Frank Wang knew he was green to the world of textbook publishing.
By then president and CEO, Wang stood before the committee and, he says, got grilled about minute issues such as what specific math problems in Saxon books are open-ended.
After some back-and-forth where the committee chairman didn't seem satisfied, Wang was asked, "Are there problems about how many Froot Loops it would take to cover the floor?
" The committee later voted down the Saxon program.
"That's when I really began to realize that the adoption process is not about results," Wang explains.
"I don't think any of [the committee members] ask if the program actually works in the classroom or not." Instead, it's about "playing the game, playing the politics, kissing the right rear end." Textbook adoption systems, in which a committee selects or recommends what books and other core instructional materials reach local classrooms, are practiced in up to 22 states (depending on whom you ask).
Dating back to the Reconstruction era, adoption is done mainly in the South and West.
"When you look at the process, it's broken on a number of fronts," says Justin Torres, research director at The Fordham Institute, which released the report The Mad, Mad World of Textbook Adoption in September. It puts the whole process in the hands of fringe groups, in both the right and the left.
He made his way through the balloons and streamers to the cake-cutting area, where he got an earful about the swanky restaurant where the guests of honor would be dining that night. Virtually all the books under review that month in Oklahoma got adopted unanimously.
Saxon, meanwhile, got a resounding NO from committee members whose names still echo in Wang's ears.