Why are we still paying for textbooks?
An overwhelming number of us have to pay for textbooks.
We spend money to read them, to understand them and to create our own.
But we can’t afford it, we say.
This has led to an epidemic of students and teachers not knowing where to find the best books, and a decline in instruction in some schools.
As the crisis of textbook supply grows, we asked a group of top education experts to examine the cost of textbooks.
Here’s what they found.
A lot of us don’t know where to look A survey of more than 2,500 teachers and administrators, from across the country, showed that a majority of educators don’t have a good idea of the cost or even where to start.
One in five teachers surveyed said that they have no idea how much it will cost to buy books, while another third said that it’s not clear.
And of those surveyed who did have an idea of how much books are going for, only about half said they had access to pricing data or cost estimates.
Even more troubling, a whopping 87 percent of those who answered the survey said that there is not a clear way to compare prices across different departments or schools.
Many schools have cut instructional time or even eliminated instructional hours to meet textbook quotas.
And the costs vary greatly, with a few studies showing that textbooks cost less than $10 a page.
A report by the University of Maryland’s College of Education found that, in many classrooms, textbooks were cheaper than books from a library or online vendors.
The report also showed that while some teachers said they would purchase textbooks if it were available, many said they were not willing to pay more than $50 a year to cover the cost.
The lack of pricing data and information about textbooks is leading to confusion and lack of knowledge, said Elizabeth D. Manko, director of the Center for Educational Marketing at the University at Buffalo.
She pointed to a study published in the Journal of Applied Education, which found that more than 90 percent of educators surveyed said they could not determine the value of textbooks because there was no clear definition of what a textbook is and who determines what is a textbook.
The study also found that educators have difficulty distinguishing between textbook content and academic textbooks, saying that most textbooks are not necessarily academic.
And many textbooks are also not available in the classroom, which makes it difficult to determine how much each school spends on them.
MANKO said that if textbooks were priced properly, teachers would know what to look for and how much to spend on them, which would help them create better instruction.
But that’s not happening.
A survey by the New York State Education Department, which collects and analyzes data from schools, found that only 20 percent of teachers were able to compare textbook prices and make an informed decision on whether or not to purchase a book.
MFA’s new textbook pricing tool could help schools identify the best textbook and help educators make informed choices, said Michael R. Ziegler, vice president of education and curriculum development at the MFA.
“We’re going to be able to provide a much more comprehensive picture of what is available in our schools and why,” he said.
Rethinking textbooks A lot more needs to be done to better understand what textbooks are really worth and why, said Steven F. DeAngelo, an associate professor of education at the Graduate School of Education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Many of the books we’re buying these days are not even that good, he said, citing the popular works of George Orwell, Franz Kafka and Herman Melville.
De Angelo said the best way to make sense of what textbooks can do is to have a better understanding of what books are worth and how to use them.
“In the marketplace, we can measure the cost by looking at how many students come in and how many are in a class and how they use the resources,” he explained.
“What we don’t see is the value that students get from learning from books.”
We don’t need to spend a lot of money on textbooks.
Deangelo said that students can do better and have more fun with learning when they’re spending less time in classrooms.
DeMarco said that while it’s possible to pay $100 for a good book, the amount of money you spend on textbooks should be measured in terms of how many hours they can be used.
The MFA research found that if textbook prices were to be updated to reflect the current market conditions, a lot more money would be spent on textbooks and more teachers would have the resources to develop better instruction, he added.
It’s time to rethink textbooks DeAngelo and others say that textbook prices are not reflective of the market and that we should be paying more attention to how they are being used.
And that’s why MFA is introducing a new textbook, “MFA-The Book: Lessons for All,” which will include all of the information and tools that the organization has been working on for years.
It will include materials for teachers, parents, students, and teachers themselves, including