Sep 21st, 2013 by Cathy Jo Nelson
Over the last few years in my thus far 28 year old teaching career I can distinctly recall a portion of our welcome back meetings by district leaders focusing our attention on data: test scores, attendance, graduation rate, etc. It’s just part of the nature of the education climate today. I may or may not agree with the heavy emphasis on numbers and data like this (i often think Pearson and other testing vendor players are the proverbial tail that wags the dog in education); it is what it is.
In my own state, for as long as I have worked in schools and then school libraries, SC schools have had school librarians. It has been a “safe” position, as has been guidance, speech, special ed teachers, and even principals and assistant principals. Until now. I have read of numerous states that have taken drastic measures to balance budgets by cutting school librarians, among other positions I consider extremely important. Even states that have invested heavily in research studies to demonstrate how school libraries and librarians impact student learning (such as Pennsylvania) are having these very jobs cut. These links listed are very recent cuts to the very state that just released the findings of their study.
A Slippery Slope
As my own state school library organization ponders a school library impact study, recently news came out that potentially effects our school librarians. But it isn’t just us, the verbiage of South Carolina’s State Board of Education Proposed Amendments to Regulation 43-205 effects a number of what I’ve come to believe are standard positions in the school facility. All should read through it in full. The purpose of this proposed amendment is to apparently remove language that came as a direct result of federal regulations associated with the now defunct No Child Left Behind. But the wording leads many to believe school librarians, guidance counselors, and even school administrators, are potential/eventual budget cuts. Their proposal essentially, as my friend puts it, makes for a slippery slope. Probably not what was intended, but certainly paves the way.
So what should we do?
While my state organization is taking initiatives to make the right stakeholders aware with task forces, PR campaigns, position statements, and more, we cannot just sit back and expect them to do all the work. We cannot sit on the sidelines and observe quietly or even cheer from there. We must get into the game at a grassroots level. Start today by collecting and promoting your data. There are so many stats you can collect to show how you interact in your school; to tell the story of the library impacting students, faculty, and community as a whole. Find a way to share the message in your teaching context in innovative ways. Help showcase what your program offers and how it impacts student achievement.
What do I do?
For my teaching context, it is submitting a graphical monthly and annual report about what is happening in the library (and even outside the library.) This is what works with my administrator. Jennifer Lagarde shared earlier this month in the TL Cafe (again, as it wasn’t the first time!) about putting a data wall up in the school. This ensures all know how the library is part of the school as a whole. Share anecdotes, pictures, student testimonies, and more to show you are a vital component of the school as a whole.
Ways to show your impact your schools; collect data on:
- books checked out
- books used in the library
- number of collaborative lessons taught
- top titles
- top students who check out
- number of classes visiting the library
- number of visitors on a pass
- number of visitors before school, during lunch, or after school
- hours open OUTSIDE the school day
- number of classes YOU visited/taught outside the library
- hours spent planning for a collaborative lesson
- types of personalized PD you engaged in
- types of PD you offered teachers
- stewardship with budgets
- number of new books added
- number of new ebooks added
- number of new digital resources
- number of books weeded
- number of book clubs
- number of library advisory committee meetings
This list could go on and on.
Doing this could very well save your job. I’d love to see links or comments that extend this list and give us all some more ideas.