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The Adoption Market

The current adoption market segment remains in flux and is continually adapting and changing. The 19 states that still adopt textbooks in a variety of curriculum areas are loosening their requirements. Some states, such as Florida, have passed laws that allow districts to purchase “off-list” materials.

There are many factors disrupting the adoption market. The movement away from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is affecting the development of instructional materials for this market. Florida, a key adoption state, is a good example of a state that has moved away from the CCSS and is now developing its own standards for English language arts and mathematics, thus impacting upcoming adoptions in those curriculum areas. North Carolina is also currently reviewing its adoption process.

According to, states aligned to the CCSS fall out as follows:

  • 35 kept CCSS adoption (34 states and District of Columbia)
  • 11 announced a major rewrite or replacement of CCSS
  • 4 never adopted CCSS
  • 1 adopted CCSS only in English language arts (ELA)

Common Core

EdTech remains a disruptor in the adoption market as many tech start-ups are entering the market, creating products that meet the needs of personalized learning curriculum and formative assessment that directly affect products developed for this market. These new players are forcing the Big Three (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson, and McGraw Hill) to be more agile and flexible in the products they create for the adoption market. Still, a White House report puts the value of this market segment at between $7 billion and $8 billion.

Companies that develop what is known as supplemental products, such as Benchmark Education and Curriculum Associates, are now competing in the adoption market. With the more flexible adoption policies, these companies are able to have their products listed and viewed as core materials. These companies also have created flexible products that states and districts can customize. With many states allowing districts to buy products not on adoption lists, this has opened the door for supplemental and digital learning companies to sell their products during adoption cycles.

The personalized learning trend is affecting product development for the adoption market. Personalized learning is based on allowing students to take deep dives into learning and to work independently. These are also characteristics that are integral to online learning classes. Therefore, online learning is often seen as the “solution” to personalized learning, though it is really only one aspect of personalized learning. SEL and assessment are components that also need to be considered in the content development of personalized learning products. Online learning, however, remains a growing market segment with many new players entering the market. Many private and virtual schools are following the Khan Academy model of creating courses and offering them to students and districts. Publishers will have to compete with these schools in the market. Online courses also affect adoptions, in that states are looking to these types of programs to answer the need for personalized learning; thus, many districts are using adoption funds to supplement their core adoption programs. The map from iNACOL shows the states that are moving toward competency-based education policies that are linked towards the personalized learning movement. Some adoption states are developing policies around this movement.

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Another factor affecting the adoption market is the adoption and implementation of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This means alignment and development of science instructional materials that meet these standards. Many states, such as Florida, are “revising” or adapting these standards, which affect product development. Thus, unlike programs that were developed to meet the CCSS in English language arts and mathematics, and which could be developed into national programs, the new science programs will have to be customized to meet individual state standards.

Learning technology companies are moving into this space with AR/VR products, coding courses, and robotics. These companies are developing a curriculum to go with their digital products and competing with print publishers in the science market. With the loosening of adoption rules, they are also now competing in science instructional materials adoptions.

Civics is another curriculum area that has become important in districts and states. The “fake news” that is invading the Internet is of great concern to social studies educators. They also feel more than ever that civic responsibility should be taught in schools. Educators are looking for materials that will help teach critical thinking skills so that students learn how to effectively analyze data, judge the veracity of information, clearly identify opinion versus fact, and behave as responsible citizens. For publishers who develop social studies content, there are opportunities to refocus and customize their existing content to meet these needs. Digital critical thinking lessons could also be developed to address these issues and at the same time align to the College, Career, and Civic Framework (C3 Framework), which focuses on teaching and applying 21st-century skills.[1] Since social studies materials are part of adoption cycles, there is a good reason to address these issues with innovative content development.

Another critical factor that affects the adoption market is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA scales back much of the federal government’s role in public education on everything from testing and teacher quality to low-performing schools. ESSA aims to reduce the authority of the Department of Education when it comes to standards, assessments, school turnarounds, teacher evaluation, and other areas. Under ESSA, more accountability and decision-making is allowed at the state and local levels to encourage innovation while increasing accountability for low-performing schools.

As of early October 2018, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had approved the ESSA plans of all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. An infographic developed by Education Week shows where states’ plans stand and a chart of what is happening in each state. Given the recent mid-term elections, many states are revising their ESSA plans. Nevertheless, there is about $1.6 billion in play with ESSA.

And of course, assessment plays into the adoption market. With districts and states moving away from summative assessment to competency-based and formative assessment, this directly affects the programs submitted to the adoption states for purchase.

Publishers have many issues to balance and juggle as they move forward in the upcoming adoptions. And from 2020 to 2022, there are major adoptions in key states in English language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science. While the critical thinking movement continues to grow within instructional materials being developed, there is much critical thinking concerning this market to be done.

And here at Victory, we’ve been spending time analyzing and thinking about the important market. Let us help you figure it out.


[1] Civics Education Should Focus On Critical Thinking, Not Activism

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