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Tyranny of the Textbook: An Insider Exposes How Educational Materials Undermine Reforms

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1442211414
ISBN-10: 1442211415
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Despite the huge public debate about education reform, none of it has ever focused on textbooks, which may be one reason for the ineffectiveness of reform so far, argues Jobrack, a former teacher and curriculum developer for a textbook publisher. She strongly argues that school reform needs to include reevaluating how curriculum is developed and assessed; otherwise, any reform will fail. Jobrack documents how changing trends in education and even politics affect curriculum and textbook development, noting that textbooks are written to satisfy school boards in California and Texas, with minor tweaking for other states. Some states’ concerns about teaching evolution and sex education, teacher reluctance to change instructional methods, and added recent consternation about students not doing well on standardized tests are also affecting curriculum development. Jobrack begins with an analysis of the current textbook and curriculum-materials process, which frequently selects the least effective products, and examines the publishing business and its impact on curriculum development. Jobrack ends with suggestions for changes to improve curriculum in this eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at textbook selection and development. --Vanessa Bush

Review

This is the best and deepest book on the trouble with textbooks I have seen. If anything is going to be done, it may be Jobrack who will have to do it. (The Washington Post)

From long experience in educational publishing, Jobrack argues that textbooks today reflect not quality curricula or effective instruction, but the for-profit motives of publishers and the educational standards and testing requirements of states. Three states--California, Texas, and Florida--drive educational publishing, and only three companies now control more than three-quarters of the business. After an introduction, the book has two chapters that reveal the business and profit motive and the players and process of educational publishing. Then three chapters outline why standards and testing, technology, and teacher education and professional development do not improve student achievement. So what to do? "Curriculum is a key," Jobrack says (and adds the pithy observation that "standards are not curricula"). A Nation at Risk (1983) had recommendations, "yet to be realized," for publishers and publishing, to which Jobrack adds, in a final chapter, other suggestions and elaboration. If provided the most effective curricula, schools could promote professional development, help teachers change their methods, develop better lessons, and improve student achievement. The focus on educational publishing is a novel and penetrating critique. The chapters on the publishing business are especially informative. Summing Up: Recommended. (CHOICE)

Jobrack spent more than 25 years in the educational publishing industry and also worked as a middle school teacher. In this book, she presents a fascinating story of the life of textbooks, from their development through their distribution. Jobrack claims that, owing to several factors, the vast majority of textbooks are published for a narrow market (e.g., California and Texas), don’t focus on revising content or making instructional innovations, and therefore don’t support curriculum standards designed to improve student learning. Much of this book is eye-opening, especially the section on the dysfunctional relationship between teachers and textbooks. After laying out the cold facts of the situation now, Jobrack concludes with a chapter full of clear analysis and proposals of practical solutions for improvement. Verdict While maintaining an objective outlook, Jobrack also does an excellent job of entertaining the reader with salacious insider details into the world of textbook production. Her work will appeal most to educators and administrators at all primary and secondary levels, parents of schoolchildren, and college students majoring in education. (Library Journal, Starred Review)

A new book from a 25-year veteran of educational publishing argues that improving the curriculum—what actually gets taught in classrooms—is all too often left off the table. And the author, who provides an insider perspective on the world of developing and selecting curricular materials, contends that this neglect is a key obstacle to increased student learning....The book...seems especially timely, given the ongoing challenge we've chronicled here of bringing the common standards in English/language arts and mathematics to life in the classroom....Jobrack offers a behind-the-scenes look at how textbooks and other curricular materials are developed, written, adopted, and sold. The author, who prior to working in publishing spent several years teaching middle school and preschool, argues that the curriculum used in most classrooms is mediocre and typically fails to reflect best practices. The core problem, as she sees it, is a system that has failed to create the right conditions and incentives to ensure that high-quality curricula designed to optimize learning are developed and reach classrooms around the nation....Jobrack outlines a variety of ideas to improve the quality of curriculum and instruction. (Education Week)

Despite the huge public debate about education reform, none of it has ever focused on textbooks, which may be one reason for the ineffectiveness of reform so far, argues Jobrack, a former teacher and curriculum developer for a textbook publisher. She strongly argues that school reform needs to include reevaluating how curriculum is developed and assessed; otherwise, any reform will fail. Jobrack documents how changing trends in education and even politics affect curriculum and textbook development, noting that textbooks are written to satisfy school boards in California and Texas, with minor tweaking for other states. Some states’ concerns about teaching evolution and sex education, teacher reluctance to change instructional methods, and added recent consternation about students not doing well on standardized tests are also affecting curriculum development. Jobrack begins with an analysis of the current textbook and curriculum-materials process that frequently selects the least effective products and examines the publishing business and its impact on curriculum development. Jobrack ends with suggestions for changes to improve curriculum in this eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at textbook selection and development. (Booklist)

Jobrack has used her considerable experience to clarify the complex and diverse issues surrounding educational materials publishing, curriculum review and purchase, and classroom practices. She presents very complex processes in a readable, easy-to-understand style. Discussing the common practices of qualified, well-meaning people from authors, editors, teachers, and materials review committees, Jobrack explains why the diverse requirements and expectations of these groups may in fact work against each other as they struggle toward the common goal—improved student learning and performance. This volume provides important insights for anyone interested in improving America’s schools. (Ruth Cochrane, former publisher, SRA/McGraw-Hill)

Jobrack’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in educational improvement and reform. Her analyses of the forces that shape textbook development focus much-needed attention on curriculum, the area of education many reformers and school critics choose to ignore as they seek targets—'bad' teachers, lazy principals, teacher unions, etc.—to blame for failing students and schools. Content matters, and matters a great deal in student success. Jobrack provides evidence that, if they truly want better schools, reformers should be turning their attention away from who delivers instruction and toward the content of what is being delivered. (Fran Lehr, education consultant/writer)

Much of the current conversation on education reform centers on how Common Core national standards are supposed to drive improved student achievement through new curriculum materials. It would be good if the advocates of national standards knew a thing or two about how textbooks are made and what a leaky sieve they are for lofty standards, and much else. Tyranny of the Textbook is an indispensable insider's guide to how the publishing industry creates the single most important resource for what students will be taught in school and why that resource is badly flawed. I highly recommend this book. (Grover J. Russ Whitehurst, The Herman and George R. Brown Chair and director of the Brown Center on Education Policy, The Brookings Institute)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (December 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442211415
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442211414
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,068,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By LD TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Jobrack is very detailed in reiterating how the textbook industry works, how the education bureaucracy functions, and why teachers are so disheartened by the atmosphere they are trying to teach in. This book is not an easy read. Unfortunately, after clearly helping the reader identify the problems, her text becomes as boring as the textbooks she condemns. While pointing out that learning language is critical to education, she uses so many bureaucratic buzz words that when you finish a paragraph of her proposed change, it is empty of meaning. When a politician says, "We need to improve. We need to find the answers, We need to implement change." What did they really say that had any meaning? I had hoped that Jobrack could pinpoint practical solutions.

Highlights (the short version)
"Phonics, whole word, whole language, mastery learning, open classroom, team teaching, constructivism, discovery learning, multiculturalism, learning modalities, multiple intelligences, and differentiated instruction have all had their days in the sun. The educational pendulum swings from teacher-directed to student-driven instruction." Adults recognize that these techniques were used on them and have concluded that they have provided no lasting benefit to themselves.

Textbook publishers are in it for the money, not accuracy or thoroughness. To mollify the special interest groups, the history books are now 1000+ pages that have more graphics than substance. The authors are selected because they have written books previously, not because they know the subject matter.

Enough years have passed to prove that teacher's seniority or advanced degrees, smaller classes, smaller schools, and higher teacher pay has not improved student performance.
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I found the information of the book interesting and right on target. With the Common Core initiative publishing companies are putting together books for schools with out revising the content. My school district bought new algebra books for nine graders with a reading level 10th grade. Yes reading, new math books are pack with language that students find hard to understand. Not just the math vocabulary but the text level.
The book may give you view of another reason why tha achievement gap will never be close!
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Format: Hardcover
I have been acquainted with Mrs. Jobrack for more than 35 years and have consistently been impressed with her intellect and insight, her ability to explore all sides of an issue and evaluate them fairly. She has a unique perspective due to her background in all phases of the education system; and I know how inspired she is to grasp the issues most important to education today and find solutions. Tyranny of The Textbook is well-written, thorough and challenging to the status quo prevalent in textbook publishing. As a parent and grandparent, I am deeply concerned about what and how students today are learning, and Mrs. Jobrack's insider examination of the book selection process both surprised me and confirmed some of my fears about the value of current textbook materials. I highly recommend Tyranny of The Textbook; it is highly informative, compelling reading and an inspirational call to action to everyone wanting to improve materials used to instruct our students.
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