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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Access to Textbooks, Instructional Materials, Equipment, and Technology:Inadequacy and Inequality in California’s Public Schools


Oakes and Saunders address four questions: 1) Are textbooks and curriculum materials essential to students’ education in California? 2) Do all students have access to these resources? 3) Has the State failed to correct (or even contributed to) gaps or inequalities in access to instructional materials? 4) Are there policies the State could follow that would lead to better access? Drawing both on empirical research and the analysis of current state policy, Oakes and Saunders show that, although textbooks and instructional materials are fundamentally important to students’ education, many California students do not have access to them. At many schools, instructional materials inadequacies converge with problems in staffing and facilities. Schools serving low-income students, English language learners, and/or non-white student majorities are most plagued by inadequacies in instructional materials. Furthermore, by not mandating that students be provided with instructional materials, and by not investigating their availability through existing oversight mechanisms, the State has contributed to shortages and disparities in access. An analysis of other states’ policies, however, shows that the State could take measures that would insure students access to sufficient and appropriate textbooks and instructional materials.

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