Pre-calculus students at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School are using 13-year-old textbooks that in some cases are bound together by duct tape, the result of teacher preference and budgetary constraints.
“I’ve seen them, and I can confirm they are held together by duct tape,” Fred Carr, Metro Nashville Public Schools’ chief operating officer, told The City Paper.
School board member Anna Shepherd at Tuesday’s board meeting recounted receiving an email from a Hume-Fogg parent who saw the tattered textbooks at a recent open house and expressed concern about the condition in their exchange.
Metro school officials say the Hume-Fogg math team opted to use 1998 pre-calculus textbooks — preferring the content — instead of 2004 versions that were purchased in 2005 and are in far better shape.
Hume-Fogg is believed to be the only Metro school using 1998 pre-calculus textbooks. In all, 244 pre-calculus textbooks published in 2004 are being stored at Hume-Fogg, but are currently receiving no use. The books, which were used for one year, cost Metro $65.95 each, totaling more than $16,000.
Metro plans to auction off the 2004 pre-calculus textbooks next year to the highest bidders, which could include Nashville charter schools, according to MNPS spokeswoman Meredith Libbey. She stressed textbooks these days are used more as supplementary resources than primary instructional tools.
“At Hume-Fogg, the math department there made a decision several years ago that they prefer the content of the 1998 edition over the content of the 2004 edition,” Carr said.
“We didn’t use to keep out-of-date textbooks in the inventory system,” he said. “So, we didn’t even know they were using 1998 books.”
Textbooks are purchased every six years, according to Carr. With Metro’s most recent math book purchase cycle occurring in 2005, new 2010-published pre-calculus books were supposed to be bought this year. The 2010 pre-calculus textbook Metro chose has the same publisher as the teacher-preferred 1998 textbook.
But during the purchase process, school officials ran into an issue. State-mandated curriculum standards forced Metro to purchase new books across the elementary- and middle-school levels. Metro’s pre-calculus high school books still met standards.
Because purchasing new pre-calculus books for the entire district would have cost an additional $250,000, administrators deferred finalizing the purchase until 2012.
“We had to get the books that were aligned with the standards,” Carr said. “In courses where the standards really did not change — pre-calculus, calculus, statistics — we did not buy those books. We deferred them until a year to buy them next year.”
Metro spent $8.5 million on new books last year. The typical annual textbook budget is $6.5 million.
Shepherd, the board member, said she is concerned about the Hume-Fogg book situation.
“I understand that teachers know the curriculum and they know what best suits their needs,” Shepherd said. “But it’s a concern for me that in 2011 we’re using a 1998 textbook. And furthermore that the ones from 2010 were approved, but not purchased.”
Carr said Metro’s process for purchasing books has two phases. First, teachers recommend their preferred publishers to the school board. Then the district’s inventory team analyzes student enrollment and decides how many books should be purchased.
He said the district recently added a new layer to the process based on a computer program that tracks the district’s entire book allotment — detailing which books are being used and which ones aren’t.