The South-Western City Schools Board of Education is expected to approve a new set of textbooks and instructional materials for K-6 social studies classes at its March 31 meeting.
Before the board can vote on new materials, district staff and administrators conduct a thorough review of current materials and what is needed in the next set of textbooks, curriculum coordinator Margaret Towery said.
"It's a collaborative process," she said. "We typically are purchasing materials for one or two curriculum areas each year."
The process used to select the new social studies materials are a textbook example of how the choices are made in all subject areas at all grade levels, Towery said.
The first step brought together a group of teachers to consider the new state learning standards for social studies, which include more emphasis on writing and use of primary sources, she said.
"Then we did an audit of our current resources," Towery said. "We looked in the school libraries to see whether (any) and how many of our books are aligned with the new standards."
The audit revealed a gap in materials that support the additional writing skills called for under the new learning standards, she said.
There are now three major publishers of school textbooks, along with some smaller companies, and the next step involved a district review of a database of available books and materials, Towery said.
"We wanted to find high-quality books that connect with Ohio's new learning standards," she said. "It's important that they have readability and make sense for our students and that they have current maps, information graphs."
The depth of knowledge reflected in a book's questions also is an important factor, Towery said.
"We don't want students just to be learning a set of facts without thinking" about the concepts behind the facts, she said.
Cost also is considered, Towery said.
The publishers sent samples of their materials and teachers were able to preview them, then give their recommendations, she said. Finally, the central curriculum committee reviewed and made the final recommendations that have been brought to the board.
Books published by Pearson, one of the three main textbook companies, were selected.
The materials include books specifically produced for Ohio schools, Towery said.
"We liked that they were Ohio-specific," she said.
After the board approves the purchase and the new materials arrive, teachers will spend next school year involved in professional development activities to familiarize themselves with the materials and how to incorporate them into their classes, Towery said.
Pearson's materials are a mix of textbooks and digital items, "which is the best of both worlds," Towery said.
In fact, students will not use an actual printed textbook until third grade.
The increased use of digital materials calls into question whether someday printed textbooks will no longer be used in schools.
"That's the $64,000 question, or maybe more like the $64-million question," Towery said, referring to the reality that textbook publishing is a for-profit industry.
"I think that there will always be a place for actual textbooks in schools, but time will tell," she said.