Glendale Unified Spanish teachers forgo pilot process and recommend their preferred language textbook

Glendale Unified Spanish teachers forgo pilot process and recommend their preferred language textbook
After some parents spoke out against the "Qué chévere!" Spanish language textbook series that the Glendale school board voted to adopt last year, school officials said they would reconsider the adoption after hearing concerns that the books portray negative stereotypes. (Roger Wilson / Glendale News-Press)

Spanish teachers in the Glendale Unified School District are forgoing a pilot process and are instead recommending school board members adopt their preferred Spanish-language textbook after school officials rejected "¡Qué chévere!," a textbook series some teachers and parents say reinforces negative stereotypes.

The update was presented to the Glendale Unified school board Tuesday by Mary Mason, the director of teaching and learning for Glendale Unified.


Mason said teachers unanimously agreed to have McGraw-Hill's "Así se dice" as their Spanish-language textbook for the 2017-18 school year.

In addition, the district will create supplemental materials that will include the bilingual history and culture of New Mexico and Colorado — something McGraw-Hill does not include in its textbook.

The materials will cost about $519,900, according to a staff report.

A district committee — made up of 13 Spanish teachers, one from each school that has a beginning Spanish course — met over four months to establish selection guidelines, review seven textbooks and hear presentations from publishers.

"Rather than the typical committee I've sat on before [where] you have a parade of publishers [that] tell you everything that's terrific [about] their program, we wanted to do things different," Mason said, who was accompanied by three committee members involved in the textbook-selection process.

Teachers created their own grading guidelines before hearing what publishers had to offer. They began with seven textbooks and narrowed it down to two publishers: Pearson Prentice Hall and McGraw-Hill.

The two textbooks were on display in the district office from May 15 to June 16. During an open house, community input indicated a consensus to use McGraw-Hill in addition to supplemental materials.

Teachers heard two-and-a-half-hour presentations from each publisher, and ultimately preferred McGraw-Hill.

While both textbooks were good, teachers said, they thought McGraw-Hill was the better of the two because Pearson lacked extended resources, Mason said. She added that the rigor was appropriate for students, and the worksheets and assessments were easy for teachers to customize.

Teachers acknowledged using McGraw-Hill for the upcoming school year would be a "tight timeline," but they wanted to "start fresh" because the district's current Spanish-languge textbook is "outdated," Mason said.

Nayiri Nahabedian, school board president, said she was pleased to hear of a "positive resolution and informative process." She commended teachers taking on additional work to create supplemental materials to cover topics excluded from McGraw-Hill's textbook.

The board is expected to take action on the adoption process next month, and if approved, teachers will use an e-book until printed textbooks are received.

The search for a new Spanish-language textbook began last year after some parents raised concerns about alleged negative ethnic and gender stereotypes portrayed in the "¡Qué chévere!" series published by the St. Paul, Minn.-based EMC Publishing.

The book series, which was slated to be read by about 3,200 middle and high school students studying Spanish, was adopted by the board in June 2016.

The school district's then Spanish-language textbooks, "¡En español!," were reportedly falling apart from years of use, so school board members opted to purchase the "¡Qué chévere!" series and then consider adopting another textbook in several years.

Costs could have been anywhere from $384,000 to $730,000, depending on whether teachers opted to purchase additional online components that accompany the textbook.

However, school officials agreed to hold off on purchasing the series and instead reopened the selection process after hearing complaints from parents, teachers and former city officials.

One parent cited an entry in the book about Mexican cuisine, which begins: "'Excuse me waiter, there's a fly in my soup.' Well, in some Mexican dishes, it might be part of the recipe!"

The sentence that follows reads: "In pre-Hispanic times, Mexican food included corn, beans and chiles (still staples today), but also insects like chapulines as a protein source."

Parents took issue with the first sentence because of its negative portrayal of Mexican cuisine, noting in a letter they gave to school officials that flies "are not purposefully presented or identified as edible insects in any restaurants, luxurious or otherwise."

EMC Publishing officials agreed to change the introductory sentence regarding the fly, which they said was intended to "grab the reader's attention with a commonly told joke and to connect a current trend in Mexican cuisine with the pre-Hispanic custom of eating insects as a protein source."

The series had been one of seven textbook options that Glendale teachers had considered adopting, but it wasn't the group's first pick.

The two preferred books back then were shelved because their publishers hadn't caught up with the proposed foreign-language standards that California would adopt with Common Core, according to Kelly King, assistant superintendent of Glendale Unified.

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