The three Rs can add up to a lot more than 1-2-3 if you’re a publisher whose books are approved by schools for supplementary use or as curriculum materials.
How much more? Let’s do a little arithmetic. Census figures show there are more than 54 million kids in kindergarten through 12th grade in American schools today. We add more than 4 million babies to that pool each year. And public schools typically replace their curriculum materials about every six years.
Last month, “Selling to the Elhi Market: Part 1” looked at how reading incentive and assessment programs such as Accelerated Reader and Scholastic Reading Counts influence school and classroom library purchases. This month we’ll look at the typical approval and adoption process for textbooks in markets independent publishers may want to pursue. In an upcoming issue, we’ll discuss other segments of the education market and the creative marketing strategies some PMA members are using in them.
Selling by State
Why sell to schools? Easy answers include high volume, no returns, and increased visibility for your company and your authors. There’s another reason to pursue approval, especially by the five states with the largest school populations: you can use this approval as part of your marketing to Accelerated Reader, Scholastic Reading Counts, other states’ education departments, private schools, and home-schoolers.
Schools buy books and other publications for two purposes:
- to support curriculum with instructional materials that are carefully oriented to state educational standards and achievement tests that fulfill the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Adoption of these materials often follows a public review and comment period. This market is dominated by such huge publishers as Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, Houghton-Mifflin, and Scott Foresman
- to supplement the standardized curriculum with materials that can be purchased with taxpayer funds, like books about state or local history or books for a classroom library
Two caveats: approval does not guarantee purchase, especially for supplemental materials; and without approval, it may be difficult to sell books to schools in states with a centralized approval process.
Almost half the states—including four of the five with the largest school populations (California, Texas, Florida, and Illinois)—have state education departments that handle the review and approval process for at least some subjects. In some of these states, a second round of review takes place at the district level. Pricing, however, is set through the state education department review. In New York, the other state among the top five in terms of enrollment, approval is handled at the district level.
Other “state adoption” states are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. The District of Columbia, which has only one school district, also has centralized review and approval.
For more information about “open” and “state adoption,” see the Web site of the Association of American Publishers, School Division, www.publishers.org/SchoolDiv/textBooks/textBk_01_Map.htm.
Understanding Approval Processes
The state adoption process is long and detailed, as a quick look at Texas shows. Each year its State Board of Education solicits bids by issuing a “proclamation” 18 to 24 months prior to the first deadline. The proclamation identifies the subject areas scheduled for review in a given year and contains content requirements (in this case, what matches the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), the maximum acceptable costs to the state for adopted materials, an estimated quantity to be purchased during the first contract year, and a detailed calendar. Because of the lead time involved, Proclamation 2006 is the first one you can consider bidding on, for materials to be introduced in the classroom in 2009–10. (For details, see www.tea.state.tx.us/textbooks/adoptprocess/index.html.)
To seek approval and adoption of textbooks, you’ll need to document how your materials meet the requirements for specific content and cultural sensitivity. For an easy-to-understand example of criteria, see the Florida guideline for review of instructional materials at www.firn.edu/doe/instmat/pdf/evaluation-form.pdf.
In addition, publishers must submit several samples of their books to state decision-makers and review-panel members. More samples may be required; in states like Texas, each of the 1,000-plus independent districts has the right to request a sample set of curriculum materials, and if your materials are approved, you’re required to have them in stock at one of the approved depositories in the Dallas area. (Fees with depositories are negotiated by publishers.) Another requirement: once curriculum materials are approved, computerized files of the material for production in Braille must be available upon request.
Steps Toward Approval for Supplements
Getting materials approved as supplements is simpler and less expensive. “The purchasing decision process for a $10 set of pattern blocks is very different than the process for supplying every classroom with a complete math kit that might cost 10 to 100 times as much and require the approval of many stakeholders,” says Rick Ludeman, who is vice president of communications for the Oregon-based Math Learning Center, the only small publisher currently seeking approval of curriculum materials in Texas.
Still, applying is hardly a snap. For example, California’s Department of Education (https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/lc.asp) requires that you send a printed teacher’s guide with each book you submit for review, including each picture book and storybook, and it charges $35 per title accepted for review. As noted above, this is no guarantee of approval, just as approval is no guarantee of purchase.
“It is a slow process, but the groundwork needs to be done,” says Stacey Kannenberg, whose Wisconsin-based Cedar Valley Publishing issues two books on preparing children for kindergarten and first grade that are now used in 350 districts nationwide. “I continue to build connections year after year, and it becomes easier with many repeat orders.”
In business since 2004, Kannenberg spent $70 to apply for “Approved Vendor” status with Texas. “Once in its system, you have the green light to market to each individual school,” she explains.
Cedar Valley has also been approved by California for sales of supplemental materials, and, with this approval, Kannenberg is planning marketing to individual districts. Next on her agenda: approval from California for curriculum materials.
In states without centralized approval, publishers may have to contact each district separately. In large states, that means lots of contacts: New York City alone has 32 districts (bear in mind, though, that some of its elementary schools have 1,000 students, which means significant sales if a title is adopted). By contrast, the entire state of Wyoming, with a total K–12 population of only about 90,000, has 48 districts, some with only a single class of students at each grade level. There, the faculty and site councils of individual schools have the responsibility for evaluating textbooks and selecting supplemental materials.
Sites that Give Specifics
Where should you start if you want to explore school purchasing procedures? Selected contacts for school book sales are listed below.
To find contacts for states, start with the state government Web sites or search by terms such as “Department of Education” and “Superintendent of Public Instruction.” “Curriculum and Instruction” is a typical name for the department that selects books. (When I typed “education department” + state into Google, the first page brought up contacts for 15 different states.)
Associations of sales representatives for textbook publishers are also worth researching. Membership provides an inside look at the submission process and notification of upcoming RFPs from states and districts.
The process for soliciting bids for curriculum materials in California’s more than 4,000 districts is shown at California Department of Education, Curriculum Framework Development and Approval Process—www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/documents/fwdev.pdf.
The process for submitting publications for approval as supplementary materials is at California Department of Education, Legal and Social Compliance—https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/lc.asp.
District of Columbia
All buying for the district’s 147 schools and 58,000 students is through the district headquarters. Contacts:
Hilda Ortiz, Chief Academic Officer
Curriculum and Instruction
Instructional Materials and Library Media, www.firn.edu/doe/instmat, or contact:
Diane Vaccari, Program Specialist
Florida Department of Education
Bureau of Instruction & Innovation
424 Turlington Building
325 West Gaines St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400
Nancy L. Teger, Sc.D, Program Specialist
School Library Media Services
Curriculum & Instruction Division Illinois State Board of Education, www.isbe.state.il.us/curriculum/Default.htm, or contact:
Dana Kinley, Division Administrator
Linda Riley Mitchell, Chief Financial Officer
Financial, Administrative & Shared Services
Because purchasing is decentralized in New York, you’ll find only the core requirements and general information on its DOE Web site and on the Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education page, www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/ela/usela.htm.
Anne Schiano, Assistant Director
Clare Carroll, Educational Program Assistant
Curriculum, Instruction and Instructional Technology Team
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234
New York City
Vendor/Prospective Vendor Contact
Division of Contracts & Purchasing
New York City Department of Education
Brenda Steele, Executive Director
Curriculum & Professional Development
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers St., Room 154
New York, NY 10007
212/374-2337; fax: 212/374-0766
Barbara Stripling, Director
Office of Library Services
New York City School Library System
52 Chambers St., Room 213
New York, NY 10007
An index to all New York state K–12 schools, public and private, is at
Welcome to Textbook Administration, www.tea.state.tx.us/textbooks, or contact:
Loraine Blackerby, Bids and Contracts Specialist
Texas Education Agency
1701 N. Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78701-1494
512/463-9601; fax: 512/463-8728
Associations of Textbook Sales Reps
Washington, Oregon, and Alaska Textbook Representatives Association
WOATRA members sell books for preschool to high school and for public and private vocational and adult education at colleges, universities, and libraries. Membership is individual, not by publisher (many reps serve several publishers). The emphasis is on sales opportunities for the reps through upcoming adoptions and exhibit announcements. Annual dues are $135.
Arkansas Textbook Publishers Association
Indiana Educational Publishers Association www.doe.state.in.us/olr/textbook/pdf/directory.pdf
Ohio Professional Education Representatives Association