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Education Reporter

Tennessee Parents Aid Textbook Review

Cherrie Holden
GERMANTOWN, TN - A new program initiated by Tennessee State School Board member, Cherrie Holden, allows parents to review textbooks selected by the state Textbook Commission for use in the public schools. The new textbooks are displayed at the Shelby County Library in Holden's district for a six-week period - the same length of time the commission allows for review by state school board members before officially adopting the books.

Holden devised a checklist for parent evaluations, including practical considerations such as how much a book weighs and how easy it is for students to use. In reviewing content, Holden reports that some parents have complained about Political Correctness in reading and history books. Holden herself found fault with one middle-school history book because it "was written at a 3rd- to 4th-grade level."

So far, textbooks getting a "thumbs down" from Holden and other parent-reviewers have not been eliminated from the state Textbook Commission's list. "But we're new at this," she points out, "and some parents' recommendations have made a difference at the local level, where input to local textbook commissions can influence the selections for local school districts based on the state commission's list."

The Tennessee state Textbook Commission adopts an official list of new textbooks by subject every six years. The state school board may review these books and make recommendations. In reality, notes Holden, due to the limited time allowed for review and the volume of books to be evaluated, the school board has done little more than rubber-stamp the commission's lists. "I decided that the school board really should be looking at the books and tried to review all of them myself," she explains. "I quickly realized this wasn't possible, and I decided to get parents involved."

The Shelby County library is currently the only place where parents can review new textbooks, but Holden says she "would love to see other board members do this in their districts." She is excited that input from Shelby County parents is being heard at the state level by both the school board and the Textbook Commission.

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