Innovative Florida school district taps XanEdu Publishing to deliver cost-effective, personalized instructional materials in shift to proficiency-based world language instruction.  

Pinellas County, FL (Dec. 1, 2020) — XanEdu, a unique publishing company that partners with states and K-12 districts to support the creation of customized materials as an alternative to traditional textbooks, today released a case study profiling its pioneering work with Florida’s Pinellas County Schools (PCS) which enabled the shift toward a new, proficiency-based approach to teaching and learning. According to district leaders, the cost of 56,000 customized textbooks developed for the initiative was less than what the district had originally set aside for the project — and less expensive than a comparable order of traditional textbooks.

Unlike traditional textbooks or off-the-shelf curricula, custom publishing involves the integration of content from a wide range of sources, including open educational resources, district-authored materials, newspaper articles or high-quality copyrighted texts.  By facilitating necessary copyright approvals and streamlining the process of integrating content from a wide range of sources, custom publishing empowers schools and districts to develop curricula that meet their students’ and teachers’ specific needs and/or address gaps in existing adopted materials. And, often for a lower price than a traditional textbook.

“Our goal was to give our teachers materials that would make their jobs easier and allow them to focus more on instruction and less on administrative tasks,” said Pam Benton, a PCS world languages specialist who led the project. “We achieved that in a way that not only was cost effective but stopped teachers from spending hours at the copier compiling materials for students.”

Three Myths About Custom Curriculum Creation highlights Pinellas County Schools (PCS), a district on the Gulf Coast of Florida, whose experience dispels common misconceptions that may prevent district administrators from pursuing custom curriculum as an option to better address their students’ needs. It explains how the district was able to “take back control” of its curriculum to create unique instructional materials, tailored to the specific needs of its student body and its new approach to world language instruction, while staying within budget.

According to the report, PCS initially struggled to identify a curriculum that aligned to their new proficiency-based world language instructional model which ensures students can practically apply a new language by providing students with authentic and engaging experiences to learn that language. The district had a vision of creating a custom curriculum that combined components of a program they favored with additional instructional materials that addressed the specific needs of their students and teachers.

“Educators have always created their own materials or incorporated outside resources alongside traditional textbooks to engage students — and create more personalized experiences in their classrooms,” said Brett Costello, Chief Operating Officer at XanEdu. “Unfortunately, they’re often left with the burden of curating and compiling their own materials, which decreases the time they can spend engaging with students. The process also can result in material that doesn’t align with teaching strategies and standards.”

In PCS, the district’s Spanish 1, 2, and 3 courses, now use custom content created specifically for Pinellas students, supplemented with copyrighted materials selected by PCS teachers. XanEdu secured permissions to use copyrighted materials; sequenced the materials; created a table of contents; and applied a uniform design throughout the curriculum for ease of teacher use and adoption.

“With cost reduction a major priority for the foreseeable future, district leaders interested in custom content creation may hesitate due to fears that it might be too expensive,” said Brett Costello. “The experience in Pinellas County can serve as an example to those leaders who are worried not only about cost, but about selecting materials that align with state standards and securing copyright permissions – quality custom curriculum that meets their needs is within reach for them as well”


About XanEdu

Since 1999, XanEdu has been a leader in the development of innovative solutions for creating, delivering and customizing course materials and training materials. Over 1,200 education institutions per year work with XanEdu to help educators and learners save money, improve efficiency, collaborate, engage more with content, and improve learning outcomes. More than 1 million students a year access XanEdu course materials in print and on iPad and Android tablets via a cloud-based reader. XanEdu is a privately held company headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

About Pinellas County Schools

Pinellas County Schools on Florida’s Gulf Coast provides nearly 102,000 pre-K through adult education students with more than 80 choice programs — from neighborhood schools and magnets to technical and adult education centers, career academies and a virtual school. It’s the state’s eighth largest district and the largest employer in Pinellas County.