Virginia to Be More Careful Selecting School Texts

Thursday, Dec 30, 2010  |  Updated 8:15 PM EDT
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Virginia to Be More Careful Selecting School Texts

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Virginia's education department plans to tighten its textbook-review process after experts discovered a multitude of factual errors in state-approved history books.

Education department officials said Thursday that Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright plans to propose to the Board of Education next month that publishers be required to provide documentation that their books have been reviewed by "competent authorities who vouch for their accuracy."

Wright also wants the Department of Education staff to more closely scrutinize textbooks that teachers and others on review committees have recommended for preliminary approval.

The state had directed a panel of five history experts to review two social-studies texts by Five Ponds Press after "Our Virginia: Past and Present" falsely claimed that a large number of black people fought on behalf of the Confederacy, even under Gen. Stonewall Jackson. The author of the books, Joy Masoff, isn't a trained historian and has said she found the information on the Internet.

The historians' review of "Our Virginia" and "Our America: To 1865" discovered numerous errors in facts and dates, including the number of states in the Confederacy and the wrong year for the start of World War I. The examination of the texts prompted at least one of the historians to call for the books to be withdrawn immediately from school classrooms.

Wright said she plans to alert school divisions about the errors when school resumes next week to ensure they aren't introduced into instruction.

Connecticut-based Five Ponds Press provides books mainly for use in Virginia's public elementary schools. Five Ponds books are often less expensive than those from larger publishers, which is appealing to cost-conscious school districts during lean economic times.
 

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