The trouble with our textbooks

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Amanda Christovich, staff writer

Beverly is abuzz with improvements. From fixing the Swim-Gym to revamping the college application assistance process, administrators and teachers are working tirelessly to improve upon our school’s standard of excellence. However, Beverly has invested so much attention in creatively improving itself that it has practically neglected to address one of the most fundamental problems with Beverly of late. The textbook room recently ran out of many textbooks, and the number of dilapidated books distributed to students is negatively affecting the ability for students to study. Currently, Beverly seems to be struggling to comply with standards of the California Department of Education, which mandates that all schools must provide “a standards-aligned textbook or instructional materials, or both, to use in class and to take home” for “each pupil.”  It is time for Beverly to address the ever-growing fault in our textbooks.

A lonely textbook cover, surrounded by other school supplies, shrivels in the absence of an AP Statistics book.
A lonely textbook cover, surrounded by other school supplies, shrivels in the absence of an AP Statistics book.

Over 10 AP Statistics students spent their first week of class searching desperately for a recent rarity on campus: the third edition of The Practice of Statistics. Throughout the first week of school, students arrived at the textbook room only to be informed that the school had not only run out of AP Stat books, but also was unaware of when new books would arrive. According to Mr. Zadeh, the current AP Statistics teacher, requests for new textbooks were filed within the first two days of school. However, information about when the textbooks would arrive was scarce at best. Three weeks later, AP Statistics books still have yet to arrive, and over a dozen students took their first chapter test after not being in possession of a textbook from which they could study. As more students joined the course, the number of students completing homework assignments via photos taken on their phones continued to grow.

The classes for which the student-textbook ratio is adequate are distributing many books that are broken and illegible. Senior Ariel Mendelsohn’s AP Calculus book not only contains highlighting and pen-marks that obstruct the text, but also putrid food stains and a broken binding. The supply of Calculus books was so low that the textbook room was forced to distribute damaged books.

“And [the textbook room] won’t give me a new one,” Mendelsohn said, “because apparently there aren’t any in better condition.”

Beverly desperately needs to address the pitiful state of many of the textbooks it does check out to students. Every student deserves to receive a quality textbook, regardless of when students arrive at the textbook room. Currently, students believe whoever reaches the textbook room first is entitled to the best textbooks. However, the order in which students receive textbooks is often out of the students’ control. Students cannot obtain textbooks for classes that are absent from their schedule. Schedule changes often take up to two weeks. In this situation, even the most organized, prompt students may become stuck with either a mutilated textbook or no textbook at all. It is time to end the stigma at school that textbooks with broken bindings, ripped pages and copious amounts of pen marks are acceptable educational tools.

Textbooks are such a rudimentary part of high school education that it is understandable why, when brainstorming ways to improve a school, they have recently fallen to the wayside. But students need textbooks to learn; expecting a student to complete their homework or study for a test without a textbook is both unfair and irrational. Teachers cannot waste precious time waiting for a school to provide their students with supplies required of their courses. As a result, teachers are teaching regardless of the textbook situation. They have no other choice. And, because of this, the real victims of this textbook atrocity are students’ grades. In order to promote academic success, Beverly needs to make sure that there is at least one textbook for every student in every course. This does not include damaged, outdated or food-ridden books that sport obstructed text. Every textbook must be easy to read and preferably not doused in chipotle sauce.

I, personally, could not wait for new AP Statistics books to arrive. I took it upon myself to purchase a used AP Stat book from Amazon, and found that even though it took a week for my written-in book to arrive, I still received a book more quickly and in better condition from Amazon than I could from the textbook room. Currently, Amazon, an online retailer, seems to be meeting California’s textbook standards more adequately than is Beverly. This must change — the fate of many students’ grades rests upon the ability of the school to remedy the trouble with our textbooks.

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