Pushing for More APUSH Textbooks

OXFORD — Sophomore AP US History students are facing a dilemma. Since the school board’s adoption of a practice five years ago, the funding for course materials has been changed. The practice was adopted in an attempt to justify the one-to-one program that Talawanda has adopted. The one-to-one program has provided individual Chromebooks to every high school student in Talawanda. The practice is conducted within a six year plan in which $395,000 is set aside to purchase materials for a single group of subjects each year. For example, this year the funding is dedicated to English, Language Arts, and Music for grades k-12 in the Talawanda School District.

For the new AP US History course at Talawanda High School, only one class set of physical textbooks has been assigned to the two classes of students. In addition to the physical textbooks, two class sets of online text subscriptions have been purchased for the classes. However, the online text is difficult to navigate. The AP US History teacher, Mrs. Aerni, commented on them:

“…there is no ability to search page numbers on the ebook, meaning if a student needs to read pages 100-108, they need to know the heading titles and subheading titles. That makes it really hard for students to just flip back a few chapters to previously learned content…”

The need to rely on the online textbooks has led to “confusion, frustration, and a problematic situation on both ends…” says sophomore Mary Kate Huddleston who has had to use both the online and physical textbooks. She continued, “The worst part is that you can’t flip back and forth between pages [online] and you don’t need wifi in order to use [the printed textbooks].”

According to Talawanda Director of Curriculum Joan Stidham, talks about justifying the one-to-one program began about five years ago. “We wanted it to be a level playing field,” says Stidham about the decision to go one-to-one with technology. “We didn’t want a program that was bring your own device, we wanted to provide devices…Then it was ‘well, if we have devices, what are we going to do for curriculum?’”

Stidham went on to explain that some textbook publishers at the time were switching to “all online,” while others were still having print textbooks only, while others were doing a combination of the two. “At that point,” Stidham explained, “we said, ‘well we see where the trend’s going.’ Many of the publishers said…we’re gonna finish this round [of printing] then our new ones will be all online.” To adapt to the changes happening in the publishing world, the school board made a decision to start “cutting back on the paper copies and [start] using the electronic copies.”

This act of Chromebook justification makes perfect sense, however it is not without consequence. “Of my 47 students, only 1 has opted to prefer to read online only,” says Aerni. To compensate for the difficult situation, Aerni has created a system. Her class set of textbooks alternate between her fifth and sixth period every other unit. “It is an imperfect solution to a very frustrating problem.”

Mrs. Mahaney, head of the THS History department shared her thoughts as a classroom teacher: “I think we do a lot of other teaching using technology so the Chromebooks are very frequently used, but when it comes to straightforward reading the majority of my students prefer textbooks or paper handouts… Another problem that has developed over time: the teachers that used the e-text assignments are finding that the answers are posted in places like Quizlet by other students across the nation.”

So to answer the question, why can’t we just get the darn textbooks already? Because, similar to being a parent of twins, if one child gets something, the other one has to get it as well. Since the adopted practice stretches across the entire district for grades K-12, there is no simple solution to the problem. The only way to acquire them before the next designated “History materials year” in the text adoption cycle–which is in three years–is to petition the school board about it this upcoming term and a petition is no guarantee that the funds will be available. Until then students will have to continue sharing books and navigating the e-text or buy their own copy of “America’s History” which carries a $144.99 list price on Amazon.