Book Quest Speaks Volumes

So you want to know the contents of your kids’ new textbooks before public school starts? Good luck trying to find out as Shelby GOP member Mick Wright related yesterday on facebook. He was thwarted. This morning I asked him about it and he gave a surprising account:

“I was alerted to the public textbook review opportunity via an email
from Karen Bracken at Tennessee Against Common Core

She forwarded the attached news release from the Tennessee Department
of Education. (see below)

The K-12 social studies textbooks were said to be “on display” at
collection sites across the state as of July 18. There was one
location listed for the “Memphis Delta District,” at the University of

I immediately emailed the contact person listed in the news release,
to inquire about the process. I was unsure if reservations were
required. There were also no availability times listed on the grid.

I received a response later the same day.


Mr. Wright,
The elevator in our building has been under reconstruction for over a
month. Consequently, we have been unable to move the books to the
appropriate room and unpack them. It will be at least another week
before we are able to start the unpacking.
I will keep your email address and contact you when these books
become available. You may also contact me again on July 29th to check
on our progress.

Ernest A. Rakow

Then on July 30, I received a follow-up:

Mr. Wright,
We now have the Social Studies textbooks and associated learning
materials available for review. They are located in a classroom which
presently is available on Monday and Friday from noon to 4:30. August
12th through August 23rd the room should be available from 8:00-4:30.
Please come to the Office of the Dean, 215 Ball Hall for access.
It is recommended that you call 678-2399 to be sure the room is
available at the time you wish to come.”

That prompted Mick to say:

“I think it’s inappropriate for the textbooks to be unavailable outside
of typical working hours if this is to be a public review. Obviously,
the news release was inaccurate considering that the Memphis location
was not available for the first two weeks of the review period. The
state should have taken measures to ensure that the textbook
collection sites were open and available to the public.

This makes an already strained relationship between the public and the
government worse, in light of all the school reform and common core
implementation. The Tennessee public is being asked to accept several
things on trust, and a little more transparency and flexibility could
go a long way toward alleviating the anxiety many of us feel.”

Tennessee Department of Education email:

New Textbooks Available for Public’s Review; Input Encouraged

NASHVILLE—New K-12 social studies textbooks proposed for use in Tennessee public schools during the 2014-15 school year are on display in 10 district textbook collection sites located across the state.

As in past years, the public can review all textbooks at any time during the six-year adoption period, but public comments on the proposed social studies textbooks must be submitted by Sept. 11, 2013, to be considered by the publisher. Forms are available at each site for public input. The 10 textbook collection sites also house all the books on the approved list for all subject areas.

Morgan Branch, director of textbook services, encouraged parents, family members, educators, and the general public to visit the textbook sites and to participate in the review process. “It is very important for the public to have access to the textbooks under consideration,” Branch said. “Our goal is to provide a wide variety of materials that enrich and support the curriculum and address students’ varied interests, abilities, and learning styles.”

In addition to citizen input, a state review committee of teachers is assisting the Tennessee Textbook Commission members with their evaluation of the textbooks. Commission members can also use the professional expertise of teachers in their local school systems.

After the commission’s Sept. 16, 2013, meeting, a workshop will be held for textbook publishers to respond to the reviews of their books and to answer questions from a representative panel of the reviewers and commission members. At their October 2013 meeting, commission members will vote on the new editions to recommend to the State Board of Education for the 2013 official list of textbooks, after which state board members will make the final decision on the official list. Local school systems can then choose which textbooks to adopt from the official state textbook list for a six-year period.

Citizens interested in reviewing the proposed social studies textbooks should contact the director of the textbook collection site in their area.

Public comments regarding the proposed social studies textbooks should be sent to Morgan Branch, director of textbook services, Tennessee Department of Education, 11th Floor, Andrew Johnson Tower,

Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0379 by Sept. 11, 2013. Citizens with questions about the process may email or call (615) 253-3160.

For more information, please contact Kelli Gauthier at (615) 532-7817 or

For West Tennessee the location lists the Learning Resources Center, University of Memphis, Ball Education Building, Room 320 Memphis, TN 38152

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