Going “Off List” with Open Educational Resources (OER)

July 18, 2019

What is “Going Off List”?

By Elizabeth Maki, Pivot Learning Partners

Going “Off List” in California means adopting and implementing instructional materials that are not on the State Board of Education (SBE) list of approved instructional materials. As the California Department of Education (CDE) has moved from a model of oversight to one of supportive accountability, a shift has occurred in its role in instructional materials adoption.

From 1997 – 2010, the California State Standards defined what content instructional materials needed to cover in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math grades K-12. During that time, the SBE, based on the Instructional Quality Commission’s (IQC) review of instructional materials, would recommend a short list of approved materials. If a district wanted to go “off-list” they would need to find additional funding for those materials, vet those materials for standards alignment, and apply for a waiver from the state to get approval to use those materials.  

Then, two things happened that significantly shifted the adoption parameters for districts. First, in August of 2010, the SBE adopted the California Common Core State Standards (CA CCSS) which required a revision of the ELA/ELD Framework and Mathematics Framework for grades K-8 and new instructional materials adoption lists for those content areas. Second, in 2013, the SBE moved from funding discrete district needs (like instructional materials) to providing districts with more control over their funding through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and a change in the laws regarding instructional materials purchasing.

These two shifts allow districts greater autonomy in selecting their materials. For example: the 2002 English Language Arts/English Language Development (ELA/ELD) K-8 instructional materials adoption list included only 2 programs for grades K-6 and districts were required to select one of those two programs if they wanted to use state funding to pay for the materials. In contrast, the 2015 ELA/ELD list includes 7 ELA/ELD programs for grades K-6 and there are no restrictions on what LCFF funds may be used to pay for instructional materials.

So what does all of this new autonomy mean for local education agencies (LEAs) in their instructional materials adoptions?

We recommend districts consider the following as a place to begin your conversations:

  1. Process: Districts need a process by which to more deeply assess materials alignment and quality as well as assess how well materials meet the needs of local priorities and unique context.The CDE’s adoption list can be considered a prescreening tool that looks for the presence of standards in materials. Then, districts can make a short list of materials to assess the quality and depth of the standards within, as well as how well those materials meet their specific local context including the needs of their students and teachers. We recommend checking out our adoption process guidance.
  2. Flexibility: With greater control over their adoption decisions, districts are able to consider a wider range of materials, including some of the materials that are published after the list has been adopted.For districts that are struggling with misaligned materials or materials that aren’t a great fit for their districts’ needs, mid-cycle adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) can be a cost-efficient solution.There are several high quality, full course ELA and math OER instructional materials that are available for free online. While there may be costs associated with professional learning and/or printing of materials, adopting these programs could be more cost-efficient  than trying to bring misaligned materials into alignment.
  3. Budget: As districts are continuing to define how they manage their funds under the new local control model of LCFF, they should revisit how they plan to fund instructional materials and professional learning to ensure quality implementation.. Consider how to frame the investment of a 2-3 year professional learning and implementation plan.Support stakeholders in shifting their thinking around funding as simply purchasing textbooks to understanding the professional development supports needed to use those materials well. Remember, with OER materials you have the potential to allocate more funding towards professional learning if you leverage free online resources.
  4. Accountability: Many LEAs considering OER materials are also wondering what implications those materials have on Williams Act compliance. In Digital Instructional Materials and Williams Sufficiency Standard, the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) shares 3 different approaches to ensure students have access to digital materials: the Static Approach, Interactive Approach and Fully Interactive and Connected Approach. In response, many districts across California are developing creative solutions to the OER/Williams situation.


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