Adoption Process: California's Sensitive Guidelines
"California is known for having the most demanding textbook evaluation practices in the country, with publishers forced to go to extreme lengths to meet state requirements. The arduous review process is forcing some publishing companies to stop selling books in the state and is also a factor that has contributed significantly to the rising cost of K-12 textbooks in California." (Paul 2009)
In the 1970s, California took the lead in textbook adoption reform. Specifically, in 1976, California, in order to redress the use of stereotypes, enacted its “social content standards”. These required that the review committee approve only educational resources that “accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society, including the contributions of both men and women in all types of roles . . . [and the] contributions of American Indians, American Negroes, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups.” (Fordham 2004, 8, citing the California statute)
"California has faced volatile controversy over the manner in which the history of certain religious groups are depicted in textbooks approved by the state. One lawsuit over related textbook changes that were made in 2005 is still ongoing." (Paul 2009)
Textbooks and Resources Adoption Cycle
California school districts are normally required to have new textbooks at elementary and middle schools within two years of the state picking and approving them, which happens about every six years. The state OK’d a list of math books in 2007 and reading and language arts books in 2008.
Due to recent (2008-2009) cuts in the educational budget, districts wanting to delay required purchases apply to the State Board of Education for waivers. The new state budget allows the textbook purchasing requirements to be suspended for 2008-10, according to the Association of California School Administrators.
2009 Open Source Digital Textbook Initiative
- Read official Press Release (05/06/09)
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger launched an initiative in May 2009 to “make California the first state in the nation to offer schools free, open-source digital textbooks for high school students”. The initiative was a response to California’s recent budget crisis, and the hope is to cut costs on expensive math and science textbooks across the K-12 public school system. "Schwarzenegger has tasked California Secretary of Education Glen Thomas with making sure that the new textbooks are ready for deployment in fall 2009. Thomas will be collaborating with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the president of the State Board of Education" (Paul 2009).
Neeru Khosla, founder and executive director of the CK-12 Foundation, says, "In the short term, maybe we're not going to save money. ... But long term, it will be changing the way we do things. ... Content shouldn't cost." ('Schwarzenegger...' 2009)
On June 16, 2009, the list of textbooks submitted for approval were announced by the California Governor's Office. Twenty textbooks were submitted by nine publishers. CK-12 Foundation submitted eight textbooks, Pearson submitted four, Curriki submitted two, and Connexions submitted one, along with a number of single-authored textbooks. (State of California, 2009)
Curriki's Peter Levy said that the two textbooks submitted by Curriki are expected to be approved, but lamented that the publication format would be locked PDFs for all of the "free" digital textbooks. Curriki plans is to publish their Earth Science and Chemistry textbooks on their wiki-based website and reach out to educators in California to contribute remixes of their content and supplementary materials to make Curriki's submissions free AND open. (Levy 2009)
On November 20, 2009, the US Dept. of Education announced it would fund the conversion of the open math and science textbooks from the California initiative to open formats (Chernek 2009). Bookshare, "the world's largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities", received the contract to make the math and science resources more accessible.
"Larger class sizes and fewer librarians are just some of the consequences of a state budget passed on Thursday that cuts $7 billion from California schools, according to the state’s top educator. Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said school lunch programs would run out of money even quicker than they did last year and there would be less money for instructional materials and teacher development." ('New Budget Cuts...' 2009)
Expenditures on Educational Materials
- Period of 1998 and 1999: California spent $442 million on K-8 textbooks
- though textbook spending in California has plummeted in the wake of the state’s recent budget crisis