Funding Updates

How Learning List Helps Districts Comply with ESSA’s “Evidence Based” Requirement

A recent report from Curriculum Associates discusses the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) requirement that federal education funds be used for evidence-based programs, interventions, and products. “ESSA and Evidence Claims: A Practical Guide to Understanding What ‘Evidence-Based’ Really Means” provides a primer for educators in understanding the four levels of evidence recognized by ESSA (e.g., moderate evidence), the type of study that exemplifies each level (e.g., quasi-experimental), and the five questions educators should ask when evaluating research-based evidence (e.g., “When was the study conducted?”).

One of five questions for evaluating evidence, in particular, caught Learning List’s attention: “Was the study based on current content and standards?”

ESSA assumes that the evidence base for a product, program, or service is based on the state’s current standards, but it is possible that the research is grounded in prior state standards or another state’s standards, altogether. It is the district’s responsibility to vet information to ensure products purchased with federal funds and the evidence supporting the products’ effectiveness are based on the appropriate standards.

A tall order but Learning List can help.

Learning List’s alignment reports clarify which set of standards a product addresses, such as the Common Core State Standards or the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Our alignment reports evaluate the product’s alignment, determining whether the material fully addresses the content, context, and cognitive demand of each of the relevant standards. Thus, Learning List’s alignment reports provide strong evidence about whether a product is grounded in the relevant standards. [Read more…]

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Buyer Beware (Part 1): Sooner is Better

[Source: Seattle Edu.]

[Source: Seattle Edu.]

Caveat Emptor … a Latin phrase meaning, “Buyer Beware.” For centuries buyers have been held to a standard of due diligence; do your homework before you buy or suffer the consequences.

Purchasing instructional materials is the single largest annual purchase a school district typically makes. To put it in context: school districts spend more on instructional materials annually than you paid for your house. A purchase that large certainly merits careful due diligence.

Traditionally, reviewing instructional materials before the district makes its selection decisions has been delegated to overworked district staff who review the available materials at vendor fairs, in their “spare” time at school and at home, and during interminable selection committee meetings. Furthermore, the task of reviewing and comparing instructional materials has become increasingly difficult in a rapidly evolving marketplace. In a series of blog posts, we will explain some of the key mistakes we see districts making when it comes to purchasing instructional materials and some suggested solutions.

Mistake #1: Sooner is better.

I often hear districts rushing to complete their instructional materials selections process by early February or even early March. Some do so believing that the law requires boards to approve materials by March or April. There is no law in Texas requiring districts to approve local adoptions by any particular time. Districts are free to purchase materials whenever they need them. The state’s EMAT ordering system is available to districts starting in April of each year. Other states may impose a deadline for purchasing materials, but most states now give districts local control over when and what they purchase.

If you purchase early in the season, you likely are purchasing based on publishers’ promises. New-to-market products typically are not completed until a few months before they are to be delivered. Publishers who submit their materials for state adoption may submit the content of their materials for review, even though the product’s features and functionality have not yet been developed. Many more publishers do not submit materials for state adoption because their products are not ready in time for the adoption process. While publishers may intend to develop all of the functionality promised, impediments may arise at the 11th hour to prevent the final product from containing all of the promised features.


Bottom line: purchasing incomplete materials sets you up for disappointment and limits your choices.

Solution: To be an informed consumer, you should wait until products are fully developed and physically review the entire complete products before making your purchasing decisions. Waiting until spring (March – May) to make your selection decisions will likely result in less disappointment and more products to choose from.


For more information about how to avoid other mistakes made in selecting instructional materials, join Learning List at the TASBO Conference in Houston (Feb. 17-19) at the:

  • Session on Thurs., Feb. 19th at 12:00 – 12:30PM, Room 352C of the George Brown Convention Center and
  • Exhibit Hall booth # 1616.
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Can a District Project Instructional Materials Funding?

[Source: TEA]

[Source: TEA]

Earlier this year, we published a blog post that described how the funds for instructional materials in Texas flow from their source to local school districts. In that post, we explained that the instructional materials allotment (IMA) begins at the Permanent School Fund (PSF)—a $30 billion endowment created expressly for the benefit of the public schools of Texas—and flows through the State Board of Education, the state legislature, and the Texas Education Agency before making its way to the local education agencies.

Shortly before the beginning of each biennial legislative session, the State Board of Education (SBOE) determines the annual distribution rate (commonly referred to as the payout) from the PSF for each of the subsequent two budget years. The SBOE sets aside half of this distribution for instructional materials. This is the first step in the process that determines the amount of the IMA that each school district will receive for the purchase of instructional materials.

On September 19, 2014, the SBOE voted to set the distribution rate at 3.5%. As a result, the annual payout from the PSF for the IMA for the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 school years could be as high as $500 million per year. To divide the total payout among all school districts, the commissioner of education has, in previous years, determined each district’s IMA allocation based on the percentage of the total student population served by the district. If the same rationale is used in the coming school years, a district that serves 1% of the total student population of Texas could receive $5 million (1% of $500 million) each year.



Knowing the amount of its IMA allocation for upcoming years can help a district begin planning for its instructional materials purchases. However, in doing so, districts should be aware that the possible amount of the IMA for the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 school years suggested in this post is, at this point, only a projection. There are still several steps yet to be taken in the process that determines the actual amount of the IMA: the SBOE can decide to change the distribution rate at its November 2014 meeting; from (but not limited to) the payout set aside by the SBOE, the state legislature must appropriate the money for the IMA; and, from the amount appropriated, the commissioner of education must determine the per-student allotment for each district.

The total amount of the IMA available to the commissioner and each district’s individual IMA allocation should be known shortly after the end of the legislative session in 2015.

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5 Strategies to Stretch Your $

Stretch-Your-BudgetHave you ever wondered how your district is going to purchase all the new instructional materials your students need?  With the Association of American Publishers noting a four percent decline of instructional materials purchases in 1Q of 2014, school budgets continue to be under close scrutiny to maximize the ROI for education. Some states, like Texas, Florida and South Carolina, provide discrete funding for instructional materials. Most others expect districts to use general formula funding to purchase instructional materials.  All states expect school districts to use local funds to fill in the gaps.

But, if those funding streams aren’t sufficient to cover the costs of all the new instructional materials your students need, we need to think creatively. Here are five strategies to help you stretch your dollars so that you can afford the instructional materials your students need:

(1)    Get the most from the instructional materials you have purchased:  Make sure your teachers know how to fully implement the materials your district has purchased so that they do not purchase additional materials with redundant functionalities.

(2)    Align the materials you have to new state standards for the same grade and subject and then fill-in-the-gaps with supplemental products or high-quality open-education resources. Learning List can help!

(3)    Align your materials for one subject to the standards for another subject – then fill-in-the-gaps with supplemental or high quality open-education resources.  Learning List can help!

(4)    Buy/Sell surplus.  If districts have physical ownership over instructional materials under your state’s law, sell them if your district is not or will not be using them in the foreseeable future. Check whether your state’s laws prescribe when and how districts in your state may sell surplus instructional materials.

(5)    Use Federal funds.  Federal  funds may be used to purchase instructional materials for select students or for the general student population . Some of those funding sources include:

Title I, which allows funding to ensure “… that high-quality academic assessments, accountability systems, teacher preparation and training, curriculum, and instructional materials are aligned with challenging State academic standards so that students, teachers, parents, and administrators can measure progress against common expectations for student academic achievement….” and

Title II, which provides funds to: “(1) increase student academic achievement through strategies such as improving teacher and principal quality and increasing the number of highly qualified teachers in the classroom and highly qualified principals and assistant principals in schools; and (2) hold local educational agencies and schools accountable for improvements in student academic achievement.”

You can use one or all of the above strategies to stretch your fund$ to optimize the ROI for your instructional materials budget. We welcome you to share other strategies that have worked for your leadership team.

ISTE Update: JOIN Learning List for an ISTE RECEPTION on Sunday, June 29th at 5:30 PM. RSVP Here.

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Where Does Funding for Instructional Materials Come From?

textbooks2Few states make a specific appropriation to districts for the purposes of purchasing instructional materials and/or technology. South Carolina, Florida, and Texas are among the states that do.

In Texas, the funds for the Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA) begin at the Permanent School Fund (PSF), which was created by the legislature in 1854 with a $2 million appropriation for the benefit of Texas public schools. By the end of the 2013 fiscal year, the market value of the PSF exceeded $33 billion.

Shortly before the beginning of each biannual legislative session, the State Board of Education (SBOE) determines the annual distribution (or “payout”) from the PSF to the Available School Fund (ASF) for each of the subsequent two budget years. The SBOE sets aside half of this distribution for the Instructional Materials Fund (IMF). The legislature determines the amount of the distribution that is ultimately appropriated for the IMF.

The money in the IMF is used for several different instructional materials-related expenses, such as the cost of shipping adopted instructional materials to districts. The largest portion of the IMF, though, goes to the Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA). The commissioner determines the amount of the annual, per-student allocation from the IMA based on the amount of money available in the IMF. For the 2014-2015 school year, approximately 96% of the IMF was used for the IMA.

The ability to trace the flow of IM funds from their source to the local education agencies (LEAs) not only makes for an informed electorate, but also allows those who depend on those funds to estimate future IM allotments and plan for upcoming IM purchases.

In estimating forthcoming allotments and planning for future purchases, however, LEAs should be bear in mind that as funds flow from their source, they pass through the capitol building, and, by the power of appropriation, the state legislature has the final word on the funding of instructional materials.

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Funding Update: Financial Literacy Curricula

Discover Financial Services seeks to ensure that all students have the skills needed for a successful financial future. In support of this goal, Discover administers the Pathway to Financial Success (PFS) program which provides grants to U.S. public high schools that implement a financial literacy curriculum.  Per the PFS website, in order to be eligible for grants a high school:

  • Must implement or be looking to implement a financial education curriculum;
  • Use a measurement tool to assess participation in and comprehension of the financial education curriculum; and
  • Agree to share overall results of the measurement tool’s pre and post-curriculum testing with Discover upon the program’s completion, to assess what worked and what didn’t.

Grant awards are determined on a program-by-program basis.  For more information about the grant program and  the complet RFP, click here.

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January 2022