Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Textbooks and Curriculum

I got an interesting e-mail message from a blog reader (excerpted below) about textbooks and curriculum. And the Seattle PI has an article on the elementary math curriculum adoption process today that relates to this topic: Uniform school math program sought

Denise says:

"...here's something I'm curious about – textbooks and curriculum.

Our third-grade son has attended two different alternative elementary schools, and we have yet to see a single textbook. I assumed this was an alternative school thing, until I learned that one of our friend's daughters, a fourth-grader who has attended two traditional elementary schools in Seattle, also has never had a textbook.

I mention this because without textbooks, it's hard as a parent to tell what curriculum / approach is being used to teach reading, math, etc., and knowing how to best build on that approach at home. I remember as a kid finding textbooks to be helpful when reviewing concepts I'd previously studied, or to see where our class was going with our learning. When I've asked teachers about curriculum (both at my son's school and at prospective schools during tours) they most often seem to be piecing together a combination of curricula, or in some cases cannot clearly identify any curriculum they are using.

I heard from one of the district people that the new elementary math textbooks were made available for review at schools in March – our school never advertised this to parents, despite being a very active, parent-involved school (did the textbooks do the alt school tour as well?). Given that schools don't even use textbooks, I don't know how relevant they'll be anyway. The district person I mentioned this to seemed surprised to hear that elementary schools don't use textbooks.

As an alternative school parent, I'm somewhat leery of one common standardized curriculum for the entire district. On the other hand, if having clearly-defined curricula (and maybe even some textbooks/reference materials to look at) would add transparency and clarity, I'd be all for that.

...I'm curious to know if there are any elementary schools in Seattle that use textbooks, along with parents' thoughts about the current curricula. To pose a question to you that I was recently asked (and could not answer) – do you know what curriculum is being used to teach your child to read?"


Anonymous said...

Interesting. We are just in Kindergarten, so I have no idea what our traditional elementary school does in the upper grades.

I do know that on curriculum night in the Fall our Kindergartener's teacher went through all the subjects and what curriculum she was using for each one (she also sent us home with a worksheet with all this information). Her weekly newsletters also deeply discuss the curriculum - but again, this is just at the Kidnergarten level which is all I know so far.

Anonymous said...

We have attended one alternative and one traditional school for elementary, and Salmon Bay for middle school. I have never seen a textbook at any of our schools, even middle school, with the exception of one thin paperback math textbook (connected math) in middle school.

When my son was very young, I thought not using textbooks was very creative, they were creating their own text books in a way. However, after 6 years of no text books, and learning how vague the EAL'rs are, I wish we had used them more. The EASL'rs leave so much to be desired, and are really up to the teacher to interpret. And I have no idea (except now for math in 6th grade) what curriculum my school uses. When I asked my traditional elementary school what math curriculum they use I was told that they use "the district math", and a hybrid combination, which tells me absolutely nothing. What is a hybrid exactly? I wish we had used more text books, if for no other reason than to keep schools (or teachers) on the same page. After all of the inconsistencies, I actually lean towards a more standardized curriculum approach (I was against it for many years).

Anonymous said...

There were math textbooks in the classrooms at Whittier -- they were using a combination of Investigations and Addison-Wesley. In our last year there, the fifth-grade Spectrum class finally got sixth-grade math textbooks, but I can't remember the publisher for sure, except that it wasn't A-W; Glencoe, maybe? But now they're using Connected Math.

I don't know what they used for elementary reading instruction either, come to think of it. They did have reading textbooks, but which series, and how much they actually used them, I don't know. The upper grades had social studies texts, and I think maybe some science textbooks, not sure (though the bulk of the science they do is kit-based).

The Math'n'Stuff store on Roosevelt carries Singapore Math, if you want to look at that program.

Helen Schinske