New instructional materials resources are available to aid trustees  

Instructional materials are central to students’ educational success, and local governing boards play a critical role in ensuring the smooth adoption of materials the reflect the diversity in their communities. 

A new CSBA brief, “Instructional Materials Adoptions: State and Local Governing Board Processes, Roles, and Responsibilities,” details the importance of high-quality instructional materials for student learning, provides crucial information about the legal requirements enacted by Assembly Bill 1078, and looks at upcoming adoptions related to California’s new Mathematics Framework. The brief also explains the difference between standards and frameworks, how they relate to instructional materials, and state and local roles in adopting instructional materials. 

“Instructional materials adoptions are an important way for governing boards to ensure their districts provide high-quality instruction,” said CSBA Senior Director of Research and Education Policy Development Mary Briggs. “Textbooks and associated resources can give classroom teachers support providing instruction that improves learning access for students, including those with specific educational needs, including multilingual learners, students ready for acceleration, students with disabilities and more.”  

Instructional materials can have a significant impact on both student learning and on assisting teachers in providing aligned instruction. Research in California comparing different types of math textbooks found that students using high-quality curricular materials made significant gains over those using weaker instructional materials, and students maintained this advantage for years. Additional studies found a positive impact on student outcomes when they use materials that reflect their diversity — an extremely important finding given California’s wide geographic, demographic, linguistic and cultural diversity. 

These materials facilitate students’ learning of the knowledge and skills set forth in curricula across 12 subject areas determined by the State Board of Education (SBE). At the state level, SBE develops and adopts content standards, and the Instructional Quality Commission develops curricular frameworks for grades TK-12 that SBE then reviews and adopts. The SBE adopts sets of approved instructional materials for grades K-8, including textbooks, technology-based materials and tests. 

Local governing boards may choose from state-adopted instructional materials for grades K-8, but they are not required to do so. SBE does not adopt approved instructional materials for grades 9-12. Local educational agencies serving grades 9-12 or those serving grades K-8 that choose to use instructional materials that have not been adopted by SBE must verify that those materials are aligned with state content standards and comply with the legal requirements regarding social content. . 

The role of governing boards 

A pair of supplemental facts sheets accompanying the brief outline the state’s versus local governance team role in the instructional materials development and adoption process 

The selection of instructional materials should be based in the local priorities, vision and goals for supporting student success established by the board, along with state standards for learning and social content. 

However, governing boards shouldn’t expect to do this work alone. While the board plays the leading role in adoption, the process must include teachers and other educators as the primary reviewers of materials, determining which will be most helpful to them in the classroom. Parents and community members should also be involved in the review process. 

“The new resources provide a comprehensive overview of the adoption process at the state and local level, with a particular focus on the board role and questions that board members can ask to ensure the process is inclusive and effective,” Briggs said. “The role of trustees also doesn’t end at the date of adoption. They should be considering the budget and time provided for professional learning so that all educators are able to use the materials effectively.” 

Adequate funding for instructional materials must include financial support to provide sufficient materials for all students and for professional development to help teachers use those materials effectively. Funds should also be used to familiarize parents and families with the materials and the skills on which they focus. 

There’s also no one-size-fits-all approach to adoption. Governance teams can choose to adopt instructional materials for the entire LEA or allow individual schools to make decisions about instructional materials.  

The new brief and accompanying fact sheets include questions for board members to consider as they move forward with this work. Among them: 

  1. Are you aware of the state frameworks, content standards, social content standards and local goals and priorities for the subject matter for which you are adopting materials?
  2. Does your district have a process in place to ensure instructional materials currently in use are up to date and align to the latest content standards and curricular frameworks?
  3. Have you worked with district leaders to schedule ample time for planning the instructional materials review process, sharing the results, gathering feedback from educators, parents/guardians, and the community, and making a final decision on adoption?
  4. What is your plan for reaching out to families to provide them with opportunities to review and comment on the instructional materials under consideration?