(NEW YORK) — Textbook publishers say they have been left in the dark about why their mathematics books were rejected by the Florida Department of Education, with the state claiming the textbooks sought to “indoctrinate” students.
ABC News contacted the eight publishers who were rejected on the basis of “special subjects” — including critical race theory, a discipline often practiced in higher education that analyzes the role of racism in U.S. legal systems.
Other “special subjects” included Common Core education standards, as well as Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) techniques. SEL is a practice that infuses social and emotional development skills with various school subjects.
Several companies say they’ve not yet heard from the state about the reasoning behind the rejections or how they implemented said “special subjects” in their textbooks.
The Florida Department of Education says that since some content is copyrighted, it is unable to publicly release examples about the reasons textbooks were rejected. However, they released examples that were given to the department that show statistics on racism, mentions of social awareness and discussions on emotional learning frameworks.
Florida has rejected almost 41% of the textbooks submitted for the upcoming school year, the department said in a statement last week.
For grades K-5, 71% of materials were rejected. In grades 6 through 8, 20% were rejected. In grades 9 through 12, 35% were rejected, according to the department.
The state Department of Education says that 21% of all rejected books incorporated “prohibited topics” or “unsolicited strategies,” including apparent instances of critical race theory.
In June 2021, the department sent an addendum to the bid specifications for mathematics textbooks to these publishers.
“In an effort to make sure Florida students have the highest quality instructional materials, we are advising publishers and school districts to not incorporate unsolicited strategies, such as social emotional learning and culturally responsive teaching,” the letter stated.
Some of the biggest textbook publishers in the country were later included in the long list of rejections, including McGraw Hill, Cengage Learning, Savvas Learning Company — formerly known as Pearson K12 Learning — and Macmillan Learning.
“Savvas has a long and successful track record of working with the Florida Department of Education to ensure that our instructional materials deliver high-quality, research-based pedagogy designed intentionally to align with the current Florida standards for mathematics,” a Savvas spokesperson told ABC News.
Several of the companies said they are not clear as to what needs to be fixed or how they broached “special subjects” against the state’s wishes.
“At Macmillan Learning, everything we do is in service of our common goal with educators — to see students succeed,” a Macmillan Learning spokesperson told ABC News.
“We were surprised and disappointed to learn that a statistics text from Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishers (the Advanced Placement and 9-12 High School division of Macmillan Learning) was not on the approved list of titles from the State of Florida with no explanation,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the company’s “Statistics and Probabilities with Applications” textbook received “considerable demand from districts and schools throughout the state” and earned a high score of 4.6 out of 5 on Florida’s Subject-Specific Standards Score.
Publishers now must appeal this decision, or revise the submissions to meet Florida’s expectations.
Some teachers may be limited in how many books they can choose from. From the latest list of approved books, grades K-2 teachers seemingly only have one book they can choose.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis slammed publishers for the alleged inclusion of certain subjects.
“It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students,” DeSantis said in the announcement of rejected books.
ABC News’ Will McDuffie contributed to this report.
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