Publishers’ Group Examines Common-Core ‘Conundrum’

Associate Editor

Washington

A publishing industry panel this week examined the aftermath—and future—of what it called “the common-core conundrum” in a discussion at the Content in Context conference held here.

The “conundrum” for the industry is how to create materials aligned with the standards at a time when the landscape is shifting and the standards are subject to fierce political pushback.

The publishing industry has been roundly criticized by those who say its members oversold early claims that their materials were aligned with the common core standards. 

Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles who has been a sharp critic of the industry based on some of his research about lack of commercial materials’ standards alignment, took a more conciliatory tone at the event presented by the Association of American Publishers’ PreK-12 learning group.

When people tell him that commercial textbooks are unnecessary in today’s environment of open education resources, Polikoff disagrees, he said.

“The idea of having 14,000 school districts in this country developing their own curricula is nuts,” he said. “People aren’t trained to do that, and it would probably result in great inequity.”

Publishers can play a critical role in presenting content in a variety of print and digital formats, he said. Polikoff said he wants to see “good textbooks, good materials, and [for] publishers to do well…which is very challenging in 2015.” 

Publishers’ Perspective

Sitting next to Polikoff was Jay Diskey, the executive director of the industry association’s PreK-12 Learning Group. The industry has dealt with standards for decades, he pointed out, and its approach has been that the association does not attempt to dictate to states what standards they should use. “We try to align where we can,” he said. 

In 2009, during early days of the common-core standards’ development, the association was asked how much it preferred a state-by-state market. At the time, Diskey said the organization anticipated that having common standards would create some efficiencies, by producing instructional materials that could be sold across groups of states.

As the common-core standards turns five years old, Diskey said the association has been monitoring legislation in states as a backlash to the standards erupted. (See my colleague Catherine Gewertz’s description of the standards’ bittersweet birthday, and what states have dropped them on her Curriculum Matters blog.) Here’s a map showing the status of the common core in the states:

Unadopt3June2014.jpgDiskey described as “cosmetic” the changes that states that have dropped the common-core standards have made in creating new ones—such as in Oklahoma, Indiana, and South Carolina. 

The common-core backlash has become wrapped up in other hot-button educational issues like accountability and student-data privacy. The controversy around the standards is “not going away anytime soon,” he said. 

An Early Adopter’s Perspective

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the common core standards in February 2010, and Karen Cheser, chief academic officer of the Boone County, Ky. district, talked about what it has been like to implement them.

In her district, Cheser said the standards represented a paradigm shift that teachers would need help putting in place in their classrooms. Instructional coaches have been installed at each of the district’s schools for teacher-training, she said.

About publisher’s products, she said: “It’s not so much textbooks, as [it is] packages of materials that are really helpful for us now.” When a company explains that their instructional materials will be updated as new information comes in, and they’re going to keep making it better, “it’s a big selling point,” said Cheser.

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3 thoughts on “Publishers’ Group Examines Common-Core ‘Conundrum’

  1. What’s the conundrum? These standards have been around for years, my state (TN) has provided training on how to implement them for the past 3 years, and yet when it came time this year for us to adopt new textbooks we had no titles suitable to meet the needs of common core. This is nothing new though, I haven’t used a textbook in my tested courses for years. None of the teachers in my department have. Rather, we create or compile our own materials from various sources. This works well until someone from the state department tells us the standards we’ve been teaching aren’t adequate or the methods we’ve been using to make huge gains (according to the standards those officials have set) are useless. The only thing I’d hoped common core would do is give the publishers a reason to make useful resources that I didn’t have to spend hours and hours creating on my own. Sadly, that seems like a hopeless dream.

  2. One more thing…, TN has theoretically reversed its adoption of the common core standards and rebranded them under the name TN Ready. This has been the case for almost a year now.

  3. There should be no conundrum, I agree. Walch develops curriculum tailored at both the state and district level, 100% aligned to the specified standards. And as those standards evolve, we do also. The real issue is that the larger publishers have an outmoded, static "one size fits all" model. It’s hard to change.

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