Instructional materials are second only to the teacher in the central role they play in classroom instruction. Well-researched, standards-based instructional materials are an essential key to successful teaching and learning. Unfortunately, at a time when federal and state governments are demanding higher standards and greater accountability in our schools, far too many students are not given the instructional materials they need to succeed. Students have no real opportunity to learn and to meet their states’ academic standards when they lack access to quality, up-to-date instructional materials.
Spending on K-12 instructional materials amount to just 1 percent of the public education dollar (Source: AAP). The problem is not a new one. In 1983, A Nation at Risk, the seminal U.S. education report of the late 20th century, was blunt in its assessment of the situation: “Expenditures for textbooks and other instructional materials have declined by 50 percent over the past 17 years. While some recommend a level of spending on texts of between 5 and 10 percent of the operating costs of schools, the budgets for basal texts and related materials have been dropping. …” While many things have changed since the release of A Nation at Risk, one thing hasn’t: funding for instructional materials remains at deplorably low levels.
Spending on instructional materials lags behind many other U.S. industries. For example:
- U.S. Pet Care and Pet Products: $58.51 Billion (2014 est.)
- U.S. Toys: $22.09 Billion (2013)
- U.S. Video, Mobile and Social Media Games and Gaming Consoles: $21.53 Billion (2013)
- U.S. K-12 Instructional Materials: $8 billion.
(Sources: American Pet Products Association, Toy Industry Association, Entertainment Software Association and Association of American Publishers PreK-12 Learning Group)
In sum, students do not have the opportunity to learn when they do not have access to current instructional materials. To remedy this situation, AAP recommends:
- Every student in every class must be provided current, standards-based instructional materials in each of the core academic areas: reading/language arts, mathematics, science, and history/social studies.
- Instructional materials must reflect current state academic standards and they should be replaced on a regular basis, or when states make significant changes to their academic standards.
- States need to quickly increase their investments for instructional materials in order to provide all students with the opportunity to learn and to help them meet state and federal educational mandates.
- State and district report cards should provide information on adequacy and availability of instructional materials.