On November 29, 2012, AEP will induct Dr. Karen Billings, SIIA; Dick Casabonne, Casabonne Associates Inc.; and Margery Mayer, Scholastic Inc., into the Educational Publishing Hall of Fame. Here in her third installment, Margery Mayer, President of Scholastic Education for Scholastic Inc., discusses the greatest challenge educational publishing will face in the next five years.
What do you think is the greatest challenge that educational publishing will face in the next five years? Any thoughts on how to approach it?
We live in a time of revolution in American education with more demand for radical change than I can recall from at any other time in my career. It’s in with anything “new” and out with anything “old.” Sadly, perhaps, the traditional educational publishing industry is perceived as part of the “old,” and to a large degree deservedly so. As an industry there’s been too much emphasis on compliance with state standards, educational fads and sales incentives, and not enough emphasis on what we at Scholastic consider essential: innovation, research and efficacy. That’s harmed the customer perception of the work of educational publishers, and opened the door for a new set of companies— companies that are finding ready capital.
With that said, I look out over the next five years and see massive opportunities for the industry if companies have the courage to focus on the right things and rebuild trust. That means going to the heart of the matter—researching ideas that can drive achievement, innovating around solutions that are practical to implement, embracing business models that discomfort the comfortable. This might mean bucking the new consensus about what it’s going to take to change schools—a consensus that is often more ideological than scientific. At Scholastic we place a high value on institutional courage and it’s worked well for us. To cite one example, when we built READ 180 we paid little attention to state standards. We were a lot more concerned with building something that was going to address the root causes of reading failure, and our determination to follow the research is the primary reason why READ 180 is the most successful technology platform in American education.
But perhaps the biggest challenge facing educational publishing (and it’s not new) is the need to embrace simplicity. There’s an ever present trap in educational publishing to try to solve every problem, add every gee-whiz feature, to be literal about meeting every demand from all of your constituencies. Products that try to be all things are inevitably generic, overwhelming and over-budget. And they’re no fun to build. The ultimate job of educational publishing is to make the complex simple—to come up with elegant solutions to the profound challenges faced by students, parents and teachers. Tablet technology can play a forcing function when it comes to finding simple solutions, and that is a very good thing for our industry.
Margery Mayer, President of Scholastic Education and Executive Vice President of Scholastic Inc., oversees the product development, marketing and sales for the Scholastic Education division which includes Intervention, Education Technology and Services, Curriculum Publishing, and Professional Development, all of which serve school districts, teachers and children with high quality educational materials. Under Ms. Mayer’s leadership, Scholastic developed the premier reading intervention program READ 180® and its’ recent upgrade, READ 180 Next Generation®. Ms. Mayer is also leading Scholastic’s move into development of mathematics programs working with the leading math educator, Marilyn Burns, on her widely acclaimed math curriculum Do the Math™.