Teachers benefit from selling lesson plans online, but questions of legality persist

Dive Brief:

  • Many teachers have taken to selling their lesson plans online to peers who are trying to find ways to save time and resources, and the trend is ballooning, with at least a dozen teachers reportedly becoming millionaires after selling their plans on the site Teachers Pay Teachers, according to Education Week.

  • Critics contend that the sale of lesson plans may gradually weaken a sharing culture that helps educators freely learn from others to strengthen their own approaches, and others question whether teachers have the right to sell their lesson plans at all.

  • Supporters say the sites allow fledging educators to access individual resources at a far lower cost than trying to get resources from their districts, saying teachers can save money that would usually come out of their own pocket and into classrooms.

Dive Insight:

It would be hard to deny that there is a sizable market for buying lesson plans online at a discount. One educator in the article remarks that she was able to cut her prep time for school from 20 to 30 hours a week to as little as two hours. Opponents will find it difficult to convince that educator that the practice is poor, considering the benefits of it.

The more difficult question is whether educators or school districts legally retain ownership over lesson plans. The NEA cautions that it could depend on the contract a teacher has with a school district. If the contract stipulates the teacher owns the property she develops for the classroom, she could sell the plan without worry. But without specific language pertaining to the subject, parties must follow the Copyright Act of 1976, which the NEA says means material created by teachers “in the scope of their employment” are owned by the school.

Teachers contend that by creating lesson plans on their own time, they fall outside the scope of what the school can own, but that may make little difference if the plans were made for the purpose of use in the classroom. The NEA noted there had been instances of school districts not allowing a teacher to sell lesson plans. Despite the legal hurdle, if educators continue to benefit from more time and more money in their pocket, it seems unlikely school districts would be able to stem the tide entirely.

Filed Under: K12 Policy & Regulation
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