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Scarce, Outdated Textbooks Impede Learning, Teachers Say

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A dearth of up-to-date textbooks interferes with learning in the nation's elementary and secondary classrooms, concludes a national survey of teachers that was released last week.

Sixteen percent of the teachers who responded to the survey said they did not have enough textbooks for their students, and 46 percent of the teachers reported that they were unable to assign homework because there were not enough textbooks for students to take home.

"I have to scrounge, beg, borrow, or buy materials for my class," a teacher from California says in the survey.

The Association of American Publishers' school division, along with the National Education Association, conducted the study of 878 teachers.

The survey also found that 25 percent of the teachers reported using textbooks that were more than 10 years old. Slightly more than half the teachers said their students were exposed to outdated information as a result of using old textbooks.

"Our survey found that America has a terrible textbook shortage," said Rick Blake, the vice president of the New York-based publishers' association. "Maybe it's a case of mistaken priorities."

According to the association, the United States spent more money last year on fast food, alcohol, tobacco, cosmetics, and pet food than it did on $2.1 billion in textbooks.

The survey results also indicated that teachers rely heavily on texts. Forty-one percent of the teachers said they use textbooks every day; only 9 percent said they never use them.

--Karen Diegmueller

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