Gilbert Public Schools Controversial “Springboard” Textbooks

On June 5, the GPS Governing Board is expected to discuss and adopt “proposed” math and English language arts textbooks. These books are on display for public view and comment at neighborhood elementary and junior high schools. They are also on display at the GPS Educational Complex, 140 S Gilbert Rd, from 8 am to 4 pm weekdays. The public is invited to review the books and complete an Evaluation Form.

“Proposed” isn’t exactly accurate. The truth is that Assistant Superintendent Mrs. Barbara VeNard implemented a pilot program this year incorporating Springboard, College Board’s Pre-AP program, into all of the 6-8 grade honors courses. She stated that because of Race to the Top and Common Core State Standards, she recommends expansion into 9th grade honors and regular 7-9 grades.

The Springboard books were implemented without informing the parents of the children in these honors classes. To understand the seriousness of this issue, consider how Gilbert Classical Academy was pitched to parents, and then take a look at what a parent, a retired teacher, and a 14-year old student at Gilbert Classical Academy, Joshua Smith, had to say at the May 15 Governing Board meeting about the Springboard series.

The Gilbert Classical Academy (GCA) pitch:

“The focus of the school is the development of critical thinking skills through a rigorous, classical-style curriculum integrating technology with the Socratic Method of instruction. The school includes a campus-wide emphasis on character building and understanding of virtue in classical history and literature.”
Socratic instruction forms habits of disciplined thought, which results in higher levels of cognitive processes. As explained in the 2006 GCA policy and procedures approved by the board, the GCA Socratic method of instruction creates a learning environment in which students become active participants in grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

To be a “world class” writer, you must study excellent writing. Part of obtaining a “world class” education is to read and study great literature from all parts of the world. Enduring works have been produced for over a thousand years and have stood the test of time, because they address classic themes that are as relevant today as they were when they were written.

Here is the GCA list of literary works that were supposed to be read and studied:

7th Grade:

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Vern
The Wild Children by Felice Holman
Cyrano DeBergerac by Edmond Rostand

8th Grade:

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

9th Grade:

Our Town by Thorton Wilder
The Aeneid by Virgil
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

If the educational goal of GPS is to produce students who exhibit world class writing and reading skills, do the Springboard books accomplish that? I suggest to you that these books do not. Many of the selections provide a snapshot of contemporary people and fictional characters who are witless, shallow, and self-absorbed, preaching the religion of victimization. They may live in their own real world. However, what is there to learn from them? Certainly not the role of individual personal responsibility in our own success or failure.

These new Springboard books meet the federal “common core curriculum” requirements. Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution wrote, "The most reasonable prediction is that the Common Core will have little to no effect on student achievement." Joanne Yatvin, a past president of the National Council on Teachers of English, writes, "Taken together, the standards and the criteria project an aura of arrogance and ignorance in their assumptions about how and why children learn." See Sarah Palin was a Prophet About Obama’s Education Takeover

The “Community Member Evaluation” form doesn’t ask if you think these books provide rigor, or if they build English skills, grammar, punctuation, good sentence structure, or improve spelling. It doesn’t ask if the selected readings build character or encourage excellence.

Rather, the evaluation form asks about the “propriety of content.” Are the ethnic, cultural, religious, political, moral, and/or psychological references consistent with community values; are they devoid of stereotyping? Are they devoid of violence and/or inappropriate sexual references?

Gilbert Watch strongly suggests that you review these books and complete the evaluation form and submit it no later than June 1, so the Governing Board can read what you have to say prior to their June 5 meeting.

At the May 15 GPS governing board meeting, a parent, a retired teacher, and a 14-year old GCA student, Joshua Smith, presented their serious concerns about the 4 Springboard books. Some parents have reviewed the books and submitted their written concerns.

Please read on Gilbert Watch “Joshua Smith Speaks Out Against GPS Springboard textbooks.”

Below are comments and excerpts from the Springboard books as presented by Julie Smith:

The Proposed Springboard Curriculum, Level 1-4 (Honors 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grades)
Even though these books are “proposed,” some honors classes have already used them, including in 8th grade at Gilbert Classical Academy. Only one literature book per year is read. Heroes are environmentalists, single mothers, student activists, and celebrities fighting for various causes. Heroes are also to be found in contemporary films, not literature. Movie clips, including PG-13, are used in every book level including level 1 which is 6th grade.

Examples of movie clips include: The Lion King, Toy Story, The Mighty, Hook, October Sky, Batman Begins, Star Wars 1, Mulan, ET, Simpsons TV show, Edward Scissorhands, and The Corpse Bride.

Level 1 book:

Recurring theme is promoting boy/girl relationships.

Short story The Jacket. “I wore that thing for 3 years….All during that time no love came to me–no little dark girl in a Sunday dress.”

Short story He Said, She Said. “I almost got my first kiss that day…..Hey big brother, there’s a hot chick waiting here for you! Whatsa matter? Afraid she’s got cooties?”

Level 2 book:

A newspaper article is presented to teach students about debate. The article is about a New York City ban on cellphones for students, and the parents’ objection. The article describes police doing a random search on students finding 129 cellphones, 10 CD players, 2 iPods, a box cutter, a knife, and marijuana at the Acorn High School for Social Justice in Brooklyn.

Short story A Hundred Bucks of Happy
A child finds a $100 bill. His mom says to turn in the money to find the owner. The child refuses and instead goes to the mall to make a purchase and realizes most items he wants costs more than $100. At the end of the story the child evenly splits the money between himself, his mom, and his brother and mails the rest to father who left the family. His mom and the children go to the mall to spend the money.

Bullying stories/articles.

Monologue Family Addition
“How can mom be pregnant?…..She’s too old……She already has 2 of those animals she calls my brothers….And that means she and dad-no I’m not going to think about it.”

Level 2 and 3 books:

There is a heavy emphasis on articles and discussion relating to marketing and advertising to youth. The use of celebrities is a strong component in both, and how they influence dress and purchases; celebrities are discussed who promote products and who have social causes.

Social Justice article about Derek Jeter and the money he makes, and why isn’t that money going to the schools? It goes on to discuss how resources can be distributed fairly in society.

Research assignment related to the uprising in Iran, labeling the USA as corrupting Iranian society.

Environmentalism/global warming/green movement article Science Hero: Beth Rickard, Environmentalist
Article about students writing to Congress encouraging Congress to put an end to the genocide in Darfur. (Congress has the authority and power to end genocide in Darfur?)

Short story A Couple of Really Neat Guys by Dave Barry.

Level 4 book:

Many of the narratives, poetry, and music lyrics focus on the black inner city and Mexican/Latino cultures. Inappropriate terms can be found such as “nigger” and “spic” in two separate items.

There are photos and images of the segregated south from the 1930’s-1960’s that are viewed and discussed. Informational text ‘Jim Crow: Shorthand for Separation’; Jim Crow Laws created by the Interpretive Staff of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site listed.

Song and lyrics of "Every Ghetto, Every City" are studied by Lauryn Hill. This song is about black inner city life in New Jersey. Lyrics speak of bike and carjacking, murders, the projects, and referencing people who live in these particular projects as “crazy niggers.”

Nirvana and Tori Amos versions of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" are analyzed. This song was written by Kurt Cobain, after he and a woman spent a night of heavy drinking and drug use, and then went around the city of Seattle spray painting graffiti on buildings including “God is gay.” They then came back to Kurt’s residence and wrote all over the walls which was then used to write the song.

Poem "Ego Tripping" by Nikki Giovanni read and studied.

This is a black pride poem written by a woman who was radicalized by the Black Panthers and assassination of Malcolm X. Part of the poem reads:

"I turned myself into myself and was
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save
I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents
I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission
I mean…I…can fly
like a bird in the sky…"