My department is engaged in textbook selection right now. I’m fairly certain that we have decided which textbook company we would like to work with; however, I think we still need to pin down which peripherals we will order to supplement and exactly which books in the series we will use. I won’t tell you which ones we decided on here, but I will tell you two things that troubled me about this process.
First of all, my department head contacted Holt so that we could examine their series Elements of Literature. I have used this series in the past and really liked it. Unfortunately, they are not very interested in obtaining business from our school. They did not reply to my department head’s queries to visit our school and share their series with us. They did send samples of their ninth grade text. I was not very impressed with it, if I may be honest. We are a small school, and it is probably true that their energies might be better directed toward serving large districts; however, we did feel slighted. My department head and I discussed Holt’s lack of interest in selling books to us and determined that we would not be buying books from them.
Second (and I won’t tell you who), one textbook company admitted that its latest version of the textbook series was “dumbed down” for NCLB. My department head and I compared this version with the previous version, and it is indeed true. The questions are not as challenging. If NCLB is the reason why the texts were “dumbed down,” then one has to wonder what this law is accomplishing. If textbook companies are “dumbing down” selections and questions in order to help schools meet the requirements of NCLB, are the kids really benefitting? Isn’t the idea of NCLB to raise standards, not lower them? Keep in mind that the textbook salesman told my department head himself why the books were less challenging. We examined them for ourselves and determined this was, indeed, true.
What do you look for in a textbook? As much as we repeat the old saw that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I have to admit I find books that have appealing covers and pictures inside, as well as a pleasing layout, grab my attention. I think the students like them better, too. Let’s face it, the eye candy is part of the package. We are teaching the post-MTV generation, and material has to be eye-catching. Is this a concern for you when you select books? I am, of course, not saying that we don’t examine the material to make sure the selections are appropriate, varied, and correlate with standards.
I feel good about the selection we made. I have worked with these books before, and I think the students will like them better than our current texts (which, by the way, are currently out of print and increasingly harder to find). Once details are final, and our principal approves our choice, perhaps I will fill you in.
What do we need to do to get Warriner’s back in print? Will begging work?