by Christopher Paslay
In a letter today in the Philadelphia Daily News, Dr. Ackerman announced there will be “districtwide accountability systems in place for textbooks that hold everyone responsible for the proper use and return of these instructional resources annually.”
Dr. Ackerman pledged that the Philadelphia School District will:
–Assess all schools to determine the individual book needs in each classroom and place new book orders where appropriate immediately.
–Implement a new automated tracking system next spring that tracks textbook orders from the district office to individual classrooms.
–Enforce district policy that holds students and parents accountable for lost or damaged textbooks.
–Hold building administrators accountable for ensuring that books are available for each student at the start of each school year and collected at the end of the school year.
As announced on the Philadelphia School District website, “The District is asking parents and students with textbook issues this year to first contact their school principal. If further action is needed, please contact the student’s Regional Superintendent’s office. Finally, parents and students can contact the Superintendent’s Parent Ombudsman at 215-400-6161 or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org if the issue remains unresolved.”
I give this new accountability system two thumbs up. It’s holistic, in that it holds everyone accountable—students and parents as well as administrators and teachers. My only question is (and I don’t mean to be cynical), what specifically IS the District policy that “holds students and parents accountable for lost or damaged textbooks”? Seriously. How do you do this? If parents can’t (or won’t) pay for damaged or lost books, how do we handle this? Do schools put a hold on a student’s records? Refuse him or her prom tickets? Stop them from participating in graduation? Are teachers allowed to refuse students additional texts who owe money for lost books from the year before?
Maybe the District could ask Philadelphia courts to garnish wages. Or maybe the city could get involved and handle lost textbooks like unpaid parking tickets.
Regardless of the method, we need to have this policy in writing, and it must be uniform across the city. And we must implement it. No excuses. No backing down under pressure, no giving-in to “special circumstances”. All for one, and one for all.
If the District truly follows this plan, and we ALL pull our own weight—teachers, administrators, parents and students—I truly believe the lost textbook epidemic in Philadelphia will be a thing of the past.