Indian River County guest reviewer flags the most issues in Florida math textbooks

A math textbook reviewer from Indian River County said her complaints to the school board about what some call critical race theory fell on deaf ears. 

Chris Allen, who has a child in Indian River County elementary schools, applied to be a guest reviewer of textbook submissions when the state was asking for applicants. 

"I figured that it is a math book. What are the chances of me finding it here?" Allen said.

She reviewed two books from Savvas Learning Company. One was called "Thinking Mathematically," and the other was called "Precalculus." 

Her reviews, released by the state last week, showed she gave solid marks in dozens of categories, like solving real world problems and building perseverance. 

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But she flagged passages that she said asked whether algebra can explain racial bias, whether racism is embedded in American society dependent on age, that quoted mainstream media for statistics and presented global warming as fact. 

Other reviewers of the same books only flagged one similar concern, and gave solid marks.

"I am not sure why they did not see it," she said during an interview Tuesday. "Maybe they were looking at how it aligned to the best standards, whereas I was looking at, along with the standard, seeing how the lesson was taught, and specifically the wording used in the examples."

It's unclear how reviews from guests like Allen - and expert reviewers including teachers - were weighed when the state sent 54 of 132 books back to publishers for revisions, or if concerns beyond critical race theory played a role. 

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Nineteen of those 54 were subsequently approved. Democratic state representatives said Governor Ron DeSantis is using schools as a stage for politics.

"So much of the governor's political agenda is based upon hysteria. What kind of drama can we create now, what kind of tension can we exploit?" said State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando). "It turns out that when it comes to math textbooks, the critique that there is critical race theory in our textbooks is just not true."

The state rating system had dozens of reviewers grade books one through five, five being highest, on how aligned they were with the Department of Education's standards. 

A scroll through the overwhelming majority of the book reviews showed mostly scores of four and five.

Allen is a former aerospace engineer and is the vice chair of a chapter of the conservative non-profit, Moms for Liberty, which insists school districts overstep their bounds on COVID-19 mask mandates, and the content of lessons.

"I am very happy to see the Florida Dept. of Education is listening, even though the district level is supposed to be listening to us first," Allen said.