Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NCLB, standards, and the current face of school libraries

Standards are important, but how are we monitoring them and who is dictating what is important. I remember when No Child Left Behind was passed and how there were two main reactions: the supporters  who wanted school choice and reform and those who want reform, but not with massive standardized testing as the measuring stick.
As was discussed in Chapter 2 of Wools book (readings form the first week), when we rely on standardized testing, we are putting the future of education into the hands of the test maker. We are also handicapping our school systems into using assessment tools that aren't necessarily effective.
Despite this, there are parts of NCLB that I like and think are incredibly effective, if they are done properly. First is the idea of Highly Qualified teachers, also discussed in Wools the first week, there was a point in time when teachers were pushed through simply because we needed someone in the classroom with the students. Rules were bent or broken to accomodate the influx of students, and when the influx waned, we had tenured teachers that weren't necessarily qualified to teach. Of course years of experience should count for something, there wasn't the pedagogical or theoretical foundation for these impromptu teachers. So, yes, making sure that your teachers are prepared and capable of implementing commonly accepted standards and practices is a good thing. Also, making sure that the person teaching English has more than a degree in underwater basket weaving is preferable (man, I wish that degree existed and provided a good job, I would be all over that).
After break we turned to discussing the e-book School Libraries: What's Now, What's Next, What's Yet to Come. It's a collection of essays from librarians, students, school librarians, and others (including a furniture manufacturer!) about the future of school libraries. My particular favorite was by Elizabeth Friese called School Libraries and Run-On Sentences, One of the most powerful ideas is the following excerpt:
People often ask me, why do we still need school libraries? We are just about books, and (so they say), books aren't essential anymore...right?

As we look to the future of school libraries, I see us as a run-on sentence of sorts.

People outside librarianship are often so anxious to box us in, to define us. They want to apply their grammar to the library - a place that is, at its heart, artful, authentic, and inquiring.
At times it is easy to get caught up in the "or" questions others pose. Are we the curriculum or student interests? Are we books or digital resources? Are we words or pictures? Are we questions or answers? Are we teaching or learning?

I refuse those choices. I refuse to box school libraries in with the word or.

The school library is all about and. We are passion and knowledge, rigor and laughter. We are study and sharing, talking and listening. We are content and choice, paper and pixel. We are what our community creates, and what we share from elsewhere, and connecting all of those resources together to form a place that both reflects and contributes. In the future, we will continue to welcome and incorporate new technologies, ways of communicating, and modes of meaning. Like one long breath of freedom and air, we will break new ideas open into all the colors you can imagine.

School libraries are the and in the educational community. By being and, we multiply.

I firmly believe in this idea that we can be more than the shelvers and shushers of yesteryears, that if we are open to new ideas, new technologies and are constantly evolving our strategies, then we can face any challenge.

In addition to this, I feel like we go into the system and want to change it dramatically overnight, which is impossible. Things happen slowly, over time, with gentle nudging, not by telling the involved parties what they've been doing for years (perhaps even decades) is entirely wrong and always has been.

It's definitely daunting to try and grasp all these things at once, straddling the line between teacher and librarian, but it also provides a unique perspective and opportunity to see the problems and solutions from multiple angles.


  1. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your description of the library using "and"! We CAN be all those things if we are allowed to do so- let's hope that's the case. If not, we will have to make it so!

  2. I like having different perspectives. It really allows us to capitalize on coordinating with teachers to the best of our ability.


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