Publishers now face new barriers when selling textbooks. The needs of the teachers and students are at risk unless providers can make flexible, adaptable, and scalable resources. Florida’s rejection of math textbooks for SEL and Common Core standards brings providers new challenges. Publishers may face some of these challenges.
Adoption Patterns for Textbooks Are Changing
Gone are the days when a few states set the textbook standard for the nation. Texas, California, and Florida are big states with many K-12 students. So, publishers printed textbooks to meet their requirements. Then, the rest of the states followed. Now, that strategy no longer works well. New laws and the rise of digital ed-tech providers create more competition. Therefore, districts can buy books that fit their student population. For example, an ELL-heavy district can buy ELD curricula. So, states that do not wish to comply with a specific standard can do so. Also, publishers can invest in curation tools that show standards alignment. Publishers could capture the market by investing in innovative digital tools.
School Districts Are Shifting from Textbooks to Digital Resources
First, US K-12 districts continue to buy digital resources. In 2019 districts spent $7.5 billion on tech. In 2020, their investment jumped to $35.8 billion. The Biden American Rescue Plan Act gives school districts nearly $110 billion to continue investing in digital platforms. Publishers can use this investment to drive strategic goals of increased accessibility and digital equity. Besides that, the shift from primarily printed textbooks to a blended curriculum lets states and districts select ala cart-style content. So, providers have compelling reasons to do so.
School Districts Desire Adaptable, Flexible, and Scalable Content
So, providers can learn from the emergency remote learning of the pandemic crisis. Developers can tighten up analytics, assessments, and transparency to administrators. Then, providers can break up content so that educators can pick and choose what they need in their classrooms. So, teachers can easily find instructional materials like textbooks to meet state, district, and student needs. Besides that, providers could offer hearing, visual impairment, and ESL content to school districts.
The Reviewers of Textbooks Might not be Educators
So, several states have curriculum review committees that approve textbooks. However, reviewers may not be educators. They may be insurance salesman, politicians, and citizens without students in the educational system. Likewise, districts may not have the capacity to review the curriculum. Offering low pay for textbook reviewers may not garner the best results. Teacher shortages and retirements leave many districts short-staffed. Many states rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from other districts and states for textbook adoption. So, state-level approvals do push a district’s buying decision.
Sell Niche Products and Other Supplemental Textbooks to Local Districts
Likewise, Florida, California, and Texas still have many schools with large student enrollments. So, when one of the big states approves a textbook, the other states still tend to follow. However, the teacher, student, and district demands do win out. States have given much more freedom to local districts to stray from state adoption lists. These districts have more choices than ever. So, they seek products that meet specific standards and needs. Providers can sell niche products like supplemental textbooks to these districts.
Publishers Should Be Aware of the Politics and Create More Ways for Feedback
Florida has brought the textbook review process into the political arena. The providers’ task of collecting feedback for revisions is now in the public eye. So, publishers can make analytic tools that close the feedback loop. Publishers can continue to give districts performance-centric real-time digital tools. States want to know how their districts perform for educational standards. Teachers need performance indicators on student learning, and students want to see their grades. So, publishers can continue to invest in collecting feedback on textbooks from teachers and students.
In sum, providers face new barriers when selling textbooks to states. State adoption patterns as changing. Moreover, larger states influence other states for textbook adoption. Still, districts ask publishers to give their educators innovative digital tools. Teachers ask for flexible, adaptable, and scalable content. So, publishing leaders guide their development teams to meet the needs of their various school district clients.
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