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Selling to the Elhi Market: Part 2, Getting Books Approved and Adopted

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Selling to the Elhi Market:
Part 2,

Getting Books Approved and


by Linda Carlson


The three Rs can add up to a
lot more than 1-2-3 if you’re a publisher whose books are approved by schools
for supplementary use or as curriculum materials.


How much more? Let’s do a little
arithmetic. Census figures show there are more than 54 million kids in
kindergarten through 12th grade in American schools today. We add more than 4
million babies to that pool each year. And public schools typically replace
their curriculum materials about every six years.


Last month, “Selling to the Elhi
Market: Part 1” looked at how reading incentive and assessment programs such as
Accelerated Reader and Scholastic Reading Counts influence school and classroom
library purchases. This month we’ll look at the typical approval and adoption
process for textbooks in markets independent publishers may want to pursue. In
an upcoming issue, we’ll discuss other segments of the education market and the
creative marketing strategies some PMA members are using in them.


Selling by State


Why sell to schools? Easy answers
include high volume, no returns, and increased visibility for your company and
your authors. There’s another reason to pursue approval, especially by the five
states with the largest school populations: you can use this approval as part
of your marketing to Accelerated Reader, Scholastic Reading Counts, other
states’ education departments, private schools, and home-schoolers.


Schools buy books and other
publications for two purposes:


·      to support curriculum with
instructional materials that are carefully oriented to state educational
standards and achievement tests that fulfill the requirements of the No Child
Left Behind Act. Adoption of these materials often follows a public review and
comment period. This market is dominated by such huge publishers as Harcourt,
McGraw-Hill, Houghton-Mifflin, and Scott Foresman

·      to supplement the standardized
curriculum with materials that can be purchased with taxpayer funds, like books
about state or local history or books for a classroom library


Two caveats: approval does not
guarantee purchase, especially for supplemental materials; and without
approval, it may be difficult to sell books to schools in states with a
centralized approval process.


Almost half the states—including
four of the five with the largest school populations (California, Texas,
Florida, and Illinois)—have state education departments that handle the review
and approval process for at least some subjects. In some of these states, a
second round of review takes place at the district level. Pricing, however, is
set through the state education department review. In New York, the other state
among the top five in terms of enrollment, approval is handled at the district


Other “state adoption” states are
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi,
New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina,
Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. The District of Columbia, which
has only one school district, also has centralized review and approval.


For more information about “open”
and “state adoption,” see the Web site of the Association of American
Publishers, School Division, www.publishers.org/SchoolDiv/textBooks/textBk_01_Map.htm.


Understanding Approval


The state adoption process is long
and detailed, as a quick look at Texas shows. Each year its State Board of
Education solicits bids by issuing a “proclamation” 18 to 24 months prior to
the first deadline. The proclamation identifies the subject areas scheduled for
review in a given year and contains content requirements (in this case, what
matches the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), the maximum acceptable costs
to the state for adopted materials, an estimated quantity to be purchased
during the first contract year, and a detailed calendar. Because of the lead
time involved, Proclamation 2006 is the first one you can consider bidding on,
for materials to be introduced in the classroom in 2009–10. (For details, see <span


To seek approval and adoption of
textbooks, you’ll need to document how your materials meet the requirements for
specific content and cultural sensitivity. For an easy-to-understand example of
criteria, see the Florida guideline for review of instructional materials at <span


In addition, publishers must
submit several samples of their books to state decision-makers and review-panel
members. More samples may be required; in states like Texas, each of the
1,000-plus independent districts has the right to request a sample set of
curriculum materials, and if your materials are approved, you’re required to
have them in stock at one of the approved depositories in the Dallas area.
(Fees with depositories are negotiated by publishers.) Another requirement:
once curriculum materials are approved, computerized files of the material for
production in Braille must be available upon request.


Steps Toward Approval for


Getting materials approved as
supplements is simpler and less expensive. “The purchasing decision process for
a $10 set of pattern blocks is very different than the process for supplying
every classroom with a complete math kit that might cost 10 to 100 times as
much and require the approval of many stakeholders,” says Rick Ludeman, who is
vice president of communications for the Oregon-based Math Learning Center, the
only small publisher currently seeking approval of curriculum materials in


Still, applying is hardly a snap.
For example, California’s Department of Education (<span
) requires
that you send a printed teacher’s guide with each book you submit for review,
including each picture book and storybook, and it charges $35 per title
accepted for review. As noted above, this is no guarantee of approval, just as
approval is no guarantee of purchase.


“It is a slow process, but the
groundwork needs to be done,” says Stacey Kannenberg, whose Wisconsin-based
Cedar Valley Publishing issues two books on preparing children for kindergarten
and first grade that are now used in 350 districts nationwide. “I continue to
build connections year after year, and it becomes easier with many repeat


In business since 2004, Kannenberg
spent $70 to apply for “Approved Vendor” status with Texas. “Once in its
system, you have the green light to market to each individual school,” she


Cedar Valley has also been
approved by California for sales of supplemental materials, and, with this
approval, Kannenberg is planning marketing to individual districts. Next on her
agenda: approval from California for curriculum materials.


In states without centralized
approval, publishers may have to contact each district separately. In large
states, that means lots of contacts: New York City alone has 32 districts (bear
in mind, though, that some of its elementary schools have 1,000 students, which
means significant sales if a title is adopted). By contrast, the entire state
of Wyoming, with a total K–12 population of only about 90,000, has 48
districts, some with only a single class of students at each grade level.
There, the faculty and site councils of individual schools have the
responsibility for evaluating textbooks and selecting supplemental materials.


Sites that Give Specifics


Where should you start if you want
to explore school purchasing procedures? Selected contacts for school book
sales are listed below.


To find contacts for states, start
with the state government Web sites or search by terms such as “Department of
Education” and “Superintendent of Public Instruction.” “Curriculum and
Instruction” is a typical name for the department that selects books. (When I
typed “education department” + state into Google, the first page brought up
contacts for 15 different states.)


Associations of sales
representatives for textbook publishers are also worth researching. Membership
provides an inside look at the submission process and notification of upcoming
RFPs from states and districts.



The process for soliciting bids
for curriculum materials in California’s more than 4,000 districts is shown at
California Department of Education, Curriculum Framework Development and
Approval Process—www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/documents/fwdev.pdf.


The process for submitting
publications for approval as supplementary materials is at California
Department of Education, Legal and Social Compliance—<span


District of Columbia

All buying for the district’s 147
schools and 58,000 students is through the district headquarters. Contacts:


Hilda Ortiz, Chief Academic



Curriculum and Instruction




Instructional Materials and
Library Media, www.firn.edu/doe/instmat,
or contact:


Diane Vaccari, Program Specialist

Instructional Materials

Florida Department of Education

Bureau of Instruction &

424 Turlington Building

325 West Gaines St.

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400




Nancy L. Teger, Sc.D, Program

School Library Media Services





Curriculum & Instruction
Division Illinois State Board of Education,<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> www.isbe.state.il.us/curriculum/Default.htm
or contact:


Dana Kinley, Division Administrator




Linda Riley Mitchell, Chief
Financial Officer

Financial, Administrative &
Shared Services




New York

Because purchasing is
decentralized in New York, you’ll find only the core requirements and general
information on its DOE Web site and on the Elementary, Middle, Secondary and
Continuing Education page, www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/ela/usela.htm.


Other contacts:


Anne Schiano, Assistant Director




Clare Carroll, Educational Program

Curriculum, Instruction and
Instructional Technology Team

89 Washington Avenue

Albany, NY 12234



New York City


Vendor/Prospective Vendor Contact

Division of Contracts &

New York City Department of




Brenda Steele, Executive Director

Curriculum & Professional

New York City Department of

52 Chambers St., Room 154

New York, NY 10007

212/374-2337; fax: 212/374-0766



Barbara Stripling, Director

Office of Library Services

New York City School Library

52 Chambers St., Room 213

New York, NY 10007




An index to all New York state
K–12 schools, public and private, is at




Welcome to Textbook
Administration, www.tea.state.tx.us/textbooks,
or contact:


Loraine Blackerby, Bids and
Contracts Specialist

Texas Education Agency

1701 N. Congress Ave.

Austin, TX 78701-1494

512/463-9601; fax: 512/463-8728



Associations of Textbook
Sales Reps


Oregon, and Alaska Textbook Representatives Association


WOATRA members sell books for
preschool to high school and for public and private vocational and adult
education at colleges, universities, and libraries. Membership is individual,
not by publisher (many reps serve several publishers). The emphasis is on sales
opportunities for the reps through upcoming adoptions and exhibit
announcements. Annual dues are $135.


Textbook Publishers Association



Educational Publishers Association


Professional Education Representatives Association



Linda Carlson (<span
writes for the Independent
from Seattle, where her Company
Towns of the Pacific Northwest
has been a required text in at
least one college course.




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