in Houston, Texas
Some Houston ISD schools not permitting students to take textbooks home, others letting books sit unused
Monday, Nov 21, 2011, 04:07PM CST
By Mike Cronin

Even in this age of online instructional materials, the textbook remains the foundation of K-12 education in many of the nation’s school districts.

Which is why Houston schools Superintendent Terry Grier was incredulous when he discovered that some district teachers prohibit their students from taking their textbooks home.

“How can they do their homework?” Grier asked trustees of the Houston Independent School District during a workshop last Thursday. “That's something I can't comprehend.”

Grier told board members that school administrators told him they feared pupils would lose the books, which would ultimately cause the district to lose money in book-replacement costs.

“If I have to issue an edict from the central office to fix this problem, I’ll do it,” Grier said.

Trustee Mike Lunceford, who represents District V, agreed.

“What is that telling the child?” Lunceford asked. “If you don't trust them to not lose the book?”

Lunceford added that if teachers aren’t willing to allow students to take books home, how are they going to believe pupils will take care of laptops, tablets or other modern learning tools?

“Some schools have two sets of books -- a set to keep at home and a school set,” Trustee Anna Eastman, who represents HISD District I, said via e-mail this morning. Eastman supports moving to a curriculum that offers students an array of materials online.

“Until we've made that transition, I absolutely support the administration in their position that all children should be able to bring textbooks home with the expectation that the kids can be responsible for them,” Eastman said.

But that’s not the only problem HISD has with textbooks.

Some teachers keep textbooks they’ve received in the closet, relying instead on their own curriculum materials, Melinda Garrett, HISD’s chief financial officer, told trustees during the same meeting.

Worse, said Travis McGee, a father of four HISD students, is that some schools don’t receive textbooks until November.

McGee, president of the Sunnyside Gardens and Bayou Estates Civic Club, said he talked to a number of Worthing High School students in late September or early October, and they told him they hadn’t gotten their textbooks. Their first day of classes was Aug. 22.

“I talked to the Worthing administrators, and they said it was up to the kids to check them out,” McGee said in a phone interview this morning. “But (the administrators) still said they had only some of the textbooks, not all.”

McGee said he learned that Worthing finally had gotten all their textbooks earlier this month.
Contact Mike Cronin at or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

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Photo of textbooks by flickr user herzogbr, used via a Creative Commons license.
Tuesday, 11/22/2011 - 09:07AM

Some schools with the poorest performance are hesitant to give students books because the bill for unreturned books can be so high. Schools can have $20k or more in lost books each year, money they have to reimburse the district for. The solution became, only issue class sets to teachers. The district began using a textbook database system that tracks who owes books, and that automate form letters to parents, but schools can't deny books to students who haven't returned them. Now that state is going to give districts to buy books instead of buying them for districts, which just means less money for books ultimately. Most schools even use the corner cut textbooks that publishers give for free to make up for lack of books. This is one of those issues that needs leadership and money.

Erin Petersen
Friday, 01/06/2012 - 07:57PM

HISD is NOT the only school doing this! There are schools in Galveston county doing the same. In fact they do not bother to take the books out of the book room. The books do not get to go to the classroom! They did in the bookroom! There are probably more books in the bookroom than there are in the classrooms added together! Yep. Students get to have every assignment on XEROX paper. Better yet this particulat school district throws all the paper away... All I can says is the district stinks. no PUN intended.

Friday, 03/30/2012 - 01:04AM

Houston and Dallas are not the only ones that do not allow text books at home. Hemphill ISD, West Sabine also fall into the catagories of no text books at home. How do I help my grandson with homework? I know that times change, but the basic foundation doesn't. However, it is an arguement with us that I show him something and he states that not the way the teacher said to do it. So I have requested to have the papers available to me that he will be working on and have been told to go to C-Scope, well that is not the class work papers, it is the teacher's itinery for what she is to do for the 6 weeks. TEA states that they buy the books for the schools, the schools say they buy them, however, we still do not have a book at home to use. I requested to buy a set for home, no go, they told me that they are to expensive. I was told that one class would never have homework that he will learn everything in class. Ha low and behold a homework project that he could not complete. No book, no instructions, just 8 facts. All we as parents ask is for books to have at home to help. I pay school tax, where and who does this go too? If Texas is the biggest consumer of textbooks, then they must be in a warehouse someplace outside of Texas. No child left behind is a joke, because no child has a book.

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