On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the country’s oldest national education law dedicated to providing equal opportunity to all students. ESSA scales back much of the federal government’s role in public education on everything from testing and teacher quality to low-performing schools. Under ESSA, states do have greater flexibility, but they still are required to submit ESSA plans to the Department of Education (DOE) for approval.
The deadline for submitting ESSA plans to the DOE was last year. By October 2018, all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, had their ESSA plans approved. States are now in the process of implementing them. How are the plans that require changing policies on curriculum, assessment, and accountability playing out at the local level? What are the implications for publishers?
As the student population in the United States has grown more diverse, educators have looked for more effective ways to handle the growing diversity in the academic and language needs of their students. Personalized learning —tailoring instruction to each student’s unique needs and learning preferences —is one approach that is getting a lot of attention.
Since 2012, 15 states have implemented policies to support personalized learning, ranging from waiving regulations to setting up innovation zones. But how have schools implemented personalized learning?
In its implementation, personalized learning has taken a multitude of forms. Schools are taking very different approaches in how the curricular materials are used, how the classrooms are organized, how the data are used to group students, and how “mastery” of subject matter is defined.
The Benefits of Personalized Learning
The common elements shared by personalized-learning models are a greater focus on meeting individual student needs and, to a lesser extent, keeping students on pace with grade-level standards. The benefits of focusing on the individual student are:
- Students can work at their own pace on different subjects in the same classroom without impacting the learning of their peers. This allows a student to take the time to fully review and master a concept before moving on.
- Learning gaps can be closed between students when each student gets customized instruction. All students now have the ability to work at their highest personal level of achievement.
- Teachers and students are more fully engaged in the learning process. Students’ self-directed, independent learning allows teachers to have more one-on-one interactions with students. Teachers can take the time to talk with students, determine where they are academically, and tweak their learning plans so they can achieve maximum results.
As key states enter another round of adoptions, much of the market is in flux. The conflict over implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), along with policy changes and the growing interest in digital content and new types of instruction are affecting the decisions that state education departments and schools are making about their instructional materials. States must decide what to adopt (textbooks, supplemental programs, digital products, or a combination of materials), while publishers need to determine what best practices and content states demand, including what standards to align to.
When the Common Core was first developed in 2010 to level the education playing field, it was adopted by forty-six states along with the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia did not adopt the CCSS. By the fall of 2017, ten more states dropped out (Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) with a major standards rewrite or replacement, while Minnesota chose to adopt the Common Core only in English Language Arts.
Though thirty-six states are still using the CCSS, it is difficult to determine how uniform the application of the standards is across all the states. It is also not clear whether the revised standards that states are developing differ significantly from the Common Core. Interestingly, most of the states that never adopted the CCSS or later repealed them are also textbook adoption states. To further complicate the situation, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced in a recent speech that Common Core is dead at the U.S. Department of Education.
A recent White House report states that the textbook market is valued at about $7-8 billion, with California, Florida, and Texas being the key adoption states. However, the textbook adoption market is changing.
The Old-School Textbook Adoption Buying Pattern
In the past, publishers focused most of their textbook development efforts on two states: Texas and California. Textbooks for these two states would often become templates for textbooks sold nationally, but according to a recent EdWeek article, California, and Texas no longer dictate content in textbooks. Currently, there are 19 states that adopt textbooks in a variety of curriculum areas, and publishers are finding that these individual states want customized textbooks.
What Factors are Driving Change in Textbook Adoption?
According to a 2016 White House report, the U.S. spends over $1.3 trillion on education expenditures. And the instructional materials market for K-12, which includes state adoptions, is over $19 billion. In large states, such as Texas, it makes sense to customize a national program. With smaller states, a calculation needs to be made: does the potential revenue justify the expense of customization? What’s the best way to customize for a specific state?
Start with Gap Analysis
The first step is a gap analysis to analyze the state standards. For example, in Texas, we would compare the TEKS to the standards the national program was aligned to, usually the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This is a bit ironic, given that Texas never adopted CCSS. A gap analysis relative to CCSS is a tool you can use again and again as you develop plans for the many states that are moving away from CCSS or adapting it to create their own customized standards. Ultimately, the gap analysis answers important financial questions about the scope of work required for a successful customized program.
Curriculum is changing. Schools are moving towards competency-based assessment and personalized learning is becoming popular in many districts. Many states are moving away from the Common Core. All of these issues affect what is being taught in the classroom. How to keep up with the trends and movements? Here are some links to help keep you abreast of what is happening now.
Is it right for your students? Here’s a definition and explanation of personalized learning that will help you decide if it would work for your students.
The educational market is in flux. States are pushing back from both Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and assessments linked to the CCSS. States and publishers are waiting to see:
- Will funding be directed to charter schools?
- How many more states will drop out of the CCSS?
- Will states want summative, formative, or competency-based tests?
- How will products align to changing state standards?
- What products should states, districts, and publishers develop to meet current market needs?
Many states are moving to create their own standards. How will these new standards affect the educational market? What steps must states and publishers take?
All the uncertainty in the market calls for gap analyses. A gap analysis identifies how current products are aligned to new standards, which standards still correlate, and what’s missing—gaps where new standards are not well covered.
Publishers need to ensure that their products and assessments readily address the changing needs of states and districts.
States and districts need to know how their new standards align to older standards. Since most states adopted CCSS, new standards usually are analyzed and compared to CCSS.
What actions are taken during a gap analysis?
As we leap ahead in the EdTech era, we wanted to look back a moment and put EdTech in perspective. This video explains three long-term convergences we see:
- convergence of content and interactivity through technology;
- convergence of what had been isolated “silos” of curriculum; and
- convergence of instruction and assessment, which had been distinct phases of the education process.