VALDOSTA -- The Georgia Department of Education is giving area teachers, parents, and other interested parties a say in deciding which language arts and reading materials will be adopted next year for grades K-8.

Friday morning, about two dozen teachers from Hahira Middle and Lowndes Middle schools became the first group to conduct such an evaluation of the educational materials under consideration.

Sharon Walker, a keyboarding and computer applications teacher at Hahira Middle School, was thrilled to be part of the process.

"We are in the classroom every day," Walker said. "We need to tell the powers that be what it is that we need to help meet the needs of the children. We know what the students' strengths and weaknesses are. It frustrates us when someone on the outside tells us what we are going to do."

Shirley Davis, member of the 2002 State Textbook Advisory Committee, said the Language Arts and Reading Textbook Adoption Evaluation is a chance for the community to review, evaluate and comment on a variety of textbooks, resource enhancements, and classroom manipulatives.

"This is our chance to voice our opinions and provide comments regarding the strengths and weaknesses of those programs being offered in our Georgia schools," Davis added.

The evaluation site for schools in District 2 -- Ben Hill County, Berrien County, Brooks County, Cook County, Echols County, Irwin County, Lanier County, Lowndes County, Tift County, Turner County, and Valdosta City -- is located in the cafeteria of Hahira Middle School, 101 S. Nelson St., Hahira.

Site hours are from 9 a.m. to noon June 24 to July 2 and July 8-12. Davis said site hours can be adjusted to meet the needs of the community.

"We want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to visit the site," she said. "It is important that we participate in this evaluation process and provide feedback. The Georgia Department of Education is seeking our help."

There are displays from over 45 publishers, Davis said, in addition to various enhancement materials from different companies. Displays include scientific based research, correlations to curriculum requirements, hands-on activities, new authors, new books, and advanced technology for students and teachers.

Davis said she will take all the evaluations to Atlanta on July 22 where they will be reviewed, along with those from the other districts, by officials from the Georgia Department of Education. Those materials receiving positive evaluations will be listed on the state's 2002 Textbook Adoption list for all K-8 schools in Georgia.

For information, please call Shirley Davis at 630-5450.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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