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Local News

October 10, 2012

SPECIAL REPORT: Textbooks, homework used much less in new teaching style

Study shows students across nation unprepared for college

CHICKASHA — Part one of a three part series investigating new teaching methods in Chickasha and the nation.

First National Bank of Chickasha Business Development Manager Paul Lewis' freshman daughter Lauren rarely has homework and she never seems to bring any textbooks home.

It's not that she doesn't do her work or study, in fact her grades tend to be good. She's simply part of a new educational trend sweeping the nation where kids do their homework in class and textbooks are assigned to classrooms and not students.

Digital is the new platform for learning. United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan even said recently that the U.S. should be moving in the direction of new technology and transitioning from print to digital books.

This supplemented with the use of the Common Core, a system designed to create a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, is supposed to produce high school graduates with a set of skills that are robust and relevant to the real world.

Recently though, President of MetaMetrics Malbert Smith III found two disturbing trends in education utilizing the Common Core Standards.

"First, over the last 50 years the text complexity of K-12 texts have trended downward. Second, the text complexity of reading demands in college, careers and citizenship have held steady or increased over the same time period," Smith states in his study "Bridging The Readiness Gap: Demystifying required reading levels for postsecondary pursuits.

In this study, Smith opens with "Graduation from high school no longer guarantees that students are prepared for the postsecondary challenges that await them." Despite statistics like Smith's school districts across the nation are pushing out homework and text reading in favor of a flipped classroom setting, which allows homework to be done in class and utilizes online instructional videos in the home as a method of teaching.

Communications Director for the Oklahoma Department of Education, Damon Gardenhire, said this doesn't mean students are not prepared for post high school life.

"There is a lot of innovating and instructional conditioning and that doesn't mean they're not getting the proper education just because students don't have homework," he said.

Director of Teacher Education at the University of Science and Arts Oklahoma Vicki Ferguson, disagreed with this sentiment.

Ferguson said what she has seen at the high school level is bothersome and money shortages in education has caused too many book shortages.

"Kids can't bring books home if they want to read them," she said. "The fear of colleges is kids will come here and won't be able to read at the level they need to."

Ferguson said the Common Core is supposed to solve this problem, but since it was only instituted two years ago, there isn't enough data to know whether it's working.

"Time will tell," she said. "Hopefully this will push kids to read at or above the college level."

At the moment Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Nebraska and Minnesota are the only states that have not adopted the Common Core Standards.

Gardenhire said the state doesn't control the allocation of textbooks and recently there has been a lot more flexibility in the money allotted for textbooks than there used to be.

On the national side, a spokesperson for the Department of Education who wished not to be identified by name said this is strictly a state issue.

"We cannot speculate on the fact that they (students) will read less," she said. "This would probably be best answered by the state in terms of what their plan is to maintain the quality of education, while making a transition away from textbooks."

In Chickasha, Public Schools Superintendent Jim Glaze said the issue of textbooks has been looked at thoroughly and in the last five years the district has tended to place money intended for textbooks in other endeavors.

"A lot of the time homework may not require textbooks," he said. "A lot of information can be found online."

Glaze said textbooks are expensive to replace and money that was formally used for textbooks is now utilized elsewhere.

"We want to make sure we don't have to reduce the amount of teachers," he said.

Glaze acknowledged that at the moment reading standards in Chickasha are sub-par, but he hopes the Common Core will combat this issue.

"From a reading standpoint it is inadequate to make the transition to college," he said. "We want them to read more complex textbooks."

Glaze said CISD receives roughly $175,000 a year to spend on textbooks and the average textbook costs between $80 and $100.

During Monday's school board meeting CISD Director of Finance Dwight Yokum said the district spent roughly $15,000 on textbooks in the last year This number equates to between 150 and 190 textbooks for the entire district.

Despite not having enough textbooks for every student, Glaze said copies are free to make and students can check textbooks out of the library if they want to use them.

"We are trying to get them to write more and improve their critical thinking ability," he said. "We are looking at all forms of writing especially from an argumentative standpoint. Education is changing so rapidly that it's stressing everyone out. It would be nice if we could slow things down a bit."

For Paul Lewis his daughter not having homework is enjoyable. It's less he has to do, but his concerns still remain that she is not receiving the best possible education.

Jessica Lane contributed to this story

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