The Life Sciences Secondary School in Manhattan is now textbook-free thanks to Principal Kim Swanson and Assistant Principal Derek Premo, who feel books are too “antiquated” and need to be replaced with “modern technology.”
Students at the combination middle and high school now walk the halls among piles of books stacked on the floor and next to the emergency exits, all of which have been collected as of late last year. Some teachers hid their textbooks so they wouldn’t be confiscated. They are also telling students to grab some and take them home since they’re going to be thrown out anyway.
According to The New York Post, teachers say Swanson and Premo “really frown upon the use of books” and want to teach with new methods. However, the teachers are concerned the school can’t handle doing everything online:
“Most classrooms have only two computers, and not all are hooked up to the Internet. Our hands are tied, and not having books has not helped the cause.”
The Post also notes that the textbooks are in good condition and even includes “stacks of ‘Campbell Biology’” ($150 new) which is a college-level text formerly used in the school’s AP classes. Advanced students now just watch videos on their laptops.
Here's what a few students are saying:
“We used to use them a lot, but now teachers just put out worksheets,” said freshman Shahadat Hossain. “We don’t really get much homework, it’s mostly classwork.”
And a 10th- grader said: “We don’t use any textbooks. They give us packets. I saw the piles of books around and thought it was weird.”
Freshman Meresha Henry, 15, prefers “more modern” learning on the Internet. “The school system is advancing,” she said.
But 14-year-old Anthony Galindo is disappointed that books are considered obsolete.
“It’s really strange. Last year we didn’t have enough textbooks so we had to share. Now we don’t have any at all,” he said, adding: “I liked being able to take them home to study . . . In my government class, my teacher gives hand-written assignments.”
Michael Aciman, a spokesman for the Department of Education, seems to agree with the principal’s decision, stating the books are “outdated and no longer aligned to the school’s current curriculum or New York State Learning Standard.” He also said students have access to “current” books that are more “updated.” One faculty member called that “a blatant lie.”
The touted “New York State Learning Standard” must be pretty low, because this school is underperforming. Though high school students have an over 80% graduation rate, only 26% are college-ready. The middle schoolers also perform well below the city average, with on 5% passing state math tests and only 9% passing English.
But they're apparently super savvy with a Google search.