Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Cost of Curriculum

I've been cc'd on an email discussion over the past few days regarding curriculum content in the Minneapolis Public Schools and how technology impacts the decision making. [Thanks to @sabier for the inclusion]

The gist of the emails is that teacher created content is more powerful and relevant for our students than traditional text book curriculum from a major publisher. One of the emails mentioned the cost. Since the mention of cost, I've been thinking about it over lunch, prep, dinner and during meetings.

What is the cost of curriculum? The only experience I have with buying textbooks is in college. I paid between $75-$200 per class for textbooks (1994-1998, private liberal arts college in southern Minnesota). I would hope that K-12 schools and districts are buying in bulk and are at the lower end of that spectrum. For this argument, let's assume $50 per text book. This doesn't include time spent selecting and managing curriculum.

In my school in 7th and 8th grade, not every student has a text book of their own. There is a class set that is shared between 2 classes. Okay, some math (for @pepepacha):

$50 per book
4 subjects
35 students
2 grade levels


In elementary, this figure is even greater, not to mention the consumables that the elementary folk go through.

How much would it cost to have teachers creating their own content? That's tough. Is it an extra prep period each day? Is it a week long retreat in the summer? Is it ongoing meetings? Not really sure.

But, the other cost is how students access information. A netbook can be had for $200 in the general public. Districts could probably get steep bulk discounts. So for this argument, let's say $150. (Or go with an OLPC in bulk for just over $100)

$150 per netbook
140 students (7/8 only)

= $21,000

Replacement for both textbooks and netbooks would be 3 years.

So for $4000 more dollars, you can have more current and relevant curriculum in a delievery that is more engaging then a textbook. Plus it can be upgraded yearly and is something that teachers have ownership in. That's a huge plus.

[I know that I'm neglecting training, fixing/upkeep, and many other things. I'm also assuming that teachers are willing to use the technology. There are tons of assumptions in this argument. We force teachers to use textbooks, why not force them to use technology? That's probably a whole different post.]

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