Along The River

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 16 2011

Against text books

As I observe the other new science teachers at my school (all 3 of us are new, the other two are also non-traditionally trained but not TFA) I realize how anti-effective many textbooks are. I say anti-effective because they are worse than simply not effective. No, they can be harmful in the hands of someone who doesn’t know the best way to use them!

Here’s how the textbook industry works (ok, this is what I imagine, I haven’t actually looked into it). Publishers write books for California and Texas. They then get a group of teachers from the other states to assign their standards to chapters. They just try to match, as best they can, the standards to chapters in the books. These books are then placed in the hands of teachers, some of whom have no idea what is actually on their state test. (I also have no idea how traditionally trained teachers are taught to figure out what to teach, all I know is what I’m seeing through other first year non-traditional teachers. Anyone out in the world who got certified in college, I’d love to hear from you!). What then happens is that the teacher follows the textbook, thinking that he or she is teaching kids what they need to know to achieve on the state test. In my math and science experience, that’s just not the case. The texts just don’t provide all the information, the right information, or provide extraneous information.

I would LOVE a good, ALIGNED textbook, but as it stands, I don’t have that. Everything I do is guided by the practice TCAP, the standards themselves, and the item sampler. If I can find something in the book that supports those resources, great, if not, oh well. It’s really not surprising that schools are not making gains on their state tests when teachers are guided by the book instead of the standards.

2 Responses

  1. eminnm

    Yup. I teach elementary school and math is like this too. And then they say, don’t reinvent the wheel, use the resources you have. But the thing is, if the first wheel we invented doesn’t actually roll like it’s supposed to, using only that wheel gets us nowhere.

  2. Andrew

    Maybe your state is different than most, but take a look at the proposed national standards and they’re only like a page or two for each grade. Not that your administration shouldn’t have this figured out, but I can’ imagine that it’s going to take more than an hour to go through and figure out what is covered and not covered in your text for your grade.

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