Superintendent's Memo #090-11

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

April 1, 2011

TO: Division Superintendents

FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: Board of Education Action Regarding Textbook Approval and Timelines

At its meeting on March 24, 2011, the Virginia Board of Education took several important actions related to the revision of the state textbook approval process; the status of textbook approval for mathematics, English/Language Arts, and science; and issues related to history and social science textbooks published by Five Ponds Press.

Textbook Approval Process

The Board of Education’s revised textbook approval process places primary responsibility on publishers to ensure the accuracy of their textbooks. The new textbook submission forms contain a certification by publishers that each textbook submitted for approval has been reviewed for factual accuracy by experts qualified in the subject matter and an agreement that the publisher will submit a corrective action plan to respond to any substantial errors identified in a book after its approval by the Board of Education. Corrective action plans must be approved by the Board of Education, but the Board delegated the approval of corrective action plans not involving significant errors to the superintendent of public instruction.  Corrective plans may include, but are not limited to:  a) corrections upon reprinting of the textbook; b) corrective edits to an online textbook; c) electronic errata sheets posted on the publisher’s and the Department of Education’s Web sites; d) print errata sheets provided to schools for insertion into textbooks; e) replacement books; and f) return of the textbook and refund of any payment made for the textbook. Corrective action plans must be executed at the publisher’s expense.

The complete proposal as it was presented to the Board is available online at  However, edits were made to the language in the publisher’s submission forms during the Board meeting.  The final revised process and submission forms are available on the Department of Education’s Web page related to textbooks and instructional materials at

Section 22.1-238 of the Code of Virginia permits local school boards to approve textbooks that are not on the state-approved list provided the school board selects such books in accordance with regulations promulgated by the state Board.  The Board of Education encourages local school boards that opt to approve books that are not on the state-approved list to engage in a process similar to the Board’s new process, where they request from publishers certifications of accuracy and agreements related to correcting errors.  The forms available at the Web site noted above would be good models for such certifications and agreements.

Status of Textbook Approval for Mathematics, English/Language Arts, and Science

Mathematics Textbooks

In approving the new textbook review process, the Board of Education also indicated that all future textbooks presented to the Board for approval are subject to the completion of the certifications and agreements.  This includes mathematics textbooks that are currently under review, as they have not yet been presented to the Board.  Department of Education staff have already notified publishers whose mathematics textbooks met initial Standards of Learning correlations of the need to complete the forms before their mathematics textbooks can be moved forward for first review by the Board.  It is important to note, however, that these books have not been approved by the Board of Education, and the review process will not be complete until the Department of Education receives and reviews the publishers’ certifications and agreements and the Board of Education approves a list of textbooks.

It is anticipated that proposed mathematics textbooks will go to the Board of Education for first review in May 2011.  Following a required 30-day public comment period, the list of proposed mathematics textbooks will likely be presented to the Board for final review in July 2011.  If a school division is interested in the status of an individual publisher’s mathematics textbooks, it may contact that publisher for information on whether it has been requested to complete the new forms, and if it intends to do so.  Completion of the forms alone, however, does not guarantee that the Board will approve the books.

English/Language Arts and Science Textbooks

The Board of Education approved timelines to initiate the textbook review process in both English/Language Arts and in science.  The review process in English will begin in April 2011, with a list of state-approved textbooks anticipated by April 2012. A separate superintendent’s memorandum will be posted on April 1, 2011, providing additional information about that process.

The review process in science will begin in September 2011, with a list of state-approved textbooks anticipated by September 2012.  The complete timelines approved by the Board for both subject areas are available at

Actions Related to Five Ponds Press

On January 13, 2011, the Virginia Board of Education unanimously approved a motion that, in part, directed the Superintendent of Public Instruction:

  1. To initiate on the Board’s behalf a process to consider withdrawal of its approval of the textbooks Our Virginia: Past and Present (1st Ed.) and Our America to 1865 (1st Ed.), published in each case by Five Ponds Press; and
  2. To seek remedies from Five Ponds Press to help school divisions which have purchased those textbooks in replacing and/or correcting such textbooks as soon as possible, including pursuing any available assistance from and/or remedies involving the publisher; and
  3. To obtain a review by qualified experts of any other textbooks published by Five Ponds Press that have been approved by the Board of Education.

On March 24, 2011, the Board took the following actions related to the January motion:

  1. The Board withdrew its approval of two textbooks: Our Virginia: Past and Present (1st edition) and Our America to 1865 (1st edition), published in each case by Five Ponds Press, from the list of approved history and social science textbooks.
  2. Given that a number of school divisions have previously purchased the two textbooks: Our Virginia: Past and Present (1st edition) and Our America to 1865 (1st edition), which have now been removed from the Board’s list of approved history and social science textbooks, and

    Given that Five Ponds Press has stated its intention to produce a second edition that corrects errors present in the first editions and to replace the first editions now in the classrooms with the improved second editions, without charge to the school divisions that purchased the previous versions of the textbooks; and

    Given that school divisions deserve to know whether the second edition is satisfactory to the Board;

    The Board directed that, in the event that Five Ponds Press seeks an expedited review of the second edition of the two textbooks, the Superintendent of Public Instruction shall:
    1. Receive and review the request from Five Ponds Press in accordance with the terms of the Board’s newly-adopted textbook review process, and
    2. Bring to the Board a recommendation regarding the approval of the replacement editions.

  3. Based on the review of the history and social studies textbooks produced by Five Ponds Press and approved by the Board for use in grades K-3 and because the Board plans to take no action to remove the books from the list of textbooks approved by the Board, the Board directed the Superintendent to request from Five Ponds Press a corrective action plan to respond to such errors in the textbooks as have been identified. [Five Ponds Press’ K-3 history and social science books are Our World Let’s Go!, Our World Then & Now, Our World Near & Far, and Our World Far & Wide. The reviews of these books were sent to school divisions via a Superintendent’s E-mail on March 2, 2011.]

Please note that neither the Board of Education nor the Department of Education has directed school divisions to remove the books in question from classrooms.  The determination of how to address the current situation with the Five Ponds books is a local decision.  If Five Ponds Press chooses to resubmit for review second editions of Our Virginia: Past and Present and Our America to 1865, the books will be subject to the new textbook approval process.  The Department will make every effort to expedite the process once Five Ponds Press has submitted all information required for the review.  The results of that review will determine whether or not the new editions are added to the approved list.  Five Ponds Press has made reference to offering free second editions of these books to school divisions that bought the first edition books.  School divisions should contact Five Ponds Press for further details about this option.

If you have questions about the information provided in this memorandum, please contact the following Department of Education staff members as indicated: