Textbook adoption tedious process

People can joke all they want about textbooks being the same as when they were back in school, but it’s not true. Not in Portales, anyway, where textbooks are swapped out every six years.

Now is the time, when it comes to elementary school reading and language arts, and plenty of money can be had for textbook publishers.

Portales Municipal Schools administrators expect that they’ll choose this week between two finalists to supply English and Spanish textbooks for students between kindergarten and eighth grade. According to Portales High School assistant principal David Van Wettering, who serves as the adoption chairman in the process, around 200 textbooks for each grade level will be purchased.

At approximately $65 a book, that adds up to well over $100,000 that one publisher will make in Portales.

“I’d have to do the math, but that’s a lot of money,” Van Wettering said. “It’s a six-year cycle. Every six years, the same subject comes around again.”

The current selection comes down to offerings from two publishers — Scott Foresman and Macmillan/McGraw-Hill.

It’s an arduous process for those seeking to have their material in the classrooms, as publishers first have to pass muster with the state’s Public Education Department standards.

In October, those still in the running were part of a textbook caravan in Roswell. There, publishers had 45 minutes each to give their selling points to prospective school districts throughout eastern New Mexico.

Four representatives from Portales attended the Roswell event. Back home, the school system picked committees, called “vertical teams,” at each elementary to further study the offerings.

Vertical team leader Sandra Harris said the companies provide a wide array of material in order to accommodate the range of grades. Younger students, for example, may be more attentive to props such as hand puppets — offered by both of the finalists — rather than a regular textbook.

“This is an important adoption — reading. It was a time-consuming process, but the vertical teams delved deeply into everything that the company offers,” Harris said.

Next year, new textbooks for social studies will be chosen. In the following years, it’ll be time to replace the books for science, math, careers and secondary language arts.

“We hope to present our decision to the school board on Monday. Then we’re done for this year, except for the actual ordering and getting everything in,” Van Wettering said. “We like to have the books in the teachers’ hands before the end of the year, so they can start getting ready.”