Wednesday, April 02, 2008

New Textbooks Trigger Questions on Usage

No more pencils, no more books …

Never mind the end of school, some people want to know why students leave school every day with nary a textbook in hand. The subject came up at Tuesday’s work and study session as the Board of Education was asked to approve a slew of textbooks for the 2008-09 school year.

Board member Lisa Logan Leach expressed frustration at seeing students going home empty-handed year after year.

“It’s almost as if they have come for a vacation on the S.S. Plainfield,” Logan Leach said., even after Interim Curriculum & Instruction Director Beth Ebler explained that while there are textbooks for every grade, other instructional materials such as lab guides and DVDs may also be used.

Ebler said textbooks are identified each year by a curriculum committee, but must be purchased by each school, not by Curriculum and Instruction. She said she was also frustrated and did not understand why the plan was not being fulfilled at the school level.

But Logan Leach said, “I as a taxpayer want to hear a solution.”

Ebler said her office has been “very proactive” in trying to address shortfalls, but she noted an instance of 200 books being “destroyed beyond repair” in one year. She said it would have cost $105 per book to replace them.

Board member Christian Estevez questioned the use of worksheets for homework, saying he used to get help from his older brother who would have him read ahead in a math text to be better prepared.

Ebler said the district has “exemplary programs” but they are not “text-book driven,” which she said was very hard to explain to parents. Board member Wilma Campbell said the word has to get out better to parents on the programs.

“We have to do a better job of communicating,” Campbell said.

Estevez said a parenting book had helped him know what to expect when starting a family and said he would like something similar for the curriculum.

Ebler and former Maxson Middle School teacher Tara Dowdell then gave a presentation on curriculum mapping that did lay out dates, questions, concepts, assessments and suggested activities for all grades and subjects. Click here for a link. Estevez said he was “very impressed,” but wanted a “summary document” at the beginning of the school year. Board President Pat Barksdale suggested that the Parents Empowering Parents group could have such overview programs at their monthly meetings.

But the board then went back to probing the textbook issue.

Ebler said her goal is for “every child to have everything needed” for education, but said after the books were identified for the year, she could not guarantee that building administrators ordered, bought and replaced textbooks.

“I feel my frustration is going to continue for another year, and for another year and another year,” Logan Leach said, saying Brown v. Board of Education promised 50 years ago that children should have textbooks and supplies.

Logan Leach said “somebody has to ensure” that students will be equipped, noting every year parents come to board meetings to complain about the lack of textbooks.

“Whatever is necessary, get it done,” she said.

Interim Schools Superintendent Garnell Bailey was not at Tuesday's meeting, but Barksdale said the issue will be discussed with Bailey, to whom building administrators report.
--Bernice Paglia


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