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States Are Losing Power Over Classroom Materials, and Districts Are Gaining It

Cross-posted from the Curriculum Matters blog

by Catherine Gewertz

State control over curriculum materials is slowly shifting to districts.

According to the Association of American Publishers, which tracks textbook-adoption laws and practices, only 18 states have laws or regulations that cast them in the role of approving districts' choices of instructional material. Typically, the way such a system works is that a state issues a list of approved materials, and districts must choose from those materials if they wish to use state funding to pay for them.

Only a few years ago, about half of the states were "adoption states." Now that number has slipped to 18, according to Jay Diskey, the executive director of the AAP's school division. Those states are: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Even some of the 18, he said, don't really "act like adoption states" though they still have the rules on their books.

Florida is still technically an adoption state, but enacted a law in 2014 that gives districts more power over instructional materials, allowing them to opt out of the state process if they create one of their own. They must take steps to better inform parents about their schools' instructional materials, and must hold hearings if parents object to them. A bill that would have taken Florida out of the approval business altogether cleared only one legislative chamber. Indiana, on the other hand, repealed the law that empowered it to approve districts' curriculum materials, according to Diskey.

Texas isn't in the AAP's list of adoption states anymore, either. A recent article in the San Antonio Express-News explored the reasons that the Lone Star state's curricular influence over districts—and the nationwide publishing industry—is waning. Key factors have been the declining power of the state board of education, and the state legislature's 2010 move to turn most of the state's textbook authority over to districts, according to the newspaper.

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