California is in the midst of one of the biggest transformations in the history of public education, namely the transition to the California Common Core Standards.
Nationwide, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core Standards. These K-12 standards define the knowledge and skills necessary for students to graduate from high school fully prepared for college and careers.
Students will learn to synthesize and analyze information and then make evaluative decisions based upon their thinking. Such open-ended problem solving will better prepare students for success in the 21st century.
The curriculum is changing and schools are in need of textbooks aligned with Common Core. As noted in a Jan. 27 article in this paper, college textbook costs have risen 82 percent in the past decade, nearly three times the rate of inflation.
K-12 school districts face similar challenges as they prepare to purchase new textbooks for their students.
Educators throughout the state are attending workshops regarding the implementation of the California Common Core Standards. Each time, teachers and administrators ask about the prospect of obtaining standards-aligned instructional materials.
Given the convergence of changes in curriculum, instruction, computerized assessment and the new state model for school funding, now is the ideal time to transition to open educational resources (OERs), including digital textbooks.
Our state could provide national leadership in this area by collaborating in the development of high quality digital instructional materials directly aligned to the California Common Core Standards, and then giving them away for free.
Districts would still have the option of adopting these materials or not, as each local board deems appropriate. Money designated for instructional media funds could be used for the purchase of digital learning tools, such as tablets (or some other form of e-reader), ensuring equity of access for all students.
Converting to OERs will:
Several articles have been written on this subject. As noted in Education Week, the state of Utah partnered with CK-12, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit organization to create textbooks from OERs in science, English/language arts, and math for middle and high school students.
Pilot programs were so successful that the Utah Open Textbook Project received permission from the Utah State Office of Education to implement digital textbooks statewide last year.
Utah's success with OERs is based upon foundational work provided by a California company. Other states are working on similar innovations.
When I graduated from high school in 1978, my parents gave me a toolbox filled with screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers and a socket set. They wanted to make sure I had the tools I needed to be successful.
When my son graduated from high school in 2004, we gave him a computer loaded with software for the same reason.
Public education is one of the cornerstones of our great nation. Educators are transformational in the lives of their students, helping them to realize their dreams.
Change is difficult, yet with challenging times comes interesting opportunities. The leadership necessary to implement this change requires creative thinking, post-partisan consensus building and a new way of doing business.
To this end, our state should do whatever it takes to convert to digital open educational resources.
Pat Walsh is the proud principal of Liberty High School in Brentwood. He has been a high school principal in California for nearly 16 years.