Update 2: When principals began to be informed about this decision to remove books from the classrooms last month, they were told that the books would be sold.
Update: Today Keith Ward responded to question from Lee Roop at the Huntsville Times about the plan to remove textbooks from classrooms “this spring,” stated: “the system agreed when it went digital to keep a classroom set for several years ‘to ease the transition,’ but removing the printed textbooks was always the plan.”
I have watched or attended every school board meeting for the past five years. At no time during the transition was “the plan” publicly discussed to remove textbooks from the classrooms. If this was “always the plan,” why wasn’t this plan publicly known? Why weren’t our principals and more importantly, our teachers aware of this “plan?”
Ward continued by stating, “They will still have them in the library if they need to check them.” He concluded, “the books being removed now will enter the system’s ‘asset management’ program. Some will be kept, he said, and some will be sold.”
So, as I reported yesterday, they will be removing all classroom copies of the textbooks and keeping a small subset of the books in the library. Thus, there will not be sufficient textbooks for every student, or even every two students to obtain a textbook if necessary.
The “solution” that the books are uploaded onto the computers and are accessible without internet access has been the case since 2013. It did not address the problem that my daughter faced at the beginning of the school year last year when she did not have access to a textbook (printed or digital) until five weeks after the beginning of school.
Finally, if Mr. Ward is being truthful that “this was always the plan,” why is it such a surprise to everyone?
Starting this week, Dr. Wardynski, without the public approval of the board of education, began removing textbooks from the schools across the district.
If Wardynski gets his way, the only remaining printed textbooks in our schools will be a single set of textbooks in the library, and possibly textbooks provided to students as a requirement in their IEP or 504Plan.
Digital Textbooks Fail
Despite the district’s having switched to digital versions of text books in 2012, thanks to push from students, parents, and teachers, the district “allowed” for there to be a set of printed textbooks remaining in the classroom.
This proved quite helpful a year ago at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, when all across the district, thanks to an “update” from Pearson that basically broke student access to the digital versions of the textbooks, the digital textbooks were unavailable to students for the first five weeks of school.
Yes, you read that correctly. Students across the district could not access a textbook in Huntsville City Schools for the first five weeks of the school year last year.
Because some of the classrooms had access to printed texts in the room, some of the classes were able to continue operating. However, not all classrooms had sufficient printed textbooks for the entirety of the class.
It proved helpful again from September 19th thought September 24th in 2014 when the entire district’s internet was down. Rather than addressing the issue, Dr. Wardynski chose to threaten the Director of Education Technology for sending out an email to the district to inform them that the school’s internet was down.
Wardynski’s response to this information was to write:
Please no more such messages.
That’s the kind of system that our district’s teachers are forced to deal with. A system where even access to basic tools for teaching are denied to them because it might make Wardynski look bad.
In short, Wardynski doesn’t give a damn if a textbook, or if access to the internet, would be helpful to the educational process.
All he cares about is following his own personal agenda, and the benefits that agenda can bring him.
(You know, like a trip to China with Jason Taylor to promote Greenpower Racing in China . . . for some reason.)
Teachers Risk Jobs To Sound Warning About Removing Textbooks
Yesterday a teacher in the district decided to take matters into her own hands, and, likely putting her job at risk, posted the following to her Facebook Page.
I know this is a very long post, but bear with me. This is not meant as a means for venting or complaining, but hopefully an appropriate use of social media to gain answers to an important question. I am hoping to get some parent and public support on an issue of concern to me as a Huntsville City Schools teacher. Why are HCS students’ textbooks being removed from our classrooms?
Please do not contact the school – we have no power or even information, only directive from central office.
When HCS went to digital curriculum, teachers and students found the transition very difficult. We begged for, and after several months, finally received a class set of textbooks for each classroom with the exception of math. Both teachers and students were so grateful to have a choice available.
I have recently learned that these textbooks are now to be removed from our classrooms at the end of the year and not returned. It is unclear where exactly these practically new textbooks are going. In place of our class sets, we were told that in the Fall a ratio of textbook to student would be determined meaning that for 6th grade, we would receive 15 textbooks for over 200 students, to be tightly controlled in the library.
I have sent a letter to our superintendent requesting a reason but have not received a response. A parent I know was meeting with Dr. Wardynski for another purpose and attempted to obtain a reason on our behalf. She was told that the teachers don’t need the physical textbooks, that everything they need is on the laptops. That the textbooks are just a “crutch”.
Well, now I have moved from frustrated to angry. A “crutch!?” I have not been asked to contribute at a national level to promote project-based learning because I need a “crutch.” I am so offended. Even after 10 years with my curriculum, I still spend countless hours researching my lessons. A typical lesson will pull in about 5 different sources. But I do need my textbooks; this is not an unreasonable thing to ask. As a professional educator, why do I not deserve this choice?
I polled my honors students, all of whom are strong readers and very comfortable with technology, and only 3 out of 55 students preferred digital to print text. My classroom is not isolated in this, according to the Washington Post. See previously posted article.
It has long been apparent that my opinion holds no sway in decisions made for my classroom in this system. But as a taxpayer, I want to know where these practically new textbooks are going? Someone has implied that they will be destroyed. Has a buy back deal been made with Pearson? This is a simple question that deserves an answer; this should not be a complicated issue.
Seriously, with all the talk about discipline, it’s the little things that make me want to stop trying. Teachers in our system are very fearful of any public expression of opinion, but I don’t want to be among the many, many teachers who have quietly left our system. I love my school and my students. The HCS leadership’s decision on this issue seems to be going out of their way to make teaching more difficult. As teachers, parents, and taxpayers, we deserve answers and resources that serve the best interests of our students.
Feel free to repost if you share my concern. I currently still have my books and do not want to turn them over to central office.
This wasn’t the only teacher that I’ve heard from. Many other teachers, all across the district, are reporting to me that this is actively happening.
Other parents have shared with me that their school board member have confirmed that this is occurring as well. At least one school board member, Elisa Ferrell from district 3, is completely in support of this plan because, “textbooks are obsolete the moment they’re printed.”
This is almost a direct quote from Wardynski’s claim in 2014 when he claimed that textbooks are “obsolete the day they come into the classroom.”
This was not true when Wardynski claimed it two years ago, and it is not true today.
Every single subject matter textbook remains relevant for years after it is published. Many are relevant for decades or even centuries.
Are Shakespeare’s plays irrelevant because they have an old cover?
Are Newton’s or Einstein’s theories irrelevant because they’re printed on paper?
Good teachers don’t use a text as a “crutch” but rather as a launching pad. If Wardynski had even a basic understanding of education, he might realize this.
Research Supports the Benefits of Reading from Paper
If you wish to review just a smattering of research on the benefits of reading from a printed book as opposed to reading from a computer screen, feel free to review the following:
But that highlights the primary problem here: Neither Dr. Wardynski nor the Board of Education seem to give a damn about educational research.
Education Must Be Differentiated Not Standardized
On Monday, the Board of Education received an extensive report from Dr. Wardynski on the benefits of the upcoming month of standardized testing. I’ll try and provide an extensive report on this soon, but suffice it to say that Wardynski’s arguments have not changed since he started making them in 2011.
The simple fact of education that even freshmen in any educational program across the world learn is this: education must be differentiated and individualized. Our kids are not golf balls. Every child learns differently.
Textbooks are a reasonable accommodation for ensuring that every child who reads better from a printed text can continue to do so.
No Reason for Removing Textbooks Except Wardynski Hates Words
Since we already have the textbooks, and since they are less than four years old, there is no justifiable reason for removing them from the classrooms.
It is not costing us more to retain them.
They are not taking up needed space.
They are, however, allowing students to learn in a manner that suits them best.
The only justification for this is that either Wardynski has made a backroom deal to sell them to cover up some other expense that he doesn’t want public (there is a rumor that he has done exactly this with one of the private schools in the city), or perhaps he’s read his Orwell at some point and learned:
“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”
Or maybe he read his Bradbury at some point in his past and decided to destroy them because:
“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door . . . Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”
Either way, this limiting of access to knowledge cannot be allowed to occur.
Please, if you care about ensuring that your children have the most appropriate educational tool for them available to them, contact your child’s principal, contact your child’s board member and tell them to leave our books alone.
They are, after all, ours and not Wardynski’s.