|Published Thursday, May 3,
N.C. school board tries to trim texts'
By JENNIFER WING ROTHACKER
Concerned that student
textbooks are riddled with factual mistakes, the N.C. Board of
Education on Wednesday discussed several solutions - including
requiring local school districts to fact-check the books.
In a review of math and science textbooks
used by N.C. school districts, the state's Textbook Commission
recently compiled a list of publisher-admitted mistakes.
While most of the elementary and middle school math and science
books averaged no more than five mistakes per book, some had as many
as 50. In high school texts, the publishers admitted to no more than
10 errors in most cases, but one book had 276.
In a separate, two-year study by an N.C. State University
researcher, errors discovered in science books used by
Charlotte-Mecklenburg and other districts included an incorrect
depiction of what happens to light passing through a prism, a
reversed photo of the Statue of Liberty (the torch is in the wrong
hand), and a photo of singer Linda Ronstadt labeled as a silicone
But board members Wednesday were skeptical whether they could
stop such mistakes.
"I'm convinced the cure is worse than the illness," said
Asheville member Robert Douglas.
The five options outlined by Tom Zeiko with the state's Attorney
General's office were:
Requiring publishers to promise that experts have reviewed the
textbooks. However, this isn't different from what the state already
asks for, and this option outlines no penalties if errors are
discovered, Zeiko said.
The state could review the books itself. Publishers would be
notified of errors and be required to change them before shipping
the books. Zeiko noted that this would take additional staff time,
would put the error responsibility on the state and could drive
Make sure the contract between the state and publishers states
that if errors are in the books, the state could sue for damages.
Such a guarantee could be difficult to enforce, Zeiko said.
Require individual school districts to check books for errors.
In North Carolina, individual school districts buy textbooks; the
state merely offers recommendations. Putting the responsibility on
local districts could be less efficient, would put too much work on
the districts and could reduce the publishers' incentives to make
sure their books are error-free, Zeiko said.
The state board could notify districts about a publishers' track
record on errors, leaving it up to the individual district to decide
whether they want to buy from that publisher.
The state board did not vote on any of the recommendations, but
favored the ones that did not put fact-checking responsibility on
the state or local districts. The issue will be revisited at the
board's June meeting.