When David McCune, the CEO of SAGE at the time, came up with the concept of Corwin around 1989, he had one simple goal in mind.
“My mother was an elementary school teacher and then a principal, so I grew up listening to all the stuff you hear around the dinner table,” said McCune. “There were lots of different problems, but the same ones kept coming back. They were often very practical problems about how she could, if not make progress, at least hold her own. It wasn’t about the latest, newest education research; it was about getting through the day. I looked at what SAGE did in education research and thought to myself, ‘If only we could publish materials that would be of interest or helpful to somebody like her.’”
Corwin was established the following year as a publisher of practical books for K–12 educators, with Gracia Alkema as its first president.
“Gracia came from Jossey-Bass, which was then an academic publisher not unlike SAGE. She was as intrigued and attracted as I was to the idea of helping school teachers and principals do their jobs,” recounts McCune. “There were no books in the beginning. We didn’t have anything, so we just started talking to school principals and superintendents and teachers. We did a lot of that in the early days.”
A period of slow but steady growth followed in the 1990s. By 2000, Corwin had over 500 books in print. However, the real explosion in growth occurred the following year.
“I remember when we first hit one million books in sales, everyone was jumping up and down, celebrating, drinking sparkling apple cider in our plastic champagne flute glasses,” says Michael Dubowe, senior graphic designer. “We were all so excited. Then we started to grow, grow, and grow.”
Between 2001 and 2007, Corwin saw double-digit growth and became an increasingly important and relevant player in the field of educational publishing. In 2008, though, Corwin sales began to struggle.
“The market was shifting. School budgets were being slashed across the board. Technology, personalization, and globalization were dramatically changing the way students learn, and the same was true for educators. We knew that our content was still relevant. We just needed to expand our thinking about how we delivered content to educators,” says Mike Soules, president of Corwin.
The declining sales led to much soul-searching, experimentation, and innovation. Corwin is emerging much stronger as a full-service professional learning provider, able to build long-term relationships with school districts as a true partner in helping them achieve their goals.
Later posts will tell the story of how Corwin reinvented itself to become one of the most exciting companies in the K-12 education market, while staying true to our founding purpose!