Texas Two-Step: A Pair of Trends that Undermine the Textbook Influence of the Lonestar State (Pt. II)

A friend forwarded me an article about the Texas textbook market that validates some of the observations/predictions I made in March.  Specifically, it highlights trends that could be undermining Texas’ influence on the textbook market (while also questioning the validity of the theory to begin with).

Namely:

1) Texas’ actions re: curricular content could be giving rise to opposition in other states.

“The debates in Texas only heighten the sensitivity” in states and districts elsewhere to review those materials more closely before signing off, Mr. Diskey [executive director of the school division of the Association of American Publishers] added.

2) Texas is participating in breaking up its own influence by responding to incentives to provide for digital instructional materials.

In any case, amid concerns about the high cost of printed textbooks and the rapidity with which they become outdated, the Texas market for instructional materials is poised for a potential sea change. The recent legislation is expected to provide districts with new sources of digital textbooks and other electronic classroom materials.

“Now we have all of these new ways of acquiring instructional materials in addition to the traditional process,” said Anita G. Givens, an associate commissioner at the Texas Education Agency.

For instance, the state education commissioner was given authority to approve a list of digital textbooks that districts may buy with state textbook aid, providing them with new options beyond the materials adopted by the state board. Also, districts for the first time will be able to use a portion of that aid to pay for hardware, such as laptop computers, to access digital content.

“That is a big shift,” Ms. Givens said, “because one of the cost drivers in terms of whether electronic [material] makes sense is whether [schools] have the infrastructure and the access points.”

A friend today summed up the new economy: “It’s about information and networks.”  Changes in how instructional content is delivered remain one of the best symbols of this evolution.

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