Things are getting strange in the world of textbooks.
For example, take The Daily Beast’s recent report that the vast majority of textbooks being sold that claim to reflect the Common Core standards actually fail to meet some of the most basic requirements.
“In response to the new standards, textbook publishers touted new editions they said were aligned to the Common Core,” The Daily Beast's Matt Collette wrote. “But nearly all of them were just repackaged versions of earlier books.”
According to Collette, this oversight isn’t just part of the rocky transition toward the new education standards laid out in the Common Core, it’s a “swindle.”
Collette’s report is based on a survey conducted by EdReport, an organization that “aims to become something like a Consumer Reports for Common Core, reviewing textbooks the same way the consumer-protection magazine does for something like cars.”
In their most recent survey of K-12 textbooks, EdReport found that only 11 of the 80 books they reviewed actually met the standards of the Common Core.
This isn’t the first time in recent history that textbook land has come under heavy scrutiny. Far from it.
Last year, U.S. News reported that the price of college textbooks has increased by 82 percent over the past 10 years. Such price inflations, the report found, are taking a serious toll on students.
“Due to the high cost of textbooks, 65 percent of students said they decided against buying a book required for class,” U.S. News’ Allie Bidwell wrote. “Of those students, nearly all (94 percent) said they were concerned that doing so would hurt their grade in a class.”
But to many economists, it doesn’t look like things will be changing any time soon.
“Like doctors prescribing drugs, professors assigning textbooks do not pay for the products themselves, so they have little incentive to pick cheap ones,” The Economist wrote last August. “Some assign books they have written themselves. The 20 million post-secondary students in America often have little choice in the matter. Small wonder textbooks generate megabucks.”
These recent hiccups in textbook politics, coupled with the partisan fights over the content in history textbooks, has led some to argue that maybe it’s time for a major shakeup to how we assign readings in the classroom.
While many in the U.S. still argue the virtues of the classic hard copy books, Education World’s Nicole Gorman wrote on Wednesday, “As digital resources become an increasingly relied upon fixture in the classroom, educators and policy makers are torn on the future of the traditional textbook.”
Some of the most successful education programs in the world (Gorman cites Japan’s school system in particular) have largely abandoned the traditional format and gone digital, she said.
So even though textbooks themselves likely aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, some of the recent frustrations suggest the industry itself is in dire need of new PR strategy.
JJ Feinauer is a writer for Deseret News National. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: jjfeinauer.