The Shifting Textbook Adoption Market

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?

The adoption “rules” in most of these states have loosened considerably. Florida passed a law in 2013 that allows districts to purchase “off-list” materials—ones that are not on the state recommended list. Now that more districts are allowed to buy off-list, it is easier for supplemental publishers to sell into these states. This means that districts have more choices and can choose to buy smaller programs as well as digital products. They recognize when programs were originally created for California or Texas, seeking instead  textbooks developed specifically for their state standards. So, there are now greater opportunities for publishers to customize textbooks for these large districts and for smaller adoption states.

The Digital Disruptors

Technology companies are also disrupting the market, making inroads with platforms, lessons, and programs. Technology products are moving to the forefront of purchases. States have now set up requirements and procedures for these purchases. For example, see the data on state requirements and policies for digital purchases at the SETDA website. With teacher accountability and test scores still large factors in state adoptions, districts turn to technology products for unique ways to track and monitor student performance. In addition, there are greater customization options available with digital curricula.

Opportunities for Supplemental Publishers

While the Big Three (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson) still dominate the textbook adoption market, the new adoption policies allow supplemental publishers such as Amplify Education, Benchmark, Zaner-Bloser, and Core Knowledge to submit and sell successfully in these markets. Most publishers now offer technology products that allow districts to customize curricula to better fit their goals.

textbook adoption

Source: The Boston Consulting Group: The Digital Disruption of Education Publishing

New Textbook Adoption Buying Patterns

The freedom to make off-list purchases has changed textbook adoption buying patterns. Districts can now choose specialized programs that match the needs of their student populations. This means that districts are looking for specialized strands within programs. For example, districts with a high percentage of ELL students may look for curricula that actively address English Language Development (ELD) standards. They look for strong ELL lessons that go beyond simple “window-dressing” activities—lessons that provide scaffolded ELD strategies to help ELL students succeed in mainstream classrooms.

With the ability to purchase technology, districts can now offer more independent work and online courses that answer the need for differentiated instruction. Technology also offers opportunities for immediate assessment, allowing teachers to truly focus directed teaching lessons to build students’ skills base and 21st century skills.

Today’s adoption market is flexible and adaptive, which allows educators to pick and choose materials to build a curriculum that meets their needs and objectives. And, given the amount of money spent on education, this is still a market that publishers want
to capture.

Further Reading

See Education Spending Per Student by State for state-by-state statistics on per-pupil educational expenditures.

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