Monday, December 24, 2012

Is There a Textbook Shortage in the Middle Schools?

After the December 2012 board meeting, I asked some of the Fox C-6 school board members if they were aware of the fact that our middle schools didn't have enough books for all of the students to take them home at night.  Board vice-president Dan Smith said that this was the first he had heard of this problem and Assistant Superintendent Dan Smith said he wasn't aware of it either.

So, I asked them if they were aware of www.ck12.org which has FREE textbooks available for download in PDF, ePub and mobi formats.  They weren't aware of the website.  Board member Ruth Ann Newman asked me if the books could be downloaded onto one of the digital devices or were they only accessible on the website.  I told her that they could be download to a computer, a tablet and most smart phones and that I had several textbooks on my phone such as Earth Science for Middle School, Physics and Calculus.  I told our board members that the community no longer trusts our school board and administration due to their recent actions and decisions.  And, for the amount of money that is being spent on upgrading the football fields, every student in the school district could have been supplied with an eReader or a tablet computer that could hold all of the FREE textbooks from www.ck12.org.  The parents that I have spoken with are not happy that the district was spending money to upgrade our football fields when there aren't enough books for all of the students.

I followed up my discussion with an email to our board secretary, board president Linda Nash, board vice-president Dan Smith and board members Ruth Ann Newman and John Laughlin asking again that the school board packets be published on the school district website and my concerns about the book shortage in the middle schools.

I received the following email response regarding my concerns on the textbook shortage from the Ridgewood Middle School principal through our board secretary.  Her email was copied to the board members I emailed originally as well as Dr. Lorenzo Rizzi, the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education.

Here is the email I received from Mrs. Pelster:
I do not know where this is coming from. I just talked to all his teachers.

Geography - the kids are not given books. They are completely outdated and the teachers barely use them. Students can take a book home whenever they want.

Math - Every student is assigned a book and has a book.

Science - These are the multiple small books. These books are used as a classroom resource. Again, anytime a student wants to take one home, they can sign one out.

Language Arts - The books are used sporadically because once again the textbook is just a small resource.

Again, the students can take one home whenever they want. I will be happy to give <NAME> a textbook that he can have at all times. Teachers do not give out textbooks because we do not have enough; they don't give them out because they are just a resource for the class. This cuts down on students lugging around heavy books every day that may or may not be used. [emphasis added]


Kristen Pelster
Principal
Ridgewood Middle School
National School of Character

In a follow up email I wrote back to the board members, Mrs. Pelster and Dr. Rizzi, I told them that I was not asking about the book shortage for my son but for the parents that had approached me on the matter.

Here is my response email to the board members and administrators:
My concerns for not having enough books in the middle school was not just for Ridgewood.  My concerns also were not brought to me by my son.  These concerns were first brought to my attention by some Seckman Middle School parents.  I was unaware of any book shortage until a few weeks before the Bond Issue vote when parents expressed concerns about the district's priorities.  They wanted to know why the district was going to spend $3.5 Million to upgrade our football fields when there aren't enough textbooks for their kid's classes and stated that they would be voting no on the Bond Issue.  So, I started talking to more parents in the district about this issue and I found out that many parents shared the same concern.  The parents that I have spoken to are under the impression that the district doesn't have enough textbooks in the middle schools.  I have not spoken with any Fox Middle School parents on this issue nor anyone at the high schools.

It wasn't until after the start of this school year that I learned that Ridgewood had the same problem after the parents of my son's friend told me that their son had to check out a science book at Ridgewood because there weren't enough books for all the students and missed getting a book because the teacher was not available.  It did not count against his grade but demonstrated that there is a problem.  So, I wasn't asking for a textbook for my son.  But, it seems that this is a valid concern as Mrs. Pelster stated in her response email that 'Teachers do not give out books because we don't have enough.'  If all of the students had a need to take a book home one night to study for a test, there wouldn't be enough books for ALL of the students to do so.  Thus the reason I brought up the issue after the board meeting to see if any of the board members were aware of this problem.

Also following the meeting, I told Dianne Critchlow, Ruth Ann Newman, Dan Baker, Dan Smith, Dr. Rizzi and Mr. Crutchley about the website www.ck12.org where students, parents, and teachers can download FREE textbooks in PDF, mobi and epub format.  This is a great resource for really nice textbooks that are FREE.  Mr. Baker wrote down the web address for his records for ck12.org after Ruth Ann asked if the books could be downloaded to her grandson's device he was getting for Christmas.

My son read Mrs. Pelster's response and told me that they have been using their Language Arts book almost every day for the last several weeks in class.  This is not to say that he would necessarily need to take his book home at night but that they were at least using the books almost every day rather than "sporadically" as noted.  My son also told me that if he wanted to take a science book home, that he couldn't check one out until after 7th hour because there are only enough books for the class and he has class during 6th hour, so, if you weren't there soon enough and all the books were checked out you would not get one.

When I was a student at Ridgewood, I remember taking my books home at night or to study hall and reading the assignments and then being tested over the material.  I will ask my son and other parents more questions as to how they are studying for tests and assignments.  I know that is how my son did it last year in sixth grade as I read some of the text books with him.

There are a lot of internet resources for study material that I am aware of, but everyone doesn't have access to the internet at home.  Students could download textbooks onto a computer, tablet, digital reader, or smart phone.  Then the books would be available anytime they wanted to study if they had those digital resources available to them.

The parents I spoke with had very valid concerns in my opinion and that is why I brought the issue up with our board members.  I appreciate you looking into the issue as it still seems a valid concern worth further investigation.  Possibly providing information to the parents about how textbooks are used at school nowadays would help to explain things and resolve any misunderstandings.  I try to let everyone know about the educational resources that are available for FREE online so they can take advantage of them.  I think it is especially important to let those parents and students know about those resources for those that are struggling.

Hopefully Mrs. Pelster will be able to take advantage of some of the resources like www.ck12.org and www.khanacademy.org in her new position as the curriculum director.  She has done a great job at Ridgewood and will be missed by all I am sure.


Thank you,

Richard Simpson