Ann Arbor replacing 11-year-old biology books as district plans more timely curriculum review calendar
The Ann Arbor school board approved replacing the district’s approximately 1,279 outdated textbooks for biology at a price of $117,440 Wednesday.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.
Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com
“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ninth graders), does not address stem cells and differentiation and the content regarding Biotechnology and genetics is outdated.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.