FAQ for Truth in Texas Textbooks

A FAQ section for Truth in Textbooks (TNT) will be forthcoming once the first class graduates in April 2016. 

The following FAQ applied to TTT operations. Some of the procedures and protocols will remain the same but there are other significant changes that will be highlighted in 2Q16.

Truth in Texas Textbook Coalition Questions and Answers:

1. I’ve never reviewed textbooks before, how does one do it?

a. The short answer is, we will train you. All of us read; some more discerningly than others but we can all comprehend the words on a page. We will take those basic skills and work to get your “eyes adjusted” to reading in a more discerning fashion. We’ve spoken to over a dozen experts in the field of textbook review and while we won’t turn you into an expert, TTT is confident you can help us immensely in this process. The months of Jan-March will be used to get everyone up to speed and familiar with our process and protocols. We want the reviews to be consistent and follow a template that will allow the errors to be easily read, cross-referenced and most importantly accurate.

2. Which textbooks, the teacher’s edition or the student edition or both will be reviewed?

a. It has been decided that we will only review the teacher’s edition. Teacher’s editions contain all of the material found in the student’s edition. There is also much more in the teacher’s edition to include where all of the TEKS are located in and what they are. There are suggested exercises and other material not found in the student edition. The teacher’s edition contains all of the student’s edition plus much more.

3. Will we have hard copies of textbooks or will everything be online?

a. At this point we are expecting to only have .pdf or similar type online access that will be downloadable. In the past textbook manufacturers have allowed access to their textbooks only on their websites which have become much more complex to access each time.

They were often not “cut and paste” friendly…another technique that publishers use to make reviewing difficult. We have spoken to several members of the SBOE we want a fully readable, .pdf, cut and paste friendly electronic version of the textbooks to be reviewed. They also want this and will be pushing for it to occur. We will also ask for hard copies where team members do not have online access.

If we are denied and are only allowed online access options copying the publication maybe a possibility but that will be publisher dependent. TTT leadership are covering other associated costs with this project. If you require a copy of the textbook we ask that you pay for it yourself. If funds become available later, you can submit your receipts and receive reimbursement if sufficient funds exists.

4. What is the scope and breadth of the type of review I will be expected to conduct?

a. A more in-depth of this answer is forthcoming. The categories of items to be reported on is not all inclusive but merely illustrative of what TTT will submit in our final report.

i. Spelling and grammar errors
ii. Incorrect dates, measurements of time
iii. Factual inaccuracies
iv. An imbalance of dedicated words/lines/pages to similar topics prohibiting the reader from getting an accurate assess of all sides of the issue/topic.
v. Omissions that prevent the reader from drawing reasonable conclusions when studying a topic.
vi. Opinions disguised as facts that adhere to a PC theme

5. Will I be reviewing the book by myself?

a. No. You will be assigned to a review team (RT) of 3 other individuals. There will be a team leader (TL) who will manage the RT and be participating equally with the team.

6. How long will each RT have to review the book and report their findings?

a. A total of three weeks. Two weeks for the actual reading and critiquing of the book. The third week to compile, write, and agree as a group the review is 100% accurate.

7. How will the workload within each RT be distributed?

a. The TL will have the option to use his resources as he/she deems most appropriate. Possibly options would be to split the book in half and have two persons read and review 50% of the book while the other two are reviewing the other 50%. Having two sets of eyes review the same material provides perspective and a different point of view that will give Triple T more credibility when the final result is released. A single person critiquing a book may interject personal bias while having two reviewers provides a more balanced view. TL can assign chapters for review if that is more appropriate or whatever method he/she chooses.

8. What happens if someone drops out of the team due to personal reasons?

a. The team will continue to press on with the review. If the TL wishes to have an additional person added, the hope is to have some volunteers who have been through the training in the “bull-pen” ready to be utilized. The original deadlines will be maintained if at all possible. If relief needs to occur, the TL will contact Roy White to discuss options. If multiple teams are short-manned we will break up a team and farm out those individuals to other teams to fill them out but only after they have completed their reviews of the book they are working on.

9. What happens after the RT completes their review?

a. Two things. The preliminary report will be forwarded to the “Review the Reviewers” (RR) group. RRs will run a check on the preliminary report for accuracy and make recommended corrections or return the report for further clarification if necessary. They may also declare the report final and approve with no changes.

b. In the meantime, the RT will be assigned another textbook to review once the preliminary report is submitted for review. The three week timeline begins when each person gains access to the textbook.

10. Who is on the “review the reviewers” team?

a. TTT has recruited experts in the various subject matters from around the country to conduct these final reviews. These are people with credentials and are area expert in their field. They will communicate directly with the TL if there are questions with the preliminary report. A full list of these individuals will be released at the time the final report is released.

11. What happens when RR completes their review?

a. The critique will be declared “final” and put to the side ready for release at a later time.

b. Or, the RR contacts the TL of the preliminary report and returns it with questions, clarifications or tasks for the RT to complete prior to submitting back to the RR for a final review.

12. What happens when the RT gets a “returned” preliminary report?

a. The priority is on completing the review the RT is currently working on. When the new textbook’s preliminary report has been forwarded to the RR for their process, the RT will make appropriate changes or defend why changes are not required on their earlier review. The final report will be sent to the same RR for final approval. When those corrections/findings are complete, the team will be assigned another book to start the entire process again.

13. How many textbooks can I expect an RT to do?

a. Based upon our timeline and assuming we receive access to the textbooks in early May, the hope would be a total of 12 weeks would allow each team to review 3-4 textbooks. We realize this isn’t a perfect schedule but this is our goal. However, it is better to do fewer books and be 100% than try to do more and have errors in our findings. The month of August would be used to put together the final report and clear up any last minute questions on any of the textbooks. We will also prepare our reviewers for those who wish to testify in Sept at the public hearings. We will have a better idea on the timeline through the summer but that is our plan as we speak.

14. When will the titles/subject matter be assigned to the various RTs?

a. The publishers must provide the title, author’s name and other identifying information of each book they plan to submit on January 31, 2014. However, we won’t have the actual material until approximately May 1, 2014. We will assign the specific textbooks/publishers shortly after the January notification. In other words, a RT will know the title and publisher of the textbook nearly 3 months before the review of that book begins. This is a tremendous advantage to the RTs.

15. What will occur between the time the textbook details are released in January and when the material becomes available in early May?

a. Several things. RTs will use this time to look at reviews of past textbooks by the same publisher as the one they are assigned. TTT will send these textbooks to your TL who will distribute them to the RT electronically. The hope will be for the RT to look at the publishers trends from the past as many of the books that will be reviewed will be new editions with new covers and names quite different in appearance from older textbooks. However the likelihood is there will be a lot of “cutting and pasting” within these “new” books from previous editions.

b. Also, this will be the time for each RT member to get to know his/her other RT members. Understanding who you are working with, telling everyone on your team your strengths and limitations will help the TL and others on the team get the most out of each person while completing the reviews on time and being 100% accurate.

16. How will the Team Leaders communicate with his/her team?

a. Several ways. TTT has a free conference call phone number that RTs can use. Instructions on reserving the line will be sent to all TLs. TL can establish their own “free” conference call number if they wish to. It is easy and completely free.

b. Email is one way also but does not work well for collaborative efforts. A software program called “Basecamp” has been purchased by TTT. Each RT will have project space (we have room for up to 50 RTs conducting reviews at one time) within the web application program. This site will be the place where your team will post their ongoing reviews/comments for their team to see how things are going. They can also leave messages, notes to each other as well as ask questions of other RT members that maybe related to similar issues. This can be done via a “forum” that will be accessible to all members for open discussion.

17. What is “Basecamp” and how does it work?

a. Basecamp is a project management web-based application that allows multiple projects (each RT will have their own “project space”) to be managed in a collaborative manner. Teams of individuals can use it to see “to do” lists to accomplished, questions/answers from others on the team to help move the project along, a place to centralize storage of rough notes and other commentary.

b. Each person will only be given access to their “project space” via a password. Storage space is limited so it is unclear at this point if the actual textbooks will be stored on the site. The hope will be for each RT member to have their own copy of the textbook whether it is stored on Basecamp or one’s own .pdf version.

18. Will we receive training on how to use Basecamp?

a. There are tutorials on line that are available. You will be notified of when you will be granted access to these. TLs are also encouraged to use their project space and other tools well in advance of the release of the materials in early May. We expect to have Basecamp accessible to everyone sometime in February 2014.

19. Will I be able to read the reviews of other RTs?

a. No. You will only have access to your RT project space. You will be able to communicate with other RT members if you wish through the forum, email or by phone. However, you are not prevented from discussing your readings or other general observations with others outside the RT. However, your notes, comments in your space or those of your team members will only be viewable by your RT members, the RR individuals and the TTT leadership team.

20. As a TL, what happens if someone on the teams is not doing the assigned reading and completing the tasks assigned?

a. This is likely to happen. Assuming you have done everything to motivate the individual (speak directly, ask the other RT members to encourage the person who is not contributing) and for whatever reason they are not completing the tasks assigned, the TL will notify Roy White and all three will talk about options. The entire team can be involved in this process if the TL wishes to include them. Access to future mailings or Basecamp will stop when someone leave TTT.

21. What if I’m on RT and have conflicts with my TL. What are my options?

a. This is also likely to occur. Not everyone will get along and some leadership styles don’t translate well. Regardless, work with the other RT members and assess if this is a problem for everyone or just you. Regardless, those members who are having problems should arrange a time to speak to the TL and if desired by those on the team, Roy White or someone else from TTT can participate and help to find a solution.

22. I want to review textbooks but only want to do it by myself. Do I have to be assigned to at RT or can I modify this process as outlined above so I can conduct my own single person review?

a. The short answer is “no single person review”. It is important any reviews put out by TTT follow a standard set of protocols and procedures. Having a consistent approach to each textbook and having multiple persons involved in the review will make the results less vulnerable to criticism that we were biased. Having a consensus of individual opinions about what constitute errors that need to be corrected improves the perception of those who will use our finished product to purchase the best social studies textbooks that will be reviewed.

23. I’ve got three other friends who I would like to work with on reviewing textbooks. Can we make up our own team?

a. While on paper that sounds good, the short answer is “no”. It is important that people from various backgrounds and experiences make up each team. The survey provides us the ability to spread out our talent and experience levels. This in turn provides a more thorough review of a book and less likely for biases to creep into the review. Plus you get to meet and have 3 new friends!

24. What happens when an “error” I’ve found is not included in the preliminary report? Final report? What can I do?

a. Let’s all agree that every statement or error that persons identify will not be included in the preliminary findings or final report. That is the purpose of having others on the team to provide perspective, honest criticism and insure that emotions nor opinions are being alleged to be facts. If you believe your “facts” are not being accepted then do more research to prove your point and find the data to support your statements. We will judge the publishers the same way and we should hold ourselves to the same standards. Emotion has no room in conducting these reviews.

b. Make your appeal to the team with the additional documentation/data. If you feel so strongly about it not appearing in the preliminary report, make a note of it and have the TL submit your critique directly to the reviewer who is reviewing the preliminary report. This should be no more than a handful of differences of opinion from the RT…remember the RT is submitting a report they agree may not include all errors found but the ones that are presented are 100% in error.

c. For a conflict on the final review, the majority of the team will vote on the individual item(s) and the majority opinion will prevail. If there is a tie among the RT member’s vote, the RR that reviewed the preliminary review will make the final decision. It is better to leave out one or two possible errors than have them included and have them come back to hurt the overall credibility of the organization for turning out to be incorrect.

25. What precisely is the format and protocol for reviewing the book?

a. We have spoken to numerous persons and groups who do this. TTT has prepared several rough draft versions of slightly different templates that are being considered. We will release a preliminary version to everyone and ask for your observation and comments sometime in January.

It won’t be fancy, most likely a simple three column format identifying the location (page, chapter, line) in the textbook of the error. The other columns will be home to the word/line/paragraph that is in error with another column documenting where the correct information can be found. Long emotional editorials toward the publishers or editors will not be included. For those old enough to remember Joe Friday in the TV show Dragnet, “Just the facts ma’am” is our mantra. While that sounds simple, we understand it will require more attention to detail and reading comprehension and analysis than most of us use to when we read recreationally.

TL will insure any errors that are identified are “categorized” in order for TTT to group errors into broad categories. This will be extremely beneficial when we share our information with the public, elected officials and the media in order to give a broad description of the problems we identified versus getting into the weeds on each and every error. However, every error identified in the final review will be included in the detailed summary of each textbook.

Here is our template TTT Publication Evaluation Template Proc2015 used for our reviews.

THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR INTEREST IN LEARING MORE ABOUT THE TRIPLE T COALITION