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Textbooks, technology leave Oak Harbor School District behind

Oak Harbor School District Human Resources Director Kurt Schonberg will present these well-used 2003 world history textbooks at the Oak Harbor School Board’s textbook and technology replacement discussion Oct. 10.  - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor School District Human Resources Director Kurt Schonberg will present these well-used 2003 world history textbooks at the Oak Harbor School Board’s textbook and technology replacement discussion Oct. 10.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

Maintaining school textbooks and technology is similar to keeping up a home or a car. Putting a new roof on a house now will save money in the future and it’s the same for curriculum, said Oak Harbor School District Human Resources Director Kurt Schonberg.

Due to federal and state budget reductions, the district has been unable to replace kindergarten through 12th grade science textbooks since 2002 and kindergarten through 12th grade social studies textbooks since 2003.

Further budget restrictions indicate that these textbooks and writing, art and music materials won’t be replaced this year and next year as planned, Schonberg said.

It will cost approximately $600,000 per year to make the necessary replacements and get back on a regular replacement schedule.

The Oak Harbor School Board will hold a discussion of the issue during a meeting on Monday, Oct. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the school district building. The purpose of the discussion is to hear the community’s opinions about what should be done.

Textbooks and technology need to be replaced at least every eight years because they become outdated, worn out, state standards of curriculum change and old technologies don’t work with new equipment, Schonberg said.

“If we don’t take steps, the result of delayed curriculum maintenance means in the future we’ll need everything at the same time,” Schonberg said. This is not only difficult because of funding but also because it’s time-consuming enough for teachers to adopt one new curriculum per year; adopting all at once would be very challenging, especially for kindergarten through fifth grade teachers who teach multiple subjects, Schonberg said.

Each year that new curriculum isn’t adopted, the needs pile up, which will cost more in the long run.

“It’s a lot like not changing your oil in your car now; you can’t go back and get that,” Schonberg said.

Over the past four years, the district adopted new kindergarten through 12th grade math and reading curricula. Scores on standardized testing have improved since then for some grade levels, Schonberg said.

“We are more consistent in our instruction across the district and vertically grade to grade because of these adoptions,” Schonberg said, adding that this also ensures students receive the education aligned to state and national standards.

Science and social studies need curriculum updates because the body of knowledge continues to change and both are heavily supported by continually updating technologies.

“Social studies is very much a 21st century subject talking about the students being participatory in their community,” Schonberg said, adding that students need to learn social studies so that they understand how to vote.

Science is necessary because this year’s ninth graders will be required to pass the science portion of state standardized testing in order to graduate. Some of the current texts aren’t well-matched to student reading levels, Schonberg said.

Science and social studies are high-cost areas to update because they are technology intensive.

Technology doesn’t only refer to classroom computers and software. Technology includes the servers that run the district’s telephones, the bus routing systems software, security and camera systems and more.

“Technology’s not just important for student learning but for district-wide safety,” Schonberg said.

The district faced a similar dilemma in 2005 through 2007, leaving reading curriculum nearly 10 years old, elementary math 9 years old and sixth through 12th grade math 8 years old.

At that time, the district was able to devote some money each year from the budget to afford to update the curriculum. Now, the district can’t afford to do that due to state and federal funding reductions.

Schonberg’s former position as director of teaching and learning, the position that dealt primarily with curriculum review, was eliminated last year due to funding.

With other recent staff cuts, budget reductions and state revenue forecasts, Schonberg said that indicates that the district won’t have any extra money in the state budget allocation to devote to textbook and technology replacement.

Another problem is the changing state standards. In the past five years, math standards have changed three times and science, language arts and social studies standards have changed twice, Schonberg said. Last month, the state announced its decision to change the science standards again, Schonberg said.

Teachers are forced to adapt by spending extra time finding supplemental materials and “cobbling together” much of their instruction, Schonberg said.

“We’ll make do but this is important work and it does impact student learning every day,” Schonberg said, adding that new curriculum isn’t just a nice extra.

The discussion at the school board meeting will address questions including: how high of a priority is curriculum replacement? Is there something else we should give up in order to buy textbooks? What relationship is there between up-to-date texts in good condition and student learning?

“We would like people to come with their ideas and priorities on the future of curriculum and technology in the Oak Harbor School District,” Schonberg said.

 

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