By Conrad Dudderar
Textbook selection “huge investment” for the Yukon school community and students.
That’s according to Yukon Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Desarae Witmer, who described a collaborative process among school district administrators and classroom teachers.
Districts like Yukon undergo a six-year textbook adoption cycle set forth by the Oklahoma State Department (OSDE) of Education.
Secondary English Language Arts (reading, writing and grammar) and World Languages were updated during the 2022-23 school year.
“We go through a very systematic cycle of what we’re looking for, based on what the teachers want,” Witmer said at the April YPS Board of Education meeting. “Our philosophy is, ‘it’s the teachers that are using this’.
“I do not vote. Our coordinators do not vote. It is the teachers’ vote.”
YPS teachers, with guidance from the district’s textbook committee, approved these textbook companies during weeklong voting this spring:
- Sixth, seventh and eighth grades – Study Sync, a product of the company McGraw Hill.
- Ninth, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades – My Perspectives, a product of the company Savvas.
- World Languages – Que Chevre!, a product of the company Carnegie Learning.
Witmer detailed the annual book selection process in the administration’s report during the April YPS board meeting.
“We are very, very fortunate and blessed in Yukon that we use our textbook money from the state, but we also have an allocation every year that comes through our bond,” she told board members.
“So, we are able to use those funds to help make sure we’re meeting the needs of our students and our teachers.”
ELA had not had new resources in more than 16 years and standards have changed, Witmer noted:
“So, this is our opportunity to bring those rich resources into the hands of our kids.”
The six-year adoption cycle kicked off in the 2021-22 school year with elementary ELA and pre-kindergarten.
Future textbook adoptions will be K-12 math in 2023-24, fine arts and computer science in 2024-25, social studies in 2025-26, and science in 2026-27.
The OSDE has a state textbook committee that makes recommendations to the State Board of Education on lists of books to adopt.
“The goal is to gather as many resources that meet the needs of the students and the teachers in Oklahoma,” Witmer explained. “Oklahoma is a small state compared to others.
“Textbook companies do not write textbooks for the children of Oklahoma. They write textbooks for New York, for California, for Florida, for Texas. Those are big-population states.”
“What the State Department of Education and what we look for is, ‘Is it a resource that covers and meets the needs of 80% of the Oklahoma academic standards?’ … Our work is to find resources that supplement the other 20%.”
YPS receives just short of $460,000 from the state textbook fund, which may only be used on state-approved resources and texts.
Since one ELA textbook alone costs almost $200, Witmer said this is “not a lot of money” considering how many students Yukon has.
The state textbook committee has 12 members appointed by the governor with a 13th member being the state superintendent of public instruction (Ryan Walters) or his designee.
Each member must have more than five years of teaching experience, Witmer pointed out.
“The committee is comprised of two members from each congressional district, two that are from the state at large and then one who is considered a ‘lay’ citizen – somebody that does not have an education certificate, but they must have a child in the public-school setting,” she added.
The State Board of Education will approve the new adoption list Dec. 1.
Yukon’s school district begins its textbook selection process each December when a local committee is appointed.
Principals and coordinators make recommendations for appointees to serve on the panel, and many teachers step up to volunteer.
“We try to have some on there that are ‘growth mindset’,” Witmer explained. “We also try to select some that are very traditional in their teaching but also those that dive into the work.”
The YPS textbook committee conducts its first meeting each January when members hear from fellow teachers, typically two to three from each grade level.
They gain insight about what is working well and what is not with current textbooks – and they hear teachers’ desires for any new books.
“The goal is, whatever we purchase must be aligned to the Oklahoma academic standards,” Witmer said.
The YPS committee then attends a regional textbook “caravan” when vendors come to Oklahoma City. Witmer described this as “speed dating with textbooks.”
After reviewing the offerings, members meet again in late February to narrow down the textbook options based on identified criteria.
Textbook samples are then sent to Yukon school sites and placed in the YPS Administration Office board room for review by the public.
This provides the opportunity for all teachers and district patrons to check out all resources the textbook committee will be choosing from.
Every YPS teacher is highly encouraged to come to in-person presentations by textbook vendors.
“They must attend two presentations to get a voting ballot,” Witmer said. “We want to have an informed vote.”
Attendance at the vendor presentations is typically high with over 75% of YPS teachers voting each year, she noted.
A NOVEL IDEA
The Yukon school district has a list of approved novels placed in grade levels to ensure the same book is not read in multiple grades/years.
“Each adoption provides a set number of novels to encourage independent and small group reading,” Witmer said. “Novels will support the state standards and will be reflective of our community as stated by law.”
The district novel list will be reviewed over this summer and into the fall by a committee comprised of administrators, teachers and parents.
“Some novels – like ‘The Outsiders’ – sometimes floats between sixth, seventh and eighth grade. We want to make sure (a novel is) properly placed based on the new standards … and it’s meeting the needs of our kids.”
Lists of novels and library are available on the Yukon school district’s website.