the new state curriculum. The reviewer found the book was more procedural and did not have “connections to models or prior understanding,” leading to some parts having “poor alignment” with state standards.

The book is described as “above” or “outside benchmark expectations.” Another review of the same bid said the material’s “pacing is hard to follow” and at times overly complicated. No material in the bid was found to include CRT, SEL, or Social Justice.

Reviews of Bid 322, a Kindergarten math book from Accelerate Learning, were mixed. The rejection for it notes that while aligned with “B.E.S.T. Standards at first glance,” the instructions of the book are “very surface level” and navigation for the online resources is “confusing and not user friendly” for students and teachers alike.

A “science based” approach in the book was found to not be engaging for students less interested in science. The review also said that the pacing of the book “seems fine” but that the content did not “seem to match complexity of the B.E.S.T. Standards,” while also lacking what they describe as motivational strategies.

No reviewer found bid 322 to contain CRT, SEL, or Social Justice materials.

Another book reviewed, bid 332, was also mixed. One reviewer found the book acceptable, while another recommended rejection on the grounds that the curriculum was “well made” but “does not seem to be specific to our Florida B.E.S.T. standards.” They said the parts reviewed were “being forced to meet the standard or benchmark required but not all parts were represented for each and every benchmark,” and noted teachers would have to “pull and supplement quite a bit” to ensure students could complete the materials. Accessibility for disabled students, such as the blind, was also noted as a concern.

As with the other books examined before, no reviewer found the content to contain CRT, SEL, or Social Justice materials.

Similar concerns with books by Agile Mind Educational Holdings, Inc. found the material had alignment issues when it came to accessibility, complexity, or real-world context, but did not contain political or ideological concepts flagged for “indoctrination” by the state DOE. Each of the publisher’s books that were reviewed received a mix of approval or rejection, within the bids from 320-348.

A Mathspace Inc. book for high school algebra was recommended for rejection for not addressing some learning benchmarks, not having enough examples for lessons, and not having enough problems for practice or review. Reviewers disagreed over rejection or acceptance, but noted that “no prohibited materials” were contained in the content.

A book by Carnegie Learning, bid 356, also received mixed recommendations. Its Grade 6 Accelerated Mathematics book was approved by one reviewer, and rejected by another on grounds of lessons being “difficult to maneuver.” The main reason the reviewer mentioned for rejection was the lack of time for “ample practice” created by a need for what they call consumables and a lack of “rigor” in certain parts of the curriculum, as well as a lack of “fluency skills within the consumables.”

The book did not contain references to CRT, SEL, or Social Justice, according to the reviewers.

Another Carnegie bid, 357, was mixed on its recommendations as well. Focus for rejection was centered on lack of background information and lack of instruction in certain concepts. Navigating the textbook was also a concern for the reviewer who rejected it. The Grade 7 math book was described as “not user friendly” with its online portions, for teachers and students, and lacked teacher resources and and did not have good organization of materials.

In the bid, the reviewer noted only one example that may relate to CRT concepts. The note in the review listed a problem that might “lead to a discussion of race.” That example was a reference to “Government agencies and civil rights groups monitor enrollment data at universities to ensure that they fully represent different groups.” The reviewer said the study mentioned a focus on female enrollment, as well.

Carnegie’s bid 358 was recommended for rejection over concerns that the material made it “challenging to locate the benchmarks within the student or teacher texts,” and that the benchmarks were not listed in the student consumables. Additionally, the reviewer said the “publisher notes provided within the rubric were often not helpful,” and were frequently “misidentified or missing.” A lack of visuals in the materials were also flagged as something that made “content confusing.”

Still, when it came to CRT, SEL, Social Justice and other prohibited topics, the reviewer noted “no evidence of topic coverage” in the book.

Other bids were rejected on the simple grounds of containing incomplete unit information or missing materials for “foundational” courses in middle school math books. Multiple sections were reviewed as “not able to view alignment” with state standards in bid 363, also from Carnegie Learning. Similar concerns were listed for Carnegie’s bid 364, a high school foundational mathematics text.

Reviewers noted modules were short and did not provide enough practice for students to become “fluent” in the relevant math topics. “The modules are also wordy” for students “who historically struggle with mathematics,” on reviewer wrote. They said the material would be better as a supplement, instead of as a primary text.

While the material did not “have CRT,” or “solicit SEL,” concerns over missing materials, lack of resources for teachers to assist students, and content organization “not given in appropriate chunks” were listed as reason for rejection. No reviewer of bid 364 recommended inclusion.

Bid 382 from Savvas Learning Company was recommended for rejection due to review notes saying “the entire program feels like it was made for Common Core with some edits to try to meet the BEST standards.” Additionally, the review noted that “While being culturally sensitive with names and illustrations, CRT is not taught,” but “Some lessons include growth mindset concepts, which are a component of SEL learning.” Still, reviewers were split on inclusion or rejection, with others recommending the book for inclusion in Grade 2 math curriculum.

A Savvas Grade 7 textbook for math was recommended for rejection due to the “AR benchmarks” not being aligned with state curriculum standards. The reviewer noted that there was no evidence of CRT, SEL, or other Social Justice and Culturally Responsive Teaching material.

Of the publishers listed in the first few sets of reviews made public by FLDOE, Savvas Learning had the most approved texts through bid 420. Bid 397, however, was recommended for rejection due to a lack of standards or benchmarks that “ask students to analyze vocabulary and concepts.” The text was designed for grades 9-12.

The reviewer noted that the state’s “full standards are not represented” and “All forms of representation are not presented.” Additionally, the review notes that the applications are within the text, but there were not enough examples provided for practice, and that some specific benchmarks “are not met.” Still, there were no examples of CRT, SEL, or related prohibitions found within the text, according to the review. Some reviews of the same bid approved it for inclusion.

Savvas’ bid 398 was also mixed on the do or don’t for inclusion. The solitary rejection recommendation was made for the book’s status as “previously published and no changes” made to “match the BEST benchmarks.” The book is noted to be “considered a college textbook” and that teaching support was not provided for educators.

Bid 401, also from Savvas, was both rejected and recommended for inclusion. The rejection for 401, as with the rejection of 398, was made over concerns of the book being published in 2019 and not containing adjustments for the new curriculum. However, the book is intended for Grades 9-12 and is described as being for College Liberal Arts math classes. While it did not contain CRT, SEL or related prohibited topics, the review notes that teachers would need to find additional materials to teach in alignment with the B.E.S.T. standards.

Bid 407, another Savvas, was twice recommended for rejection out of three reviews published by FLDOE. The reviewers who did not approve of the book listed missing content for different benchmarks and a lack of instruction strategies for teachers. Additionally, “it does not include questions that would help foster conversation that would help in the learning process, and it does not always cover the standard/benchmark.” Reviewers said the material was “too heavily focused on Excel.”

A bid from McGraw Hill, No. 416 for Grade 4 math, was recommended for rejection over lack of alignment with standards, particularly that the state “calls for students to select and use tools to measure but only one lesson briefly addresses this.” Other concerns identified a lack of requiring students to write out equations, despite the standard directing them to. The book is described as having “few of the identified lessons” involving what the standards actual require.

Another McGraw Hill bid, 419, is described as having a “glaring lack of examples for the struggling students to feel success with the concepts throughout the materials.” For this reason, the reviewer recommended the state reject the book, a Grade 8 pre-algebra text. The review says grade 8 math is “intense” and if a teacher were to lead a class with just the materials provided in the book, “the struggling students would not have the same opportunity to succeed as the student who needs enrichment or acceleration.”

A second review rejecting the bid, of three provided, said the book needed “more fluency practice questions” and that the lessons were out of order. There was also a concern noted about “a lot of discussion,” and “not enough practice time” for solutions to problems in the text.

Math Nation’s grade 7 math book, bid 439, was recommended for rejection due to poor alignment with state standards and a lack of “adequate” resources to teach the course.

According to the review notes, “The only resources included are a student textbook and a teacher textbook. There are no additional resources such as instructional videos, power points, extra practice, tiered assignments, or assessments. A teacher would need to heavily supplement this ‘Instructional Material’ to make it useful in a classroom.”

Cengage Learning’s financial literacy and data math book, bid 444, was recommended for rejection despite “fair alignment” with state standards due to a reviewer noting “it does not cover quite a few benchmarks and there are a a significant amount of benchmarks that are covered partially.” Other reviews of the same text did not find as many issues and still recommended inclusion. No reviewer found evidence of prohibited topics such as CRT or SEL.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s bid 456 was recommended for rejection over “limited horizontal alignment and some topics are only lightly covered” and that concern that the content “is lacking in embedding the MRT’s into the benchmarks.” The reviewer said the Grade 2 math book had “sparse” use of critical thinking skills and promotion of advanced thinking.

Houghton’s bid 457 was not recommended for inclusion because the reviewer found the book to lack clarification of benchmark information, and not go far enough into what was necessary for the grade level, while going too far into the next level instead. “It follows a gradual release model and provides a lot of scaffolding for the average student,” the reviewer said.

Another Houghton bid, 459, was recommended for rejection because the “GoMath series does not look like it has been updated to meet our new standards.” the reviewer said it looked like “editors tried to categorize the old lessons to align with the BEST standards” and that some portions are inconsistent within the textbook. Additionally, the teacher version “doesn’t offer much in the way of varying lesson ideas” or providing ways to help students understand the concepts being taught.

A second review of the book rejected it for “absence of specific instructional materials related to all BEST standards.” Reviews of the books in this section, provided by FLDOE, did not find evidence of CRT, SEL, or related prohibited topics.

In the final set of reviews published by the FLDOE, bid 462 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was recommended for rejection due to “poor/no alignment with state standards.” The book, for Grade 6 math, was described by a reviewer as “presented using one type of instructional strategy for each lesson.”

Broken down by examples, the reviewer said the book presents lessons in a “Think about this idea…” manner to encourage student response. The review said the text has “e practice problems that do not resemble the lesson practice section” and that there is “no actual presence of the MTR standards.” Additionally, “s. It appears the publisher took its existing material from the past 20 years and added a few BEST Standards questions here and there,” according to the reviewer. Another review of the same book did recommend it, showing an opposite reaction to the material.

Another Houghton book, bid 470, was recommended for rejection due to “extremely limited opportunity for students to engage in the MTR’s as they do the mathematics.”

The same company’s bid 473, a high school algebra text, was flagged for rejection over alignment issues concerning the state’s B.E.S.T. Standards and potential need for supplemental materials. A second recommendation for the book to be rejected said the materials are “low level and” do not make students “extend their learning.” The reviewer expressed concerns that “students don’t have to apply their thinking” and that “not much conceptual learning” is addressed.

Link-Systems International, Inc.’s bid 474, a high school algebra book, was recommended for rejection due to not being “sufficient for a traditional classroom, or with lower learners.” The review said the book is “at best pedestrian” when it comes to standards. A second review of the book also rejected it, saying the text was “basically a collection of math problems” and “the majority of the items suggested for the benchmarks are either not aligned or are well below grade level and content level expectations.”

The review said teacher guidance is not provided with support strategies or “appropriate pedagogical content knowledge.” Still, the books did not include references to CRT, SEL, or other prohibited topics.

A similar review process started for Social Studies textbooks on April 8. Publishers will have until May 13 to submit books for potential adoption into the new state curriculum.

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