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Schools Struggle to Replace Outdated Textbooks

Schools Struggle to Replace Outdated Textbooks

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TWIN FALLS • Jacque Salisbury hardly ever asks her students to open their physical science textbooks.

She prefers more engaging, hands-on learning. Plus, the middle school books are more than a decade old.

“If you’re going to hand kids really old textbooks, they’re not going to be passionate about science,” said Salisbury, who has been teaching for 24 years.

Across the Magic Valley, thousands of students are using textbooks with outdated information.

That’s because many school districts are holding off on buying replacements, said L.T. Erickson, secondary programs director for the Twin Falls School District.

Part of the problem is a lack of materials aligned with Common Core Standards, which Idaho adopted in 2011 and taught for the first time last school year.

“We’re just waiting for the textbooks to catch up with the new standards,” Erickson said.

And since 2010, Idaho districts have gone without money specifically for textbooks.

“After that disappeared, the districts were left with using their discretionary money,” said Idaho Department of Education spokesman Kelly Everitt.

Many rely on voter-approved supplemental levies to pay for basic operating expenses, such as buying new books. The Twin Falls district is seeking renewal of its two-year, $9 million levy during the March 10 election.

Salisbury’s eight-graders at Vera C. O’Leary Middle School are using textbooks with worn edges. And over the years, students have drawn on pages with pencil.

On Thursday, Salisbury opened a textbook and looked at the inside front cover. The book was published in 1993 and has been used in classrooms for 12 years.

Science changes quickly, Salisbury said, so it didn’t take long for a book to lose its relevance.

Some textbooks have been replaced recently at Twin Falls schools, such as for middle and high school social studies. The district also buys materials for new classes such as business and college-level algebra.

For classes with old textbooks, teachers are finding ways to get up-to-date information to students.

“Our teachers have done a really good job of supplementing,” Erickson said.

Schools are also grappling with whether to buy hard copy textbooks or e-book versions.

“It’s been kind of a weird time in curriculum,” Erickson said, adding the district doesn’t want to regret a purchase.

It can easily cost $750,000 to $1 million to replace materials for one subject area districtwide, he said.

The district is paying more than $900,000 for a six-year subscription for Reading Wonders, a new elementary school program aligned with Common Core. Students use hard copy books, digital e-books, videos and vocabulary games.

In Cassia County, schools are also struggling to find money to replace textbooks.

Burley High teacher Colleen Parkin told the Times-News last year that her social studies textbooks are ragged and more than 10 years old.

“They are hanging on by a thread,” she said. “It’s a huge issue. I know it’s about money, and the state said we were all going to get laptops and go digital. But that hasn’t come through.”

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