Residents could have direct input on school textbooks

The Marion County School District is aiming to be the first Florida district to select its textbooks with community input, instead of choosing books from a state list. 

"I said there has to be a way to chose our own and in statute there was, it's called pathway A. Pathway B is using the state list, we chose to go with pathway A, so we will be able to choose our own textbooks," said Superintendent Dr. Heidi Maier. 

Maier was receiving complaints about the district's science and history books, along with complaints about low reading proficiency in students throughout the district. It's a problem that teachers, we spoke to, say needs to be addressed through the text children are reading.

"The readability level is what I'm looking at for my students, because most of my students do not necessarily read on grade level," said 6th grade teacher, Michelle Bednar.

Maier said it's not just about what the text says, but also about how complex the content is. 

"There is a high school standard for teaching the Holocaust. A current textbook we use does cover the Holocaust but does so in about a paragraph. Do we want that for our children? Or do we want to choose a different textbook that still teaches the Holocaust, but teaches it to the depth and the complexity that the subject matter needs." 

Other teachers said they need online support and want students to have access to materials at home. More importantly, 9th grade teacher, Dr. Marlene McMurrer-Shank says every student needs to be on a level playing field. 

"I desperately need Spanish resources... at my school, I don't have any Spanish resources, other than a test generator, so I can translate the test into Spanish, but that's it."

The cost of buying books this way is on par with the state list. The school board will take the community's input into consideration when voting on the textbooks later this month.