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Posted on Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor replacing 11-year-old biology books as district plans more timely curriculum review calendar

By Danielle Arndt

The Ann Arbor school board approved replacing the district’s approximately 1,279 outdated textbooks for biology at a price of $117,440 Wednesday.

But what board members were most excited to hear was that the administration is developing a curriculum and textbook review calendar that will give instruction coordinators, financial decision makers and the board all a “head’s up” when a new textbook adoption will need to take place.


Ann Arbor Public Schools will be purchasing a new biology book for students and developing a curriculum and textbook review cycle before fall.

Danielle Arndt |

Deputy Superintendent Alesia Flye said her instruction and curriculum team has been working on this type of comprehensive, 5- to 7-year projection tool since school got out.

“The intent is (the calendar) also will have all of the costs associated with each (curriculum) item right on there for planning purposes,” she said. “The goal is to have it completed by the end of the summer.”

She added the calendar reflects the general life of a textbook, which typically is 5 to 7 years.

“I am really glad to hear it; it’s about time,” said school board President Deb Mexicotte. “I think in the 10 years I’ve been on the board, we’ve asked for something like that every year.”

The money for the new biology textbooks will come from the general fund’s departmental budget.

Amy Deller-Antieau, chairwoman of the district’s science department, said in her report to the board the current textbook was published in 2001, lacks online supplemental materials, is written at a 10th-grade reading level (when the course is now taught to ninth graders), does not address stem cells and differentiation and the content regarding Biotechnology and genetics is outdated.

The book that will be purchased is "Biology" by Stephen Nowicki, published by Holt McDougal, copyright 2012.

Flye said a number of online and technology related capabilities were weighed and discussed when evaluating the new texts that possibly would replace the old biology book.

The district weighed whether to purchase a hard text or to move forward with online instruction. Deller-Antieau said the determination was that the district does not yet have the capacity to access online textbooks in the classroom.

“Right now, teachers have access to laptop computer carts, but not all of them have the tools to access (the online textbooks) on. And how many computers can be connecting to the network at this time is an issue. So if I’m a teacher, and I want my students to access the text once a day, I might be challenged to schedule access to the technology to do that,” she said.

Trustee Andy Thomas asked if the technology barrier would be eliminated in a few years with the infrastructure improvements coming as a result of the $45.8 million technology bond that voters approved. Superintendent Patricia Green said yes.

However, not all students have computers or Internet at home, Deller-Antieau said, so even in the future, the district would need to have some books for students to use.

"This book will take us into the future in terms of meeting the future needs of kids," Flye said. "There has not been an official adoption yet of the Common Core Standards for science ... but the online support for students with this recommended textbook adoption are very flexible in terms of differentiating the work for students."

Flye said Common Core Standards for math and English/language arts have been set. She has heard the core standards for science are "under review, and we hope for full adoption any day now."

Much of the summer break, because it was Flye's first with the district after being hired last summer, was spent ensuring the district's curriculum aligned with the Common Core Standards and Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives. The biology textbook adoption was viewed crucial in Ann Arbor's STEM efforts, Flye said.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Mon, Aug 6, 2012 : 3:51 a.m.

5-7 years for a textbook but this one isn't replaced for 11 years? The hype presented for technology millage about staying current was just that.......hype about it's for the kids? Something needs to change in management or should I say lack of management and leadership.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

Good. Now get rid of the crummy math books too.

Dog Guy

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

New biology textbooks? A leap into 20th Century technology! Science textbooks are laughably outdated before they hit the printing presses, but incompetent science teachers must rely on them.

Basic Bob

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

Fortunately, science doesn't change very fast. The theories Newton and Darwin developed are still generally true, and still widely accepted as fact.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

Wow, $91.82 for a single text book? Someone familiar with publishing costs should be investigating text book publishers. My career in purchasing and my experience as a writer tells me that cost controls should be the first priority. Ordering anything out of a catalogue is NOT cost effective nor is it cost control. I've bought a lot of text books for my own personal library - for my own learning. The thing I notice is that I never paid anywhere near $92 for a text book on the private market. Something looks fishy with the educational publishing market. OTH: I've always been a biology fan (was president of my high school's biology club). Learning incentive was the key at our high school: both of our biology teachers sponsored a week-long biology field trip and assigned us hands-on projects which also sometimes took us into the field to collect specimens, etc. (only plentiful specimens were included, nothing rare or endangered - the world has plenty of tree leaves and ants). Students competed (with grade scores) to get on that week-long trip, it was a big deal every year. But the one thing that never came up was the question of text books: we had two great (highly dedicated) teachers who knew how to TEACH and how to make learning (and becoming an adult) a real adventure. Just suggesting: maybe what's needed is more emphasis on focusing teenage minds on what biology (the science of living things) is about. A little more astute purchasing practices and more teaching youths what they are naturally interested in: LIFE.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

@TruBlu - Considering what my college student is charged for textbooks, $92 seems just about in-line. However, one would think that there would be a "bulk discount" when purchasing nearly 1,300 copies of the textbook.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Excellent choice of a biology textbook for the district. It may be time to begin discussion on whether or not students/parents are required to pay a deposit for the textbook, as many of them are damaged or lost and will need to be replaced. Having taught biology for over 30 years, I know that the cost of a biology textbook is expensive, and expensive to repair / replace as well. My other thought is that parents could be given the option to purchase the on-line textbook, along with other learning tools, which makes sense in an age when many students have their own laptops/iPads/readers, etc.

Susie Q

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

AAPS has a new policy this year for lost textbooks/athletic uniforms/instruments, etc that was prompted by the media firestorm that resulted from a Pioneer student being "sent home" when he/she was unable to pay for two or three lost textbooks. It is my understanding that no student will be prohibited from registering and receiving textbooks for the 2012-13 school year, EVEN IF THEY HAVE OUTSTANDING OBLIGATIONS FROM LAST SCHOOL YEAR. The penalty that WILL be enforced is that they will not be able to participate in any extra-curricular activities like athletics or clubs or dances until the obligations are met. AAPS loses thousands of dollars every year from lost and damaged textbooks, library materials, musical instruments and uniforms.

Angry Moderate

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

You are supposed to pay for damaged books, but they are usually beat up to begin with. It's hard to tell whether the current student messed it up, or just added normal wear and tear to a book that was already in rough shape.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

"It may be time to begin discussion on whether or not students/parents are required to pay a deposit for the textbook, as many of them are damaged or lost and will need to be replaced." Students at Pioneer, and ultimately their parents, are responsible for paying for lost or damaged books. This is nothing new. With obligations, students cannot complete registration for classes in August. Students also have to pay all fines/obligations before graduation.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

Are students not required to pay for them at the end of the year when a book is damaged? At Chelsea High School, in each class, the teacher would flip through the books to determine if the book was worth saving. If you didn't pay for a damaged book, you got a payment needed slip instead of your diploma at graduation. You didn't get the official paper until you payed. Granted you might have to wait 3 years for final payment...

Middle America

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

If a large portion of the commenters on had their way, all those pesky biology books would be replaced with Bibles and critical thinking would be done away with just like in Texas.

Middle America

Sun, Aug 5, 2012 : 3:25 a.m.

Disliking religion is not bigotry, halflight. Buy a dictionary and look up what that word means.

Middle America

Sun, Aug 5, 2012 : 3:23 a.m.

Woah, tdw, you're right! How dare I post an opinion or a thought! I better have some facts to back up each and every comment I make. How about you provide me with facts supporting your view since you are so demanding?


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 5:07 p.m.

Thanks for providing example 2,315 of Ann Arbor's faux tolerance and religious bigotry.

Angry Moderate

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Hah, right, because our feel-good achievement gap programs and happy-clappy "challenge day" exercises are based on critical thinking.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

Any type of facts ( dirty word for liberals ) to back that statement up by chance ? Nope didn't think so

Ghost of Tom Joad

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

"they're", not "their", please allow us to edit our comments!

Ghost of Tom Joad

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

Sadly, because of how large the Texas School System is, their curriculum still dominates what the textbook suppliers include in their books. Because their so much of the market share, they pretty much force the rest of the country to deal with their insanity.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

Luckily, 98% of the people who comment on this site don't live in Ann Arbor.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 10:58 a.m.

"I am really glad to hear it; it's about time," said school board President Deb Mexicotte. "I think in the 10 years I've been on the board, we've asked for something like that every year." They ask. Administration ignores them. No one loses their job? And we wonder why the district has issues.