Deadlines got more and more compressed, development cycles shrank, and everyone starting skipping steps. Real training gave way to on-the-job training, which really means sink-or-swim training. New-hires were handed the comprehensive binder containing lists of processes and procedures, which binders were relegated to shelves in cubicles because no one had time to read them. Early field tests were cast aside. Sometimes all field tests. There were fewer internal reviews. The few remaining reviews were performed by overworked and/or underexperienced staff—and you can actually determine which is which (and which is both) when you see the editorial feedback coming out of such reviews.
- 1. Only hire content developers (freelance or in-house, I have no axe to grind here) who either have a proven track record of providing high-quality work or who have the capability (combination of education, writing skills, content area expertise, intelligence, creativity, and persnicketiness) to learn how to do the work well
- 2. Provide not only adequate but excellent training
- 3. Employ senior content development personnel [*ahem* not naming any names] to review items and provide specific instructional feedback to writers
- 4. Budget sufficient time and money for the given project
The “new normal” in educational publishing is “a severe lack of oversight in the quality of curriculum being produced” and a “frightening apathy” to do anything about it. Keeghan’s piece, “Afraid of Your Child’s Math Textbook? You Should Be” is a jeremiad. It does for textbook publishing what The Jungle did for the meatpacking industry.
Keeghan paints a bleak and dispiriting picture of a business gutted by mergers, competition for fewer available dollars, and an increased focus on sales and marketing at the expense of producing quality products. Materials rushed to market at breakneck speed are “inherently, tragically flawed.” Plus the pool of qualified writers and editors is drying up, and those doing the work “often don’t have the necessary skills or experience to produce a text worthy of the publisher’s marketing claims,” she writes.