What would you do if your child came home from school with a stack of textbooks that were falling apart and over a decade old?
Jose Chinea’s daughter attends Franklin School in North Bergen, and he has made his concern over the poor condition of her science and social studies books clear to the appropriate officials.
“It’s out of date and in bad shape [so] I hope that it would make any parent angry enough to confront their town government,” said Chinea.
When Chinea attended a Board of Education meeting in June, he was invited by Superintendent Robert Dandorph to join the board’s Book Committee, which evaluates the quality of textbooks to determine whether to replace them.
“I have absolutely no interest in joining the committee,” said Chinea. “I think I can do more as a parent attending Board [of Ed] and Town Commissioner meetings.”
Chinea also questioned how old the books are.
“I expressed my concern about the antiquated books to Mr. Dandorph,” said Chinea.
“We’re addressing the need of every student, beyond the textbook.” – Supervisor of ELA Ed Garrisom
“I agree with the mayor that the books have a life expectancy, kids write in these books, they break the pages. I’m not saying the books should be spitshined every day, but 11 years old?” said Chinea.
Gone are the days where books are the sole focal point within the classroom.
“We change books a lot of times, but really it’s a tool,” said Superintendent Robert Dandorph. Dandorph said the year the book was published has no relevance. “It’s whether or not they’ve changed national standards, whether their common core curriculum has changed.”
Officials of the North Bergen school district are awaiting new Common Core State Standards to be issued by the state Department of Education before purchasing replacement books.
Lack of state funding
Textbooks are expensive. Last year, the district spent $61,000 for replacement science books, $300,000 for language arts, over $100,000 for math books for grades 1 through 5, and $108,000 for sixth grade social studies books, a total of $569,000.
Next year the sixth, seventh and eighth grades will receive new math books. New social studies books will also be given to the seventh and eighth grades.
The need for school textbooks is determined by the new Common Core Standards. In order to comply, the district must wait for changes to made prior to obtaining new textbooks. Otherwise, the district will waste money buying books that are useless to them because they don’t meet the common core standards.
The Common Core State Standards determine what students are expected to learn with the help of teachers and parents. The standards are designed to relate to the “real world” with the goal of having students succeed in college and their careers.
Supervisor of Social Studies Joseph Bartulovich said the standards have social relevance to what students are taught.
“[The new direction is] making sure that the kids are college and career-ready,” said Director of Math Dr. George Solter.
During a recent Board of Education meeting, administrators explained how textbooks are used as guides, instead of being the focal point of learning for students. Technology plays a crucial role in the direction that education is now taking.
“Technology is affording us to give the student various kind of views,” said Dr. Solter. “Technology is allowing the books to come alive.”
Supervisor of ELA Ed Garrison said the new direction will provide students with 21st century skills.
“We’re addressing the need of every student, beyond the textbook,” said Garrison.
An example of the shift within the standards is that instead of teaching 80 to 90 math topics per year, it will now be 20 to 25.
Science also has their own new curriculum called the Next Generation Standards which are more about project-based assessments instead of standardized testing.
For more information about the Common Core State Standards Initiative visit www.corestandards.org/.
For more information about the Next Generation Science Standards visit www.nextgenscience.org/.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org