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Process for Adopting or Modifying Course/Grade Level Texts

Introduction

The process for selection of instructional materials is a collaborative process led by professional educators in the Westport Public Schools. Westport teachers and administrators are supported by the Board to make curricular decisions related to books and other instructional materials. This includes balancing traditional and contemporary texts as students build knowledge and skills in a content area. There are three categories of instructional materials that are used in classrooms: textbooks, trade books, and other texts or representations of meaning. Further details are described in the sections below.

1) Textbooks
Gone are the days when a unit of study was simply “Chapter 14” in a textbook. Westport’s curriculum is dynamic, engaging, and focused on prioritized standards that emphasize inquiry and academic excellence. Textbooks are approved by the Board of Education following a review that is led by administrators and teachers. The recommendation to the Board for adoption of a new textbook is primarily focused on informing the Board about the budgetary implications, but the selection of textbooks is focused on providing a resource to students that is aligned with and supports curricular goals. The textbook does not drive the curriculum, but rather the curriculum drives the choice of textbook. Textbooks are selected based on their alignment with state and/or national standards, accessibility for students, and district needs.

2) Trade Books
Trade books are not textbooks and do not progress through the same approval process as textbooks and do not require Board of Education approval. Westport educators support students’ intellectual freedom and offer a wide range of voices and perspectives in our library and classroom collections, aligned by each school and/or grade level. This is reflected through whole class books as well as book club choices that are part of instructional practices in various content areas.

Whole Class Books
Whole class books are selected by teachers collaboratively through our ongoing curriculum revision and reflective process. These books are communicated by teachers through curriculum documents, student materials, and course syllabi each year. These books change periodically as the curriculum, needs of our students, and availability of resources changes over time. The reasons for adding or removing a whole class text falls under the following categories: 1) a different text meets the skill-based standards for a unit in a more accessible way for students, 2) a new text is published that is more relevant for a particular unit of study, 3) a teacher or group of teachers pilots a new text in order to conduct a comparative analysis of student work in order to determine if one text is more accessible and supportive of a specific set of skills, 4) curricular changes require an entirely new text because of a holistic change to a unit of study. 

Book Clubs
Book club texts are curated based on reading level and thematic content that aligns with the goals of a particular unit of study. Teachers and library media specialists support the selection of these texts and teachers regularly refresh and review these titles. When a unit of study includes a book club, students make choices from a range of texts, similar to choosing from a curated offering of titles in a library. Teachers collect feedback from students about these texts in an effort to provide engaging books that will encourage students to increase their reading volume, apply the reading skills that they have learned during instruction, deepen their understanding of the content through diverse lenses or perspectives.

3) Other Texts and Representations of Meaning
Other texts and representations of meaning (i.e. media, art) are used as instructional materials to support curricular goals. News articles, poems, documentaries, digital texts, and art are among the instructional materials that are used to enrich students’ experiences in the classroom.

Conclusion

As educators seek to teach and develop the critical reading, writing, communication, and thinking skills required of a 21st century learner, texts that offer rich opportunities for analysis and perspective-taking foster a powerful exploration of the human condition and all its complexities. As Westport students progress through the curriculum, they engage with a range of voices and experiences at a developmentally appropriate level. The book challenge process and necessary forms are available to parents and community members, which can be used if specific concerns about a book or other text cannot be resolved through thoughtful and respectful dialogue with the school district.

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