Students in Homewood schools know about 9/11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and the 2016 presidential election thanks to their teachers, not to their outdated classroom textbooks.
“Teachers have been updating their curriculum. The teachers have been working even harder to pull their own resources from primary sources,” said Kathy Schaeflein, curriculum director.
To rectify that, the District 153 school board agreed to purchase a new series of social studies books and online materials and additional computer devices for $213,845. The 16-year-old books have been scrapped and in their place will be new social studies materials for all grades this fall.
“Part of the reason why the district hasn’t adopted a new series is because we spend the most time on reading and math,” Schaeflein said. Reading and math are part of Common Core state testing standards.
District 153 has updated its reading and math curricula. Social studies standards were updated two years ago under the Illinois State Learning Standards, but Schaeflein explained the district waited two years before making the purchase so the materials would catch up with the new standards.
“We feel very confident with what’s here because it’s online heavy and those materials will be updated with current events as well,” she noted. The materials reflect “making connections from the past to the present. I think that’s a great advantage. Everything aligns. It’s not simply online.”
The primary grades at Willow School will get simple readers that convey a message of being part of a community. She said Willow teachers wrap the lessons around the village of Homewood. The teachers also can access online videos.
The third, fourth and fifth graders at Churchill School will get materials presented in a magazine format and online videos such as Discovery programming.
At James Hart School, the students will get a traditional schoolbook. In sixth grade they study ancient civilizations, in seventh grade it's world geography and eighth grade the focus is U.S. history.
“We do so much with the Constitution, the ‘We the People’ unit and our congressional debates. Those are long-standing programs, and they’re not going to change,” Schaeflein said.
Studies show students do better with printed reading materials because they can mark it and go back to it. With online materials they tend not to go back to look for a passage.
“Our kids need to know both,” Schaeflein said. With the new books, the Hart students will also get computer devices, “so they can toggle between online and text, and they can see how to manipulate an online version in an effective manner with the paper book.”
Teachers offered input on books and materials from three publishers before recommending the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt series.