Board debates textbook shortfall

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Not all students have own books for every class

By Kristin Sherrard

The Trimble Banner

Not every student in Trimble County’s middle and high schools has his or her own textbook, but there is some debate as to whether the textbook shortfall is a problem
The shortfall was discussed during a presentation to the Board of Education by District Instructional Supervisor Rebecca Moore at the board’s Wednesday, Jan. 19, meeting. In giving an overview of textbook allocations at the district’s four schools, Moore said the deficit was worst for TCMS students taking language arts.
TCMS has 495 students enrolled in 2010-11 – 131 are in sixth grade, 112 are in seventh grade and 137 are eighth-graders, Moore reported.
But the school has only 50 copies of the language arts textbooks for the sixth- and eighth-grades and 100 for the seventh-grade.
The books are not distributed to the students; rather, the students may check out the books as they are available. The ration for science textbooks is better, but still falls short – each grade level has 100 books available. Social studies is the only subject for which there are almost enough books to go around. Moore said there are 125 for sixth-graders, 149 for seventh-graders and 140 for eighth-graders.
The school relies on the Carnegie Math program, which is an Internet-based program that does not require textbooks.
Moore said it would cost $5,000 per grade to buy enough books for each student for language arts at TCMS alone, and pointed out that the state Department of Education is moving away from a textbook-driven curriculum.
At the high school, math and science textbooks are distributed to all students. All students in 10th-12th grades receive a book for social studies.
In ninth grade, students study a different social studies content area during each nine-week grading period. Each teacher has a classroom set of textbooks for each content area – geography, economics, government and historical perspective – , and students rotate through the books depending on the subject they are studying during that nine-week session.
In English, all students in 10th through 12th grades have their own books, as do ninth-graders taking English 1 CP. CP classes are for college-bound students.
There are not enough books for general ninth-grade English 1 students due to the numbers. Many of those have been lost or damaged, and they have not been replaced. Each teacher has a classroom set.
Moore said high school books are not funded by the state, so TCHS charges an annual $75 textbook rental fee per student. Students on the reduced lunch program pay $37.50. However, she explained to the board that if a parent asks them about the fee, they should explain that one rental fee will not replace one book.
The fee generates about $17,600 annually, from which the school buys new or replacement textbooks as needed. So far this year, Moore said, the school has collected about $13,500 and spent just over $7,800.
Moore pointed out that there was a carryover in that account of just over $14,000 from the 2009-10 school year. She said the high school administrators are trying to save money in the fund so that they can start moving toward buying books electronically.
But is it enough?
Board member Kim Temple said she has received calls from parents of students in both the high school and middle school who are concerned that their children don’t have their own textbooks.
She challenged Moore and her fellow board members: What if it was your child who was getting a C-minus or D-plus in a class and didn’t have his or her own textbook for that class?
Board Chairman Scott Burrows suggested some complaints might be from parents whose children are using the situation as an excuse for not doing well in class.
Temple countered, though, that because the board’s goal is to promote education and achievement, it should ensure that every student in the district has the educational materials they need to succeed.
“We need to cover ourselves. We’re trying to improve our education [system], and we need to start at the ground level,” she said. “I still think all students need their own book, whether they pay for it or not.”
Burrows said he would hate to see the board buy new books when it’s possible the state could change the curriculum.
Jessica Wilcoxson, director of Pupil Personnel, suggested the board investigate how often teachers actually use textbooks in class. She said a number of teaches rely on the SmartBoards and handouts for their lessons.
If the books are not being used in class, then buying new ones – just to say every student has his own book – may not be the best solution, she said.
Board member Haley Turner said she has received complaints from high school parents about the textbook rental fee. Many complain when they find out that the fee does not guarantee their child has his or her own book in all classes.
Wilcoxson suggested changing the name to “classroom fee” to eliminate the confusion. The fee can help cover the cost of printing the handouts teachers use in class, not just for books.
Board member Jill Simmons asked Moore to continue to look into the availability of purchasing used textbooks from other schools in the state or from the textbook companies directly.