June 22, 2022

Florida publisher reacts to ‘rejected’ status of math teaching materials

As the wait continues to find out exactly why 41% of math textbooks submitted by publishers to the Florida Department of Education were rejected by the evaluators who reviewed them, Link Systems International is among the publishers who have landed on the state’s rejected list.

“Everyone is talking about it,” said Vincent Forese, president and CEO of Link Systems International. The Tampa-based small tech company publishes digital-only educational products, including three online math homework systems that have all been denied by the state.

This year marks the first time the publisher has submitted material for inclusion on the state’s lucrative list of approved math instructional materials. But the three high school math products they submitted were rejected by state evaluators for not meeting the state’s newly adopted BEST standards.

“Of course it’s disappointing,” said Forese, who described how he learned his products had been rejected more than a week ago, after receiving an email from the state with a link to approved material.

However, just a few days ago, his team finally understood why their material had been rejected. On Thursday, they received the state’s comments explaining how its products did not meet state standards. In one instance, Forese explained that the question was not considered difficult enough.

Details of his rejection came a week after Florida’s Department of Education issued a press release accusing some publishers of trying to “indoctrinate students.”

Forese said getting more details sooner would have helped him respond to the frenzy of media calls he began receiving soon after the department’s fiery press release was issued.

“At first everyone thought that anyone who was rejected was rejected for things like critical race theory. So I spent a lot of time explaining that’s not what we did. But, he added, “Waiting a week to get feedback was very strange and for such media attention to happen immediately after the ‘indoctrinate your children’ memo came out, to get no feedback at all. levels for anyone, it seemed a bit odd,” he said.

But why other materials were rejected for “special subject inclusion” like CRT is still, largely, a mystery.

On Friday, in response to the volume of requests for examples of these rejected materials, the Florida Department of Education released four examples that its reviewers deemed inappropriate.

In one of the examples posted on the state’s website, bar charts are used to measure racial bias based on age and political identification. In another example, a passage is titled “social and emotional learning.”

“When the state puts out a memo and says okay, don’t do that. Don’t include those topics, we don’t want them on the books. I’m not surprised they were kicked out,” explained Forese.

The memo Forese describes was sent to districts in June 2021 by the state’s head of public schools. In it, Chancellor Jacob Olivia advises publishers “not to incorporate unsolicited strategies, such as social-emotional learning and culturally appropriate teaching…into teaching materials.”

“These were pretty egregious examples of simply ignoring the Florida mandates, but I don’t know if in each case people will have that egregious of a clear violation,” Forese said in reference to the examples posted by the agency. ‘State.

As of Monday afternoon, it was unclear whether all rejected publishers had received details of why their material had been flagged. According to the press release issued on April 15, although textbook rejections are not new, this year marked a record number of rejections with 52 of 132 submitted textbooks rejected. Most rejected math material is for K-5 teaching materials.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the department said it has a responsibility to ensure the books are aligned with newly adopted standards and do not include strategies prohibited by law.

Yet the recent textbook denial list has now forced school districts to put plans on buying textbooks for next year on hold.

In Hillsborough County, a spokesperson said the district is reviewing the list with publishers since three math books approved by the district selection committee were rejected by the state.

In Miami-Dade County, district orders for all math instructional materials are now suspended “until issues identified by the Florida Department of Education have been resolved,” according to its website.

Over the next few days, Forese’s team will dissect the state’s scorecard to determine if any changes are worth it.

“It could be in a month, we’re all back on the list. We just have to see, the story is not over,” he said.

We contacted all rejected publishers, only Link Systems International and Savvas Learning Company responded.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Savvas Learning Company said:

“Savvas has a long and successful track record of working with the Florida Department of Education to ensure that our instructional materials provide high-quality, research-based pedagogy intentionally designed to align with the mathematical standards of Florida. We are actively working with the Florida DOE to resolve any issues. We remain optimistic that our teaching materials for grades K-5 and 7 which have been specifically developed to meet Florida’s BEST standards, including standards for mathematical thinking and reasoning, will eventually be accepted and delivered to our Florida customers, school districts who rely on our high-quality, coeducational, and standards-aligned math programs.

Savvas is a third-party distributor of Advanced Placement (AP) and secondary mathematics elective materials published by Pearson. Since we parted ways with Pearson and became an independent business in 2019, we have distributed these books, some of which are for college-level courses, for the convenience of our school district customers. Pearson has exclusive control of the content of these AP and optional programs.