Experts share advice on instructional materials adoption at CSBA webinar

CSBA’s May 30 webinar, “Laying the Foundation for a Successful Instructional Materials Adoption: School Board Strategies,” featured expert panelists providing an overview of the state’s instructional materials adoption process, requirements and guidance for local educational agencies, information on understanding current context and minimizing conflict during the selection period, and trustee perspectives as well as a Q&A. Instructional materials can include textbooks, technology-based materials and other educational tools and tests.

“This is a complex and multifaceted process, but school boards are really essential,” said Julie Maxwell-Jolly, an education research and policy professional and former senior director of Policy & Programs at CSBA.

Maxwell-Jolly, who moderated the session, explained that school district and county office of education boards are vital to adoption proceedings as they understand and represent their communities, allocate funding for the materials and related professional development, utilize data to understand student needs, set policies and goals and communicate with stakeholders.

In recent months, CSBA’s Research and Education Policy Development team has published resources on the subject to assist LEA leaders as they prepare to make updates to align with the new California Mathematics Framework and future adoptions. A reference document on the process and state roles and responsibilities, a fact sheet covering local governing teams’ duties, and a brief on state and local responsibilities can be accessed on CSBA’s website at

High-quality materials, and those that reflect the state and local regions’ diversity, are fundamental for student learning and outcomes.

“Policy researchers note that high-quality curriculum materials are what they call a cost-neutral investment because high-quality materials are generally no more expensive than lower-quality materials,” Maxwell-Jolly said.

Background and guidance

During the webinar, Mike Torres, director of Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources at the California Department of Education (CDE), offered background on standards, frameworks and instructional materials.

Among the responsibilities of the Instructional Quality Commission — the State Board of Education’s (SBE) advisory body — are creating criteria to evaluate instructional materials, evaluating instructional materials and recommending whether submissions should be adopted or rejected by the State Board.

Explained in more detail on the CDE’s website, standards provide a basis for what education leaders want students to know, understand and be able to do, and lay the groundwork for assessments. They are also the foundation for instructional materials.

Frameworks and model curricula provide a “how” for instruction, Torres said, as they offer guidance for teachers and administrators, reflect proven research, meet the needs of all students and give direction to publishers.

Instructional materials are the tools with which teachers are able to help their students develop literacy and mastery of a subject and grade-specific standards within multiple content areas,” Torres said.

California has adopted instructional materials for mathematics, English language arts/English language development, science, world languages, history and social science and visual and performing arts.

For the current mathematics adoption process, the SBE has approved a schedule that requires publishers/developers to submit completed instructional programs in May 2025 before the board takes final action on the IQC’s adoption recommendations in November 2025.

The state’s education code allows school system leaders to use non-SBE adopted materials should a review be conducted, but all local governing boards must adopt a program.

The Guidance for Local Instructional Materials Adoptions (GLIMA), adopted by the State Board in March, can support LEAs throughout the process.

Some best practices recommended by Torres were:

  • Assessing standards alignment
  • Focusing on local priorities
  • Involving the community
  • Having an implementation plan
  • Including a well thought out pilot with teacher involvement
  • Ensuring support for English learners and students with disabilities

Local experiences

Lynwood Unified School District Board Vice President Alma Castro detailed her LEA’s experience with science instructional materials adoption in 2022.

“What we learned is the adoption is a process, meaning that it’s really important to design a thorough and thoughtful plan for various steps,” Castro said.

Lynwood USD’s Educational Services Department created a roadmap that started with information discovery and led to convening a committee of educational professionals from diverse backgrounds (primarily teachers with support staff) to take the lead on the process.

“We also learned the importance of communication between committee members, our staff, the district office and that transparency with our community and parents,” she said, adding that having communications resources available in multiple languages can also be helpful.

Tom Adams, former Davis Joint USD trustee and retired deputy superintendent of Learning and Support at the CDE, shared advice including asking staff to explain the process at a board meeting so points of participation can be identified early on, piloting materials in the classroom and collecting data on teacher and student reactions, and making sure potential materials align with Local Control and Accountability Plan goals.

Wrapping up the event, Maxwell-Jolly reported on the challenges LEAs are grappling with as they consider future materials adoption such as the state budget deficit, post-pandemic learning gaps, chronic absenteeism, teacher vacancies and more. In addition to state-level decisions around math materials anticipated in 2025, high school ethnic studies implementation will take place in 2025–26.

Maxwell-Jolly suggested the following actions LEAs can take to minimize conflict during local decision making:

  • Clearly communicating and explaining legal obligations
  • Ensuring inclusiveness in materials review
  • Promoting transparency in the review process
  • Providing ample opportunity for questions and comments
  • Piloting materials and sharing results with community

A recording of the webinar and presentation slides are available.