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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Should Florida stop adopting and mandating textbooks for schools?



Back in the late 1800's, Florida school teachers would educate children using whatever books they could get. Sometimes, 25 students in a classroom would have 25 different titles.

Then state lawmakers adopted curriculum standards, requiring uniform textbooks. By 1917, Florida had its textbook depository in Jacksonville for districts to purchase their books, and the system changed little since.

Florida Board of Education vice chairman Roberto Martinez is suggesting that the time for change is now. Textbooks change faster than their current six-year adoption cycle, he noted, making digital information much more relevant than the printed materials. He asked his board colleagues on Tuesday to join him in urging lawmakers to eliminate state textbook adoption and mandated textbooks.

"These changes would get rid of the expensive and unnecessary burdens that impede the ability of our teachers and students from accessing the latest, most advanced and best educational materials, many of which are or will become available through the use of digital learning," he wrote in a letter to members. "This is the one remaining major area that needs to be reformed and transformed to enhance student achievement. It is time our students are provided the best educational materials."

The Tallahassee Democrat and the redefinED blog report that other board members warmed to the notion, though noting that such a push would be tough to get past publishing industry lobbyists. “You have made a very compelling case,” said board member Akshay Desai of St. Petersburg. “I will be very, very supportive of that initiative.”

Concerns, of course, remain as large percentages of students have no access to the internet when outside of school. Some schools have begun providing laptops and tablets for students to use even at home, but that is far from widespread. There's also the question of whether all students would end up with equitable access to high-quality materials at a time when the state and country are moving to a common curriculum and testing model.

Still the notion of giving schools more flexibility in selecting and updating their materials has much allure to educators, who have been held to the adoption cycle in order to afford what materials they can get. 

What are your thoughts on moving away from state textbook adoption?

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 2:14pm]


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