Market Focus: 'The Dog Ate My Homework' Just Doesn’t Fly Anymore
Basal textbooks dominate the U.S. instructional market for K-12, with a 40-percent share, says Kathy Mickey, managing editor/senior analyst in the education group at Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Simba Information.
But, as educational publishers know all too well, basal textbooks can’t be all things to all students. In fact, some basal funds have been rerouted to supplemental products during recent years, says Greg Worrell, president of the Scholastic Classroom and Library Group. He adds that paperbacks aimed at improving reading skills for K-5 students are selling well for the New York-based children’s book publisher, and there’s a trend among schools to focus on providing “highly motivational content” for boys, who are often hard-to-reach readers.
Some targeted content, such as graphic novels dedicated to helping special-education and English-language learners enhance their reading skills, are doing quite well, says Tim McHugh, co-owner of Saddleback Educational Publishing of Irvine, Calif.
This kind of differentiation, or customization, is quite necessary, experts say.
“Students learn in different ways,” says Jay A. Diskey, executive director of the school division of the Association of American Publishers. “I think that the school publishing industry has done a terrific job over the past several years of creating a lot of RTI (response-to-intervention) product. These are instructional materials that are designed to help certain types of struggling learners succeed in their goals. And these are the types of things that simply weren’t around for a long of period of time. RTI recognizes that there’s all types of learners out there and that each student needs to be served with specific types of instructional materials.”
Instructional Materials for Teachers Selling Well, Too
Corinne Burton, president of Shell Education and publisher of Teacher Created Materials Publishing—both of Huntington Beach, Calif.—reports that teacher training and development materials are her companies’ strongest sellers. Perhaps inversely correlated, she says sales of test-preparation products are taking a hit. “Test prep has run its course in many areas, and school districts are realizing that the best way to prepare students for standardized tests is to provide a strong curriculum, with trained teachers to implement the curriculum,” she says.