Despite budget problems, my district next year will adopt new high school English textbooks. For the past five – six years, I have used The Norton Reader for AP English Language, and I love it. The book is filled with a variety of essays on different topics and with different writing styles. Since the textbook is a college textbook and only available in paperback, our poor books are heavily worn, and many of them are falling apart. I hoped that we would be able to adopt the new edition for next year. The new edition didn’t even make first cuts! I don’t know why; we were never asked to contribute our opinions of the books we are now using.
I wanted the new Norton Reader, but since a brand new book designed specifically for AP English Language was available, I wasn’t worried because I knew the new book would be excellent, and I looked forward to taking a good look at it. Since this textbook is touted by AP English Language teachers for its thoroughness and its concentration on teaching AP English and also preparing students for college, I knew it would be a great book.
It isn’t The Norton Reader, but it is excellent, and I set it aside to read during the summer. I knew I would need to recreate many of my plans and assignments, but I was excited to implement the changes.
Yesterday I found out that the county textbook committee adopted a different textbook for AP English Language, a book that was not even available when I looked at the AP books. I flipped through it today and was so disappointed. Instead of a challenging college textbook, the book is a watered down college book that includes vocabulary sections and scores of reading comprehension questions that emphasize literal recall. Most of all, the book contains few of the rich essays that my classes enjoyed discussing in the past.
I’ll use the textbook because I have no choice, but at a time when everyone is encouraging teachers to increase the rigor of classes and to demand higher standards from our students and ourselves, I am perplexed that we would select a lower-level book. What a disappointment.
I’ll still spend part of my summer reading the new textbook. It certainly will not take nearly so much time since it is so simple, and I’ll use the new book in the fall.
Over in the corner of my room, however, I suspect I’ll find the room to store a class set of my beloved Norton Reader.