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Education's Most Basic Tools: Access to Textbooks and Instructional Materials in California's Public Schools


by Jeannie Oakes & Marisa Saunders — 2004

This article addresses critical issues regarding students' access to textbooks, curriculum materials, equipment, and technology. Using California as a case, it reviews the importance of these instructional materials to education, generally, and in the context of current standards-based education policies. Based on data from a variety of sources, we find that textbooks, curriculum materials, and technology are educationally important and that the consequences of not having them are particularly harsh in a high-stakes, standards-based education system. We also find that many California students do not have the numbers or quality of textbooks, curriculum materials, and technology that they require to meet the content standards the state has set. Compounding the problem, shortages and poor quality of textbooks and instructional materials often exist in concert with other problematic school conditions - staffing shortages, facilities in disrepair, and overcrowding. Schools serving English learners and low-income students are most affected by shortages. A third set of findings details how actions by the state have either contributed to or failed to prevent students' lack of access to textbooks, curriculum materials, and technology. Finally, considering California's own policies and those in other states, we conclude that California does have policy options that would be far more likely to ensure that all students have the texts and materials they need and/or detect and correct problems in the supply and quality of texts and materials when they occur.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 106 Number 10, 2004, p. 1967-1988
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11678, Date Accessed: 7/22/2014 9:22:57 AM

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About the Author
  • Jeannie Oakes
    University of California
    E-mail Author
    JEANNIE OAKES is Presidential Professor in Educational Equity and Director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA).
  • Marisa Saunders
    University of California
    E-mail Author
    MARISA SAUNDERS is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include a focus on educational policies—particularly related to college access—and their impact on the academic achievements of underrepresented youth.
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