EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 25, 2008

Mother says schoolbook shortage hurting daughter's grades

HAVERHILL - Demita Pendelton says her 10-year-old daughter's grades in science are slipping - and she can't help her.

She says she can't help her daughter because she receives little homework and is not allowed to bring her textbook home.

The mother of five, including three students in city schools, said her daughter had always earned A's and B's until this year. She said she contacted her daughter's fifth-grade teacher at Bradford Elementary School for advice and received back a letter explaining the teacher is "unable to give homework often due to having only one set of textbooks for two classes," reads part of the teacher's letter to Pendelton.

"I want to spend some time helping my daughter, but I can't without a book," Pendelton said. "Without a book to reference, I don't know what they are trying to teach her and where she needs help. I'm not in school with her to see the lesson."

The district's textbook shortage has affected all of her kids, Pendelton said. She said her son, who attends Consentino Middle School, was suspended for a few days last year. While her son was out of school, school officials refused to send his math book home so the boy could keep up with his classmates, Pendelton said. Her son fell behind and received an F in math that semester, she said.

"The books are so precious, they treat them like platinum," she said. "I always see the city's wish list in the newspaper, but I never see schoolbooks on it. That's sad."

Bradford Principal Michael Rossi said teachers at his school are told to find ways to accommodate any parents who are trying to find a way to help improve their child's academic performance. He said the problem with Pendelton's daughter likely occurred because the school is "piloting" a set of new science books specifically aimed at the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam. The school is borrowing a small number of the books from the manufacturer until it decides if it wants to purchase more of them, Rossi said.

"Those books are on loan, so (we) don't want to let them go home," Rossi said. "But all the classes should have study guides that should be going home that show what the kids are learning."

The lack of textbooks and the outdated and tattered condition of those that exist have been a source of frustration among parents, teachers, students and the School Committee in recent years.

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