Sweetwater’s approach also included an extensive toolkit for teachers that aligned with the content provided for students. The entire custom curriculum was built around six writing skills, defined by the district, and associated with college-ready standards.

Pearson’s custom content can be delivered via a learning management system, the web, on CD, in PowerPoint slides, or via other electronic files. Course components include lesson presentations, discussion questions, integrated design documentation, checklists, activities, lesson plans, syllabi, and assessments. Pearson can build upon an existing course or develop one from the ground up.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is another company that has developed a custom publishing engine. The education publisher wanted to support school districts in teaching to the Common Core standards in a way that allowed schools to customize their own curriculum.

“Often, customization does not ripple out into all ancillary support pieces, so we wanted to address not just a student edition or a teacher edition, but a full support system of a curriculum program,” says Pattie Smith, vice president of portfolio management for HMH’s K-12 Mathematics division.

HMH worked with Lawrence Public Schools in Kansas to create a customized curriculum for more advanced students. “One reason you might want to approach custom publishing is that one size doesn’t fit all,” says the company’s Muffett Hughes, who leads the team that is implementing the curriculum in Lawrence.

Teachers in Lawrence saw a need for a special curriculum for advanced eighth grade math students. The curriculum created by HMH allows students to review eighth grade concepts but then move forward into Algebra 1, which usually is presented in ninth grade. Working through its mathematic specialist in conjunction with HMH, the district was able to pull together exactly the content that educators wanted to teach and review.

HMH offers subject matter experts like Hughes, who can work with a school district to be sure there are no gaps in the curriculum. “She can see how lessons connect with each other, what the learning curve is, so she can point out if they’re missing something,” says Smith. “Then, she can make sure it aligns with state standards.”

Another benefit of building a custom curriculum is that it comes from the heart of student-centered needs. Districts can identify certain student populations that have specific learning needs, like accelerated learners as in Lawrence, Kansas.