What Books Should Students be Reading?

Literature in the classroom continues to be a conversation in some school districts. From the topics that books should cover to discussions about the kind of topics that should be avoided, there is a growing concern about accountability in many schools.
District personnel talk to classroom teachers about the literature used in classrooms. These conversations are referring to any book a teacher chooses to use as a read aloud, any book they have in their own classroom library available to students, and any book they choose to have students read during instruction. District officials remind their employees that, as the classroom teacher, they are responsible for previewing all reading material prior to sharing with, or distributing, to students. This includes materials found within district approved reading series. The district has taken time to vet the leveled readers and guidance has been provided to instructors in those specific course guides.

Responsibilities for selection should be informed by judgments which place principle above personal opinion and reason above prejudice in the selection of highest quality materials. Topics that warrant caution include:

  • human sexuality
  • sexual orientation
  • profanity
  • global warming
  • racial issues
  • politics and political candidates
  • religion
  • violence
  • drugs and alcohol

The district does not expect teachers to remember this information on the first day of staff inservice, and it is helpful to know that school librarians are trained in this and information is also available in the published language arts course guide.  Ultimately, if the advice is if teachers are questioning the use of a book, they probably should not be using it.  However, conversations with librarians and principals can help teachers make these decisions.

Education can seem like a land mine sometimes. From conversations about what books are appropriate to knowing what kinds of topics are covered in health classes, parents and teachers can find themselves in awkward positions. Fortunately, many schools are getting to the point where they have written policies that explain how parents can ask for an alternative assignment.

There are Many Alternatives to Public High Schools in Some Parts of the Country

In a time when education is increasingly important, it should come as no surprise that more and more families are considering alternatives to public high schools. Knowing that there are many variables in any educational setting, in fact, it may come as a surprise when parents do not explore the other options. And while there are excellent public school opportunities in some parts of the country, it is growing increasingly difficult for parents in other parts of the country to get the answers that they want from their closest neighborhood high schools.

In some of the top districts in the midwest, for example, there is actually open enrollment throughout a city so that families can make a selection that will allow them to find a match for the kind of educational experience their child needs. From the most challenging of International Baccalaureate curriculums to a school that focuses on vocational training, it is important that parents understand what kinds of opportunities their children will have.

By the time they are entering high school, it is also equally important to make sure that any alternatives to public high school match what the student wants as well. For instance, a parent might want very conservative setting for their 16 and 17 year old sons or daughters, but there are times when the kinds of decisions will backfire. And for all of the attention that charter schools are getting in the news, the reality is that only 3 million students were enrolled in charter schools during the 2015-2016 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics reports. This may be a number that represents an increase from the approximate 1.8 million students five years earlier, but it is still a number that is very small when you consider all of the public school alternatives. Realizing that many of the charter schools spend infinitely more money, but do not represent significantly higher results is one reason to look at any of these proposed benefits very closely.

The U.S. Census Bureau, indicates that 90% of the U.S. population aged 25 and older had a high school diploma as of 2017. This is a number that was calculated long before there was such a debate over alternatives to public high schools.

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