I was just reading an article on Edutopia about textbooks. http://www.edutopia.org/textbook-publishing-controversy It reaffirmed my distrust and dislike of textbooks. It also made me think back to my experience as a classroom teacher and wish that I could go back and do it differently. As a new teacher I was not given a curriculum with a clear scope and sequence or course outcomes - I was given a textbook. So of course I used the textbook as the framework for the subjects I taught. Sure I brought in projects, web quest, and other resources but the textbook was driving the topics that I taught. UGH!

The author offered three suggestions for reform. Some of these are things we have already been discussing :)
" * Revamp our funding mechanisms to let teachers assemble their own curricula from numerous individual sources instead of forcing them to rely on single comprehensive packages from national textbook factories. We can't have a different curriculum in every classroom, of course, but surely there's a way to achieve coherence without stultification.
* Reduce basals to reference books -- slim core texts that set forth as clearly as a dictionary the essential skills and information to be learned at each grade level in each subject. In content areas like history and science, the core texts would be like mini-encyclopedias, fact-checked by experts in the field and then reviewed by master teachers for scope and sequence. Dull? No, because these cores would not be the actual instructional material students would use. They would be analogous to operating systems in the world of software. If there are only a few of these and they're pretty similar, it's OK. Local districts and classroom teachers would receive funds enabling them to assemble their own constellations of lessons and supporting materials around the core texts, purchased not from a few behemoths but from hundreds of smaller publishing houses such as those that currently supply the supplementary-textbook industry.
* Just as software developers create applications for particular operating systems, textbook developers should develop materials that plug into the core texts. Small companies and even individuals who see a niche could produce a module to fill it. None would need $60 million to break even. Imagine, for example, a world-history core. One publisher might produce a series of historical novellas by a writer and a historian working together to go with various places and periods in history. Another might create a map of the world, software that animates at the click of a mouse to show political boundaries swelling, shrinking, and shifting over hundreds of years. Another might produce a board game that dramatizes the connections between trade and cultural diffusion. Hundreds of publishers could compete to produce lessons that fulfill some aspect of the core text, the point of reference."

What do you think?

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Replies to This Discussion

After reading the article I feel lucky we don't live in a state that dictates what book we have to use! I think we have all worked hard this year to switch from the one textbook approach to the guided reading with multiple books that can be pulled to meet the needs of the students. I can almost see IEP's for all students down the road, not just those with special needs.



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