The Richland School Board fine-tuned its district's novel adoption process for high school literature courses Friday morning.
The board decided that the analyses and comments from the district's book reviewers be given to teachers who use the books in class.
Board members also indicated they want details of a teacher's rationale in using a book when it is being considered for approval.
But board members again delayed a decision on three books that initiated discussion about the novel adoption process. The books will be considered by the board at a regular meeting in the coming weeks.
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Board member Phyllis Strickler pushed for more safeguards in the district's process, including limiting any recommendations for new books to come from a committee and not individual teachers. Other board members, however, said the current system is adequate.
"I think there are proper safeguards," said board Chairman Richard Jansons.
The board refrained last month from making a decision on three novels -- The Lottery by Patricia Wood, Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn and A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer -- after concerns about the books were raised by Strickler and a community member. The books have dark themes, profanity and some sexual content.
The three books each received one or two rejections from the district's Instructional Materials Committee. Those rejections were outnumbered by recommendations by other reviewers, but a large number of reviewers still voiced reservations in their analyses.
Strickler said she wanted to see books with less than two-thirds recommendations without reservations go before a curriculum committee for more study.
Tony Howard, facilitator for the materials committee, said there is no procedure for teachers to be specifically provided reviewer comments on texts and other recommended titles, though they are available online. Board members said that it was important for teachers to receive that feedback.
"I think that's a hole in the process," Strickler said.
Board members said it also is important for them to understand why teachers use specific texts in their lesson plans. Board member Mary Guay said she thought it made a big difference to know the rationale for using a book when considering it for approval.
Strickler still had concerns about the introduction of new books into schools, saying teachers easily could introduce them into the curriculum through the district's book pilot program without much oversight.
Superintendent Jim Busey said while new books can be piloted by teachers, they can only do so through his approval and notification to the board, and then only for a given semester.
"I don't think that's a workable solution," Strickler said. She pushed to have the board make it so only a district committee could add new books.
"It's not a realistic process you are describing," Jansons said. "We've seen two (books piloted) in a year and a half, not 20."
Howard added that if a teacher was granted permission to pilot a book, he would push that book to the top of the district's list for review.