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3 States Let Contract To Develop Common Curriculum

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In an unprecedented move, three of the nation's most populous states have jointly awarded a contract to a partnership of two companies to create a technologically based social-science curriculum aimed at students with limited proficiency in English.

California, Florida, and Texas last week announced that they had awarded a $1.2 million development grant through the Los Angeles County Office of Education for a multimedia history and social-studies curriculum called "Vital Links.''

The curriculum--to be published in 1995 as an interrelated series of videodisks, CD-ROMs, and print materials--will be developed jointly by Davidson & Associates Inc., a leading California-based educational software developer, and Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Inc. of Reading, Mass.

"As far as we know, this is the first time that three major [textbook] adoption states have gotten together to develop a common curriculum,'' said Bob Davidson, the chairman and chief executive officer of Davidson & Associates. "This is also one of the first times that a leading technology and a leading text company have gotten together.''

The initiative is also a significant milestone in the movement by states to actively influence the market to insure that software products meet their instructional needs.

Dade County Project

The first fruit of that trend recently made its debut in the national marketplace through the efforts of the Dade County, Fla., public schools.

Through a cooperative agreement with Jostens Learning, a San Diego-based software-development company, the district is producing for the state of Florida a K-12 computer-based curriculum for teaching English as a second language. (See Education Week, Feb. 24, 1993.)

"In some senses, the states are acting as venture capitalists,'' said Peter Kneedler, a consultant on the "Vital Links'' project to the California education department's educational-technology office.

Under the grant award, Mr. Kneedler said, the contractors have agreed to match the states' investment in the project in cash or in-kind contributions.

The contractors will own the product, he said, with the contributing states earning a royalty from nationwide sales.

Although the three states will have the option of adopting the materials, they will not be required to buy them.

Joanne Urrutia, who is overseeing the Dade County E.S.O.L. project and one of Florida's representatives in the cooperative venture, said "Vital Links'' will differ in several ways from the Jostens project.

For example, "Vital Links'' addresses the teaching of citizenship and issues of acculturation, is designed both for children and their parents, and is aimed at a middle school audience.

"We don't want this to be a duplication of the Jostens product,'' she said.

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