How are the textbooks accepting accountability for their shortcomings?

I just read a line from a teacher who said this (and oh, it's so telling)...

I love my school, but this year I'm trying real hard to be positive. I've taught novels the past two years and am now being told I must adhere to the textbook curriculum because of low test scores. Wow! Boring textbook anthology and worksheets are going to help my students do better on a bubble test? ARGH!

For me, I wonder where the data is to prove that sticking to the "textbook curriculum" improves test scores? Has this data been published? If so, I've never seen it -- and I look for it.

On the contrary, I've seen a host of stuff from IRA and NCTE coming out against scripted curriculum (not the same as textbook curriculum but most certainly a cousin) because, well, it doesn't work. Actually, there's even an argument that it's proving to be detrimental.

So where's the proof?

Is it too much to ask for the proof? I mean data, data, data is the mantra that gets drummed into our heads by so many of these "bean counter types" in our schools who think that kids are widgets and if you just press the right mold hard enough, their lives, brain, attitudes and skills will conform in a way that will serve our nation's schools and society well.

So this year, I am simply going to ask one straightforward question when people come at me with with the, "We need to stick to the textbook curriculum to improve test scores":

WHERE'S THE PROOF?

And actually, might it not be argued that a textbook curriculum is what has helped to land us where we are right now? I mean they've been at the forefront of the educational wheel for a few decades now, particularly in the math and science realm where our scores (internationally speaking) lag in a particularly "ouch, that hurts to see!" type of way.

Perhaps the textbook curriculums are the culprit in some way? After all, in a world where we are all being asked to take ownership and remain accountable, I gotta wonder, how are the textbooks accepting accountability for their shortcomings?

Or don't they have any shortcomings?

(BTW, if they need my help in assisting them to identify a few of these areas, I'd be happy to help. For instance, how about price, size, weight, tepid material, a one-size-fits-all mentality, overstuffed, sanitized and oh yeah... lacking data-based proof that using these materials actually improves bubble sheet test scores, which are a silly way to measure student success in the first place, but that's for another post.)

Does anybody read Alfie Kohn? Thomas Newkirk? Readicide? Nancy Atwell? I gotta stop typing now because writing posts like this bum me out. For every ten teachers forced to use a textbook curriculum in the Language Arts (to the exclusion of novels) I'd guess that, based on my own unofficial feedback, that at least 7 or 8 of them are frustrated with the materials and feel boxed in and aggravated... and worst of all, not as effective as they believe they could be if they were unshackled from the mandates of people who do not actually have to eat the food that they are asking other people to dine on themselves.

For those who say, "You must teach the textbook curriculum to the exclusion of novels," I say, "Hey pal, you go do it first... and prove that it works, because all the best teachers I know use real books in the English Language Arts classroom."

Views: 27

Comment by Alan Sitomer on August 29, 2009 at 9:56am
This is a great line...

"If teachers feel boxed in an unmotivated I can only imagine what kids feel like. For me no one learns well when they feel 'forced' to do things."

Only wish more folks took it to heart.
Comment by Johnathan Chase on August 29, 2009 at 10:14am
Excellent commentary on a really sad state of affairs. Unfortunately the obsession with standardized testing means districts are more focused on test scores than actual learning.

In many cases the same company that creates the textbook also designs the standardized test the students must take at the end of the school year and even grades them.

Many textbooks are more about test prep than actually promoting critical thinking.
Comment by Alan Sitomer on August 29, 2009 at 10:18am
Did our school systems just recently watch the movie Brazil and decide to take a few of their best ideas to the level of implementation without recognizing the satire in the film. I mean when you say this...

In many cases the same company that creates the textbook also designs the standardized test the students must take at the end of the school year and even grades them.

I just wanna laugh that we let this go on... even though it's really much more worth a tear.

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