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Textbook Weight in California

Summary of the State Board of Education action.

Assembly Bill 2532 (Chapter 1096, Statutes of 2002) required the State Board of Education (SBE) to adopt maximum weight standards for elementary and secondary school textbooks by July 1, 2004. This legislation specifically required the SBE to take into consideration the health risks to students when devising these new standards.

Following the SBE's initial examination of this issue at its July 2003 meeting, a "working group" of stakeholders, members of the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission), and California Department of Education (CDE) staff was convened to review background information and discuss options. Then, in November 2003, the Executive Committee of the Curriculum Commission discussed the issue, and, in January 2004, the full Curriculum Commission received a presentation from MeadWestvaco on the implications of using lighter basis weight papers in textbooks. Finally, in April 2004, the Curriculum Commission reviewed a revised version of the textbook weight report that incorporated recommendations developed by the CDE and sent final recommendations forward to the SBE. These recommendations were considered and approved at the SBE's May 2004 meeting.

  • The SBE found that while no single program is excessive, together all present a danger. The initial version of the report on textbook weight demonstrated that the combined weight of instructional materials in the four core areas exceed the maximum recommended weight for students to carry on a regular basis.  
  • Setting an absolute weight cap alone is not the answer to the complicated issue of student burdens. Putting strict caps on textbook weight raises new problems of cost, durability, and accessibility for local districts and may, in fact, hinder the ability of students to gain access to high quality materials.
  • Instead, the SBE required publishers to provide local districts with options for lighter weight materials , such as split volumes, electronic editions, or classroom sets. Many of these options already exist, but by disseminating information about these alternatives to districts, and by requiring publishers to provide this option, then districts, which are in the best position to judge the needs of their students, can choose the solutions that are best suited to their particular situation.
  • Based on the study of current textbooks conducted by the CDE and the recommendations of the Curriculum Commission, the SBE adopted the following threshold weights for requiring a lighter-weight option . Any textbooks that are over the recommended weight for the appropriate grade level will have to be accompanied by a lighter-weight option that districts would have the option to purchase for their students.
    • Grades Kindergarten through Four: Three Pounds
    • Grades Five through Eight: Four Pounds
    • Grades Nine through Twelve: Five Pounds
    See the complete report: "Textbook Weight in California: Analysis and Recommendations" (PDF).

The SBE approved Title 5 regulations to implement the above requirements at its July 2007 meeting. The SBE added Section 9517.2, "Textbook Weight Standards". The new regulations can be found at
Textbook Weight Standards: Adoption of Proposed Title 5 Regulations, Section 9517.2. (DOC). []

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Last Reviewed: Tuesday, September 29, 2015

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