Hillsborough to keep controversial SpringBoard textbooks, citing replacement costs

Photo illustration. []
Photo illustration. []
Published Dec. 13, 2016

TAMPA — SpringBoard, the much-maligned math and English textbooks, have endured more than a year of loud complaints from teachers and students in the Hillsborough County schools.

But instead of replacing them all, district officials promised at a School Board workshop Tuesday to make sure teachers have the training and, in some cases, supplemental materials they need to use the English lessons and texts more effectively.

In math, some students might go back to using non-SpringBoard texts. Chief Academic Officer Elizabeth Agresta recommended letting schools decide.

Board members did not take a vote. But, with the cost of a full replacement estimated at close to $12 million, most of them appeared agreeable to the compromise.

"Remember: We teach kids, we don't teach curriculum," superintendent Jeff Eakins told them.

The two-hour discussion touched on other issues in addition to the SpringBoard products, which the district buys from College Board.

Board member April Griffin said she was frustrated that it took staff so long to respond to the board's concerns, which were sparked by complaints from students, parents and teachers.

Susan Valdes, troubled by the difficulty new English speakers have with the texts, asked for a separate workshop to discuss dual language instruction.

Agresta and chief of staff Alberto Vazquez stressed that if students aren't learning, it's not fair to blame the materials.

"There is no right textbook," Vazquez said. Rather, he said, it's important to make sure teachers have training and support.

Board members said gaps in the system are too severe to ignore. Both Cindy Stuart and Melissa Snively said their children have struggled with math. Sally Harris was struck by how many families hire math tutors.

Snively brought a stack of student comment cards collected at Steinbrenner High School. Some were so harsh — calling the materials sexist, racist and boring — that board member Lynn Gray asked that they not be made public.

Gray argued in favor of SpringBoard for several reasons: It conforms to the Florida Standards, it costs too much to replace, and the administrators who believe it can succeed have many decades of combined experience.

For the most part, members said they were encouraged by the steps district leaders have taken to address SpringBoard's weaknesses.

"The teacher is the key component," Harris said. "And it sounds to me like you guys are on it."

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or Follow @marlenesokol