By Michael Mell
The Garrison Union Free School District (GUFS) Board of Education heard a presentation about new English Language Arts (ELA) and reading textbooks at their April 26 meeting. Principal Stephanie Impellittiere and the faculty have been researching replacement texts and have recommended the Journeys Reading Program, published by Houghton-Mifflin. The series goes from grades K-8. The current textbooks are more than 30 years old with dated images that “kids [today] can’t relate to,” said Ian Berger, a middle-school English teacher who led the presentation. As an example, he cited the fact that “there is no mention of computers or the internet.” As well, the current books, after so many years, are physically wearing out and cannot be sent home. English teacher Patty Klubnick said that the Journeys books are “nicely laid out” and “not too busy.” Impellittiere also noted the significantly higher level of support offered by the publisher during their research as well as after purchase.
The series also has an online component that, with a subscription, will allow students internet access from home. This is an ongoing trend in all facets of publishing and was of keen interest to school board members who, over the past few years, have been actively updating computer hardware and integrating software programs into the curriculum. Trustee Christine Foertsch asked:” Can’t we go exclusively online?” Berger replied that while that day is coming, it is “not yet” [here]. Superintendent Gloria Colucci told board members that there are pilot online programs in the area, but these require each student to have his or her own tablet computer (such as an iPad) and this would represent a significant capital expense to the district.
Unsurprisingly, given the current economic climate, the board is very interested in balancing curriculum and cost. Trustee Charlotte Rowe asked whether “this is a placeholder” till online technology is in place. Trustee Foertsch suggested that perhaps tablets should be purchased now. Colucci indicated this would not be feasible; telling the board that, at the present time, tablets are stand-alone devices that have no interconnectivity. Berger added that “it’s [exclusive online textbooks] five years away” and that “the infrastructure is not yet in place.” Responding to the board’s unspoken question — whether the recommended textbook purchase is a worthwhile investment at this time — Berger said: “We’ll have these books for a long time” and get much use out of them. While clearly an advocate of incorporating technology into the school’s reading and writing programs, Berger said that “sometimes I need to say [to the students] ‘open your books.'”
The board approved purchase of the new textbooks, which will be in circulation for the 2011-12 school year.
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