Florida's math textbook reviewer who found most CRT issues was a 'guest' reviewer

"Expert" reviewers found less CRT issues
Posted at 9:36 AM, May 16, 2022

Editor's Note:
Based on inaccurate information provided by the Florida Department of Education, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the company that published the material reviewed by Chris Allen.  The material was published by Pearson.

Original Story:

Chris Allen isn’t shy about what she found when she reviewed math textbooks for Florida's Department of Education.

“It wasn’t just critical race theory that I found. They had social justice issues, their data wasn’t accurate or up to date,” she said describing the math textbooks she reviewed for the state.

But most of the issues Allen flagged as a reviewer surrounded the inclusion of critical race theory (CRT).

“I feel like just based on those findings, that the state should not approve the curriculum,” she told Investigative Reporter Katie LaGrone recently.

The Indian River County mom is also a member of the predominately conservative group, Moms for Liberty. She said she has one son who attends a public elementary school.

Allen said she volunteered to be a state reviewer after evaluating textbooks in her own district and finding issues, she said, her local district ignored.

“Our school board is quick to dismiss what we found. The exact same findings I gave to the state, were the same ones I gave to our district,” she explained.

As part of her state review, Allen evaluated two high school-level math textbooks — Precalculus and Thinking Critically published by Pearson. Both the textbooks were, originally, rejected by the state for including prohibited topics like critical race theory. Allen flagged the textbooks for containing social-emotional learning and critical race theory.

“Saying that racism is embedded in American history is considered critical race theory,” she said of some of the problems she noted in her evaluations.

In one example, she described one question measuring racial prejudice by age and political affiliation. In another example, she wrote how one sentence about racism stated, “as a matter of fact that most people have sight or moderate bias depending on age.” Allen also questioned how climate change was portrayed and noted that some elements in one of the textbooks were “agenda-driven” and “bias” to what the author believed was important.

Allen took pictures of two of the problems she found issues with. Both pictures ended up on the state’s website as examples it obtained from the public.

According to all reviewer evaluations recently released by Florida’s Department of Education (FDOE), Allen was the only reviewer to find critical race theory in the two textbooks she critiqued.

The textbook called “Precalculus” was also evaluated by Jordan Adams, a civics education specialist who works at a conservative college in Hillsdale, Michigan. We recently revealed how Adams was, at least, one person recruited by FDOE from out of state to find CRT problems in textbooks. According to his reviews of the same textbook, he did not flag any CRT issues.

When asked why she found CRT issues in the textbook and Adams didn’t, Allen responded “It could be that, you know, he didn’t want to take up as much space as I did.”

In one of his reviews, Adams noted that one passage “may violate” state rules prohibiting critical race theory when it included racism on several pages. But Adams, ultimately, deemed the passage was in “fair alignment” with state standards and rules.

Allen said she participated in the state review as a “guest” reviewer not an “expert” reviewer. Guest reviewers, according to state rules, Call for Guest Reviewers aren’t paid for their evaluations and don’t need to hold special qualifications unlike expert reviewers who must hold a special credential in the field of mathematics. Though, in our recent investigation, we found that was not the case. Guest reviewers also evaluate material after expert reviewers have submitted their input.

Allen said she has a degree in aerospace engineering but would not disclose if she is currently employed.

“I’d like to keep my employment private,” she told Reporter LaGrone.

How much weight her input and other guest reviewers had on the books rejected by the state remains unknown. FDOE has not provided details about its process nor has it released copies of all the math problems flagged by the few reviewers who noted issues. FDOE has also not released details on how 28 of the 54 rejected textbooks were revised before the state placed them on its approved list of math textbooks.

When asked about its reviewers, FDOE Press Secretary Cassie Paleis stated in an email, “the Florida Department of Education sought reviewers to evaluate materials, and the reviewers who conducted these evaluations were qualified.”

The lack of transparency is part of the reason Representative Anna Eskamani, a Democrat representing Orlando, said the entire process doesn’t add up to an honest review.

“This entire process has been lacking transparency,” said Eskamani. When asked about Allen’s “guest” reviewer evaluations, Eskamani added, “not only was the one evaluator that had concerns about this not a legitimate evaluator but finding CRT in these textbooks was close to impossible. It’s not an issue,” she said.

But not if you ask Chris Allen. She maintains what she found shouldn’t be allowed in schools and she’s glad the FDOE gave her an opportunity to say so.

“I don’t personally feel like you have to have a double master’s degree or certification to review a math book. I mean, I did tutoring when I was in high school for the lessons that were taught,” Allen said.