Dist. 203: Textbooks Always Available for Review

Article excerpt

Byline: Melissa Jenco Daily Herald Staff Writer

The flap over a biology textbook in Naperville Unit District 203 is raising questions about how such materials are chosen and the role community members can play in the selection.

The bottom line, school officials say, is parents always have a chance to critique textbooks before they reach the classroom, but few take the time to do so.

The books are put on display in Naperville's public libraries for at least 30 days, along with evaluation forms that can be returned to the district offices.

"In my six years in the district, I've only received one completed form and that was a positive response to the book," said Jodi Wirt, assistant superintendent for curriculum and staff development.

More people may look at the books, but if they don't fill out the evaluation forms, it's tough to say how many, she said.

The recent dispute began when school board member Jim Caulfield was looking at the book display and started flipping through "Biology: A Guide to the Natural World," by David Krogh, which is used in high school enriched biology classes.

Troubled by the book's detailed descriptions of contraceptive methods and what Caulfield considers unbalanced discussions of evolution and stem cell research, he asked the school board to consider replacing the book.

"I think we can do a lot better than this textbook," Caulfield said. "I think that taken together, it presents a number of ... issues for me and presents a pattern."

Although Caulfield was not a member at the time, the board was one of several groups to evaluate the book before it reached classrooms.

When the district develops a new high school curriculum, a committee of at least four teachers from each of the high schools and the department instructional coordinator from each school reviews the books.

Science teachers, for example, rate the books on how well they provide for inquiry-based instruction and on their scientific concepts. Then they make recommendations to the superintendent and school board. …