Magazine article District Administration

Fixing Textbook Adoption

Magazine article District Administration

Fixing Textbook Adoption

Article excerpt

Some readers may remember that last year I joined the school board in my suburban Connecticut town. Recently I've been embroiled in a debate about the district's health curriculum, what's proper to teach, and more importantly, when it's appropriate to teach it. This issue has occupied my community for years; in fact, the board thought it was settled almost a year ago. It resurfaced recently (in the curriculum committee I chair) as the board tried to create specifics within the general agreement that had been reached.

I'll spare you the details, but I will say one of the main reasons this is such a delicate issue to solve is because of the complexity of views involved. (Obviously, the values people have and how they match, or don't, to various parts of this curriculum is the main reason this topic gets a lot more debate than, say, math curriculum.)

I mention this because, in short, this is the same problem facing textbook adoption. As Features Editor Melissa Ezarik ably describes in our cover story, "The Textbook Adoption Mess--and What Reformers are Doing to Fix It," (p. 50), this issue is not only a many-headed monster, but groups involved are so splintered that it seems hard to envision a way where people will agree how to fix the problems.

Start with the idea of statewide adoption itself. Should states have the ability to put certain books on an approved list? (In some states, this approval means the state will pay for part of these books when districts buy them.) Like many parts of our educational system, this may have been a good idea when it started, but it seems to have outlasted its effectiveness. Critics say panels are overwhelmed, members don't always have the expertise to judge materials, and that, in fact, sometimes they may not even examine the materials before rendering their opinion. …

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