How Publishers Present Contemporary Milestones

Pivotal Periods in Contemporary American History and Classroom Instructional Materials

Along with the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War and the 19th Amendment, classroom materials also teach more contemporary milestones in U.S. history.

Students work with Pearson Digital Learning's SuccessMaker at Village Charter School in Trenton, NJ. Image courtesy of Pearson Education

Landmark events occurring in our lifetimes — often during the K-12 educational years of America’s young people — are addressed at length in print textbooks and, increasingly, digital and multiplatform instructional materials. In many ways, how these materials are developed, researched, vetted and produced sheds light on the depth of work involved in educational publishing.

Teaching 9/11 and its aftermath

The 9/11 attacks on the U.S. and the aftermath are explored in diverse classroom materials produced by publishers.

While every publisher and its works are unique, there are consistent threads:

The context of materials about 9/11 has evolved considerably for elementary, middle and high school students

  • Initial classroom material reflected a newspaper-style approach, focusing on key facts.
  • With textbook revisions made in subsequent years, the focus has broadened to a richer context, helping students understand how 9/11 connected to such areas of study as global terrorism, America’s wars and homeland security.
  • This cause-and-effect model is used often throughout publishers’ content.

Publishers have expanded the breadth of instructional material to digital platforms as well as print

Courtesy of Cengage Learning
  • Instructional materials developed by publishers for teachers and students go far beyond a single textbook.
  • Publishers regularly produce a wide-ranging slate of print and digital supplemental learning materials, teacher’s guides, online courses and dedicated websites for schools to customize their courses.
  • 9/11 classroom materials span all grade levels and many areas of study.
  • Half the students currently in America’s public schools were three years of age or younger when the 2001 attacks occurred, so it is a story that’s new to them. In elementary and middle schools, 9/11 is generally taught in Social Studies classes.
  • In high school, 9/11 as a subject of study has is has wider breadth. It can be found in courses on U.S. History, World Religion, American Government, even in poetry or short story content in Literature and Arts classes.

How instructional materials reach classrooms

Textbooks and classroom materials are as diverse as the students and teachers who use them.

There are 14,000 public school districts in the 50 states; that translates to 132,000 schools, 3.2 million teachers and 50 million students annually.

The U.S. selection process for instructional materials is decentralized. 

In 31 states, local school districts independently review and buy the textbooks to serve their students. (Purchases are rarely done at the individual teacher level.)

In the other 19, state Boards of Education approve and adopt a list of instructional and course materials from which their districts can make more specific curriculum choices.

As part of that process in every district or state, classroom materials are intensively reviewed by panels including educators, scholars and parents before they reach the classroom to ensure these meet local standards and content goals.

Balancing different perspectives

Publishers consider the accuracy, objectivity and fairness of their content to be a public trust for the children and educators they serve. They are committed to developing and producing instructional materials of the highest academic quality to support teaching excellence and make a significant difference in student performance.

Publishers are particularly sensitive to courses and subjects such as social studies and science that, in some settings, represent cultural crossroads. While it is impossible to represent thousands of disparate, often conflicting, points of view, publishers incorporate a lengthy, complex editorial quality assurance process to ensure that their works can stand as educationally sound, accurate and unbiased — as factual, neutral foundations to foster student curiosity and inspire classroom participation.

Learn more about the editorial quality assurance process.