Texas could help lead a textbook transformation if Gov. Rick Perry’s recent proposal to abandon traditional texts in favor of online versions takes hold, reports the Dallas Morning News. Electronic textbooks are imperative, advocates say, because they offer inexpensive, interactive lessons that engage today’s tech-savvy students and keep content fresh. Opponents worry that more free-flowing material will affect quality and remain unavailable to poorer students without computers. Perry already has support in the Legislature, which passed two bills last year increasing schools’ access to digital content. But the process won’t happen with the click of a mouse, warn educators, who might be the faction that needs the most convincing. “Some of the headaches that come with computers won’t be any cheaper than traditional textbooks,” said Gail Lowe, the state Board of Education chairwoman. “You know what a drain the maintenance of hardware is. It’s difficult to ensure every district is able to supply the same [technological] support” and access, she says. The new state laws grant the commissioner of education the authority to select a list of electronic textbooks for districts, including open content—texts that can be downloaded free of charge online. The laws also allow districts to use their textbook funds to buy electronic material and devices such as netbook computers that can access it. That means the state board will have less control of the content……Read More
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Texas election results could influence the future of textbooks
The Texas state education board’s influential Christian conservative bloc was weakened March 3 after one of its most prominent members lost his seat to a moderate Republican, and another reliably conservative seat was headed to a runoff, reports the Associated Press. Former board chairman Don McLeroy was handed a GOP primary defeat by lobbyist Thomas Ratliff. Ratliff conceded McLeroy never foisted his religious beliefs into textbooks, over which the 15-member State Board of Education has nationwide influence because Texas is one of the biggest clients for publishers. But Ratliff had criticized the 10-year board veteran for being too far right. “Voters sent a clear message by rejecting the ringleader [McLeroy] of the faction that has repeatedly dragged our public schools into the nation’s divisive culture wars over the past four years,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which opposes Christian conservative initiatives. “Parents want a state board that focuses on educating their kids, not promoting divisive political and personal agendas.” McLeroy, who believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that the Christian influences of the founding fathers are important to studying American history, lost his role as chairman last year following criticism of his outspoken views on creationism and support of teaching the weaknesses of evolutionary theory. The Texas board is currently rewriting the state’s social studies standards amid a debate over how prominently Christianity plays a role in the nation’s history……Read More