Instructional Materials Adoption
The “adoption” of instructional programs and materials is a process that occurs at the state and/or local level. During this process, programs and materials are reviewed and approved for use in elementary and secondary public schools.

Twenty-two U.S. states have “state adoptions” administered and implemented by the state board of education and the state department of education. As part of the adoption process, instructional materials are designed and developed in accordance with very specific state criteria. Materials must be carefully aligned with state academic standards. They must also meet criteria regarding content, size, weight, durability, and many other factors. For more information, visit the website of the National Association of State Textbook Administrators (NASTA). 

States select instructional programs in various grades and subject levels. Most programs adopted by states are used for six years. Such programs usually include textbooks, study guides, workbooks, online homework helps, websites, teacher editions, and much more. Once a state adopts an instructional program, school districts may purchase it for use locally.

The 28 non-adoption states are known as “open territories.” In open territories, school districts (not states) adopt and then purchase instructional materials. Even so, the materials generally must reflect state standards and meet local specifications.

Developing Instructional Content

Publishers use state and local curriculum standards to determine the broad content of instructional materials. Publishing is a highly competitive industry, though, and publishers follow dramatically different approaches in the learning materials they publish. Publishers conduct exhaustive research, including learner verification and focus group studies, to define instructional content. Publishers also rely on the expertise and extensive classroom experience of their authors, development staff, and reviewers to craft content that is accessible to students. Effective content, includes the important concepts that all students need to learn, addresses variable learning styles, and incorporates teaching and learning techniques that help ensure student mastery. Each publisher determines the approach it believes will be most effective in the classroom and most competitive in the marketplace.

Development of instructional content is a team effort that is guided by state curriculum requirements for every subject. Within this framework, authors, scholars, and writers conceive the idea for a book, frame a scholarly approach, and write the manuscript. Publishers direct a team of editors, content experts, and reviewers who evaluate the manuscript for accuracy of content, appropriateness of writing style for grade level, adherence to state curriculum guidelines, and effectiveness of the pedagogy.

Manufacturing Specifications
School textbooks are developed and printed in accordance with The Manufacturing Standards and Specifications for Textbooks (MSST). MSST standards and specifications are intended as a guide to aid the manufacturer, the publisher, the textbook administrator, and the general public. The purpose of the MSST is to maintain appropriate physical standards of quality and performance for elementary and high school textbooks. Click here to view a presentation on the MSST and textbook durability.

Additional Resources

  • National Association of State Textbook Administrators (NASTA). NASTA members are the textbook managers in adoption states and are responsible for the administration of their state's textbook/instructional materials program. The NASTA website has links to each state instructional materials website, as well as reports from their members regarding current and future textbook adoptions.

  • Advisory Commission on Textbook Specifications (ACTS). ACTS is made up of representatives of the National Association of State Textbook Administrators (NASTA), the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Manufacturers' Institute (BMI). The purpose of the commission is to conduct studies and research to determine durability and other pertinent performance factors of elementary and high school instructional materials. The commission makes recommendations to the ACTS Committee of the NASTA regarding standards and specifications on manufacturing processes and materials in order to maintain appropriate standards of quality and performance. The specifications are entitled Manufacturing Standards and Specifications for Textbooks (MSST) and are published by NASTA. To purchase a copy of the MSST, please send your request to: Advisory Commission on Textbook Specifications, Administrative Office, Two Armand Beach Dr., Suite 1B, Palm Coast, FL 32137.

  • Book Manufacturer's Institute (BMI). BMI membership is comprised of companies that produce the great majority of books ordered by the U.S. book publishing industry.
  • State Textbook Depositories. Some states require publishers of state-adopted instructional materials to use a central in-state depository or to ship state-adopted materials from within the state. Depositories charge publishers a commission, typically about 8 percent of sales. A list of state depositors can be found at here. In other states publishers may ship directly to schools from their own in-state warehouse, without going through a central depository.
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