FAQ for Truth in Textbooks

Truth in Textbooks (TNT), previously known as Truth in Texas Textbooks Coalition (TTT) is independent of all other non-profits or corporations.  It is currently filing for 501c3 status with the Federal Government and registered in Texas. Donations are not tax deductible at this time.  Upon approval, we will post that information on our website and notify our volunteers.

The goal of TNT is to be the source for parents, school officials and educational professions for unbiased reviews of social studies textbooks, instructional material and supplemental assignments for students at grade K-12 in the areas of US. History, World Geography, World History, World Cultures and US Government.  Think of TNT as an “Angie’s List” rating for social studies textbooks.

If after reading this overview you wish to volunteer to be a reviewer write to us at tnt.textbooks@gmail.com and in the Subject Line say “Request Further Information on Truth in Textbooks”.  You can always change your mind but we hope that after you learn more you will find time to be part of this unique experience.

Since inception (2013) Truth in Textbooks has trained nearly 200 volunteers from 20 states and conducted social studies instructional material reviews in Texas (37 books), North Carolina (8), Florida (10) and New York (1).  We expect to wrap California reviews that began in May 2017 by December ’17 resulting in close to 40 social studies textbooks K-8 reviewed. Those reviews will be shared with the school districts in California in hopes of influencing the purchase of the most accurate textbooks and excluding from consideration books that are deemed “poor” or “unacceptable”. When publishers begin to feel a financial hit in producing poor books, they will be more motivated to create more accurate textbooks.

This link will take you to a brochure that summarizes what Truth in Texas Textbooks Coalition accomplished in our early days.

Long Term Strategic Plan

The goal is to have 300-500 trained reviewers from around the country in order to conduct reviews following the protocols and procedures established by Truth in Textbooks. Encourage publishers to work with TNT in preparing the social studies textbooks prior to final printing in hopes of restoring the historical accuracy that has been deleted or altered.

Near Term Tactical Plan

Our schedule for training for 2018 is tentative and may change but for planning purposes it is as follows:

Class 2018A start date early January

Class 2018B start date early April

Class 2018C start date early July

Class 2018D start date early October

For each “Class”, recruitment will occur through public announcements by various organizations, media outlets and bloggers that support our efforts.  We ask that volunteers come in with the attitude of restoring truth to our children’s textbooks.  We want our children to know the facts associated with our country’s history and the world’s, not be to be led down politically correct paths to conclusions that is agenda based or politically correct.

Beginning in January 2018 TNT reviewers from around the country will undertake reviewing Florida social studies textbooks.  The books have already been selected by the state but the 67 districts in Florida will be choosing from a state approved list. TNT will present our findings to these state districts through local advocates with the same goal TNT always has, encourage the writing of accurate textbooks by highlighting publishers that stick to the facts and expose those who don’t and inform the local school boards of this data.

Training Overview

First two months of each 3 month training cycle:

Beginning January and starting each quarter, the training cycle will run for three months.  Training consists of weekly conference calls involving discussions and sharing of information on various aspects of textbooks reviews.  The use of the TNT template and testimony from experts in the field along with previous TNT volunteers who have successfully conducted textbook reviews will be shared.  Definitions of what the various errors one is likely to encounter, online research methodology, how to use Basecamp (the online collaborative tool that stores all TNT material produced by the volunteers) and other topics are some of the examples of what is discussed.   All conference calls will be recorded for those persons whose schedule doesn’t permit them to hear the live call.

Third Month of the Training Cycle

A “mock review” and assignment to a team of 3 other reviewers who will conduct actual online review of social studies textbooks using the TNT procedures and protocols.  Each team will have their reviews evaluate and critique. A book (online) is assigned based upon your expressed subject matter interest and one other person on your team and you will review ½ of the book and the other two members will review the other ½.

You and your partner will complete the review using the procedures and protocols taught in the previous two months.  These reviews require approximately 8-9 hrs worth of reading per week during the mock review month.  You will have approximately 3 weeks to complete your review of 250-300 pages.  You and your partner will compare notes on your findings and come to a consensus on what are “true” errors and then combine your report, maximum length is 15 pages total between the two reviewers, and submit it for review by Dr Alfonsi who will evaluate your report and give your team feedback on what you did correctly and what improvements need to occur to make you a more effective reviewer.

What Happens After TNT Reviewer Certification?

Upon completion, each reviewer who successfully complete the program will be asked to complete a survey that indicates six-week period (continuous) of the year they can commit to conduct reviews on behalf of TNT.  It is wise to jump right in and at least participate immediately or within several months of the training in order to reinforce the training you received.  TNT will be reviewing Florida textbooks in early 2018 so expect to be asked to help reviewing those textbooks if possible beginning in April 2018. Subsequent review cycles are encouraged if your time schedule permits.  Any questions can be directed to tnt.textbooks@gmail.com

Truth in Textbook Questions and Answers:

  1. What is Truth in Textbooks (TNT)?
    1. It is a coordinated effort to return “truth” to social studies textbooks used in American schools.
    2. Trained individuals working in groups of four (a “review team”)  conduct systematic reviews social studies textbook, related instructional material or supplemental material that concerned parents, educators or school officials may submit for review. Subject matter experts will “review the reviewers” research and issue a final version of the summary of findings to the parties requesting the assistance.
    3. There is no charge for this service and anyone may submit material for review.
    4. TNT is independent of all other non-profits and corporations.  TNT wishes to become the depository for textbook reviews from around the country.
  2. How many reviewers does TNT wish to train?
    1. Between 300-500 reviewers. We have currently trained since 2013 over 150 reviewers.
  3. How many volunteers will be trained at a time and how long is each training period?
    1. That depends solely on registration.  Our average class size ranges from upwards of 30 to as small as 10 persons.
  4. When you say people are “trained” to review textbooks, what type of training do they receive?
    1. Volunteers will participate in a three month training course. The course will consist of listening to textbook review experts speak via conference calls (1 hr. call per week, all recorded in case persons miss) on various topics to include: defining the different category of errors, how these errors are manifested in the textbooks, how to use the TNT template properly and  how to use “Basecamp”,  the online collaborative tool used during the process and many more topics.
    2.  After these two months of training the individuals will apply the TNT protocols and procedures learned during the previous two months in working with three other individuals in a “mock” review of a social studies textbook. Each “review team” will be assigned a textbook (approximately 200-300 pages) to review on line using the training received.  The reviewers will receive feedback on their review.   Upon successful completion of the review and a positive rating from the others on the team, the person will be certified as a TNT reviewer.
  5.  I’ve never reviewed textbooks before, how does one do it? 
    1. 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, TNT is confident you can help us immensely in this process.  Evidence that it can be done by non-degree holding persons are our previous reports that have been praised by Texas State Board of Educators as being “highly accurate and informative”.    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.
  6. How do I register to become a reviewer?
    1. By writing to us at tnt.textbooks@gmail.com and expressing your interest in becoming a reviewer.  Upon successful completion of the survey a TNT representative will contact you in the month prior to the start of the next class to determine your level of interest with a phone interview.  After that assessment a final decision will be made to accept you into TNT and you will receive further instructions.
  7. How is TNT organized to provide teams of reviewers to be available all 12 months a year?
    1. Upon completion of the training volunteers will be asked to complete a “dream sheet” of a six week period (each period begins on the first of a month) or multiple periods they can be on call for textbook reviews for the remaining calendar year and for the first six months of 2017.  The goal is to have between 7-11 “review teams” available throughout the year in order to be able to respond immediately to submissions from around the country.
  8. If a textbook is to be reviewed, will the teacher’s edition or the student edition or both will be reviewed?
    1. Whenever possible we will review the “teacher’s edition”. It contains more information that has been found to be factually inaccurate also as well contain material that can be “agenda based” and/or laced with leading questions toward a pre-determined politically correct message.
  9. What is the scope and breadth of the type of review I will be expected to conduct?
    1. 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 TNT will submit in our final report. TNT review teams (made up of 2 per persons reviewing ½ of the book) limit their critique to a maximum of 15 pages of errors. We list only the most egregious errors, not every single error that is discovered. The types of errors listed below are in the priority in which they are included in the 15-page report.
  1. Factual inaccuracies
  2. 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.
  • Omissions that prevent the reader from drawing reasonable conclusions when studying a topic.
  1. Opinions disguised as facts that adhere to a PC theme
  2. Spelling and grammar errors
  3. Incorrect dates, measurements of time

 

       10. Will I be reviewing the book by myself?

    1. 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.  Each 4-person team is divided into 2 teams made up of 2 reviewers.  One 2-person team reviews ½ the book, the other 2-person team reviews the other half

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

    1. A total of three-four weeks. Two-three 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.

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

    1. Each individual completes the template with the errors they find following the TNT protocol for completion.  Near the end of the review, coordinate with your teammate to speak over the phone in comparing your report with theirs.  Come to a consensus of what the major errors are and limit your half of the book to a maximum of 15 pages for final review by Dr Alfonsi.

         13, What happens if someone drops out of the team due to personal reasons?

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 TNT personnel at tnt.textbooks@gmail.com or via Basecamp 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.

What happens after the RT completes their review?

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.

If further textbooks or instructional material are up for review, the review team will conduct further reviews until their “alert period” is over.

Who is on the “review the reviewers” team? 

TNT 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.

What happens when RR completes their review?

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

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.

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

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.

What happens if I am unable to fulfill my commitment, the entire six week period or any portion of it?   

Notify TNT officials at tnt.textbooks@gmail.org or via Basecamp immediately with an alternative 6 week period of time that you can conduct review.  If you have completed at least four weeks of your commitment to review textbooks there is no requirement to sign up for another two week period of time.

What subject will I be reviewing?

Each volunteer indicates on the initial TNT survey their preferences for subject matter they wish to focus on.  TNT will assign you to a 4 person team of other individuals who have similar interest that will make up your four person team.

In some cases you may be asked to review instructional materials or a textbook that was not on your list.  We would ask that you consider still participating but if you believe you would not do a thorough job then we will reassign someone else to that review team.

I was asked to not share my reviews with others outside of TNT. Why?

The work TNT reviewers is doing is not to be shared with others outside of TNT until TNT releases it publicly. Once that occurs, volunteers who worked on the project may share the results freely.  However, that does not include interviews with the media of any sort.  Posting the material on social media is fine but not before it is released on the TNT website.

TNT does not identify who our reviewers are and we ask our reviewers to refrain from identifying themselves as TNT reviewers.  This is for your protection as the media will not hesitate to criticize you personally and others they identify.  TNT will ask individual reviewers at strategic time (testimony before State Boards of Education or local school boards) to make comments or write editorials to reply to the media. In those cases TNT will work with the reviewers on their responses.

How will the Team Leaders communicate with his team?

Several ways.  TNT 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.

Email is one way also but does not work well for collaborative efforts.  A software program called “Basecamp” has been purchased by TNT. 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.

What is “Basecamp” and how does it work?

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.

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. Your critiques will be uploaded as you are working on them during the cycle. This allows the TNT staff to see your work and know that things are progressing normally.  If we see no uploads, we can only assume you are not completing the task and reach out to you and ask if you are still interested in participating.

Will we receive training on how to use Basecamp?

Conference calls and online tutorials will be used to train reviewers. You will be notified of when you will be granted access to these.  All reviewers will be trained on Basecamp before being assigned their first “real” review.