Unilaterally Altered

Textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is alleging that the Tennessee Department of Education “unilaterally altered” the textbook adoption process in a way that disadvantaged HMH and possibly benefitted other, preferred vendors.

The complaint, filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, makes the following claims:

However, the Department unilaterally altered the adoption process 
when it had already begun and significant steps already had been completed.

The original schedule was suspended when Dr. Lisa Coons became the 
Department’s new Assistant Commissioner for Standards and Materials

The Department then proposed various changes to the adoption process, 
and the Commission agreed to make certain changes to the re-review process in response thereto.

HMH notes that after the new process was in place, HMH’s Into Reading Tennessee, Grade 3 was failed. While HMH’s materials were failed, HMH suggests competing programs that were failed by the re-reviewers were ultimately awarded passing grades by the Tennessee Department of Education.

The net result: Because HMH’s 3rd grade materials were failed, school districts will be discouraged from adopting the HMH materials as a whole, as the materials build on each other through grade level series.

Here’s the real question: Why was the process changed mid-stream? What was behind Coons’ revamping of the process? Why were some materials that previously failed to meet standards ultimately adopted? Was there a preferred vendor (as was the case in the recent awarding of a contract to ClassWallet)?

So far, the tenure of Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn has been marked by lots of questions and very few answers.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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