Articles Posted in K12 Publishing

Open Educational Resources (OER) are here to stay.  Publishing, despite the rumors, is not dead.  The real question is not “if” but “how” these two options will co-exist in the instructional materials market.

A starting point is sorting out where each type of resource makes the most sense. For me the two most important criteria are the degree of complexity in crafting the materials and the ongoing requirements for maintenance.  How these two criteria map against content looks something like this:

OER vs Print
Degree of Complexity

In January 2001 as the dot com boom burst online education site went out of business overnight, literally. Coverage tended to focus on the employees – who ultimately filed a class action lawsuit for back pay and 401k contributions.

Lost in that ugly coverage was the blunt reality for teachers and schools that the new era of on-line content had a very dark side. Teachers who were relying on wwwrrr’s materials on January 9th were left with absolutely nothing on January 10th. They had no warning.

When schools buy a textbook they own the thing. If the vendor stops offering the book the school still has the thing. With cloud-based solutions schools are buying a license to a service. If the vendor stops offering the service it evaporates. Teachers rightly want some assurance that if they integrate a useful solution into their lesson plans that they can use it for several years.

Texas has been a vocal holdout on adopting Common Core State Standards (CCSS) since the beginning.  Last week all 14 publishers who submitted high school biology textbooks for adoption in TX ignored the state’s demand to include creationism.  I believe these two news items are directly related and reflect a huge shift in the market dynamics for instructional materials in the United States.

Partisans think the creationism kerfuffle is because the publishers are taking a principled stand for scientific accuracy or, conversely, because they are elitist liberals.  In some cases these may have been factors in publishers’ decisions.  That said, I think it is much simpler and can be explained by following the money.  For the publishers this was a business decision, not a political stand.
This is the clearest example to date of how CCSS is going to reshape who gets to dictate the overall  structure and content of instructional materials.  The hypothesis I floated in 2010 – that the combined market power of smaller states could steal the march on the big 3 (TX, CA, FL) – appears to be  happening.

Merge sign
The Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) and the Association of American Publishers School Division (AAP) announced their intent to merge last week. I’m currently the Board President at AEP. As one of the principals in the deal I thought it would be useful to share my perspective on why we are combining forces.

Why does an association exist?
It helps to start with a quick review of why professional and trade associations exist. Speaking only for myself, these four issues form the core of why I have invested time in several associations over the past 20+ years.

The Common Core Standards are causing a lot of angst across the world of education.  Fortunately Brandt Redd is here to help.

Over at Of That he lays it all out in a lucid and well linked overview “The Common Core State Standards – For My Concerned Friends.”   He cuts through the BS clearly and cleanly and describes how CCSS fits in the overall scheme of the Gates Foundation’s vision for personalized education.

Last week’s announcement by the Republican National Committee (RNC) that they are opposed to CCSS has added to the uncertainty hanging over the direction of the market in the next 3-4 years.  If CCSS becomes more than minor skirmish in the political wars we’ll have a period of extended uncertainty about how materials should be crafted.  The angry maw of lens hungry politicians could make a six course meal of various conspiracy theories.

Operations Department Sign CAEducation publishers have taken a lot of fire in the last few years – many believe that we are too big, too powerful, and that things would be better if teachers just wrote their own materials or used free stuff.

So why do we continue to exist? Are publishers a necessary evil soon to be eliminated by a tsunami of free OER content, or is there an ongoing beneficial role in public education that publishers can fill?

This post is one publisher’s take on what justifies our place in education. This isn’t intended as a direct refutation of critiques of publishers, any industry as large as ours (over $10 billion) has plenty of opportunities to improve what we do. Rather, I focus on some of the lesser appreciated positive contributions we make. It also isn’t a takedown of OER materials, which have earned a permanent place at the table.

PCI LogoPCI Education was sold to PRO-ED, Inc. in mid-December 2012. Since then I’ve fielded a lot questions about the sale. This post is an attempt, from my perspective as PCI’s former CEO, to answer the big questions in one place.*

What Is The Rationale For The Deal?

There are several good reasons for combining the operations.

Last Tuesday the Secretary of Education said

“I think we should be moving from print to digital absolutely as fast as we can over the next couple of years. Textbooks should be obsolete.”

He was clear that he sees the digital transformation in schools as a “critical game changer” for the American education system.

He gave three reasons for the advocating a rapid shift:

Peering into a cannonQuick – what percentage of your iTunes library is produced by amateurs? For that matter how many books on your eReader of choice are self-published works?

If you are like most people the answer to both questions is “slim to none.”

The point is that quality matters in any medium. Moving from analog to digital doesn’t reduce expectations of quality – in many cases it increases it.

here_doormatiPads in the classroom are all the rage in the education publishing market – somedays the oxygen for discussing anything but learning tablets has been sucked out of the room.

As we move beyond the giggling crush stage there are a couple of points to consider that might give publishers a more grounded perspective on where we really are in the adoption cycle.

Falling Off The Learning Cliff