By Carrie Marovich, SI&A Cabinet Report – News & Resources http://bit.ly/18InLkV
Monday, September 30, 2013 :: Districts that slashed jobs for teacher librarians in recent years may soon regret that decision – especially as schools in California transition to the Common Core standards, which put new emphasis on students developing good research skills.
“We have many schools, districts, and some counties in California that have no teacher librarians at a time in education history when our kids, our state, and our country desperately need them,” said Glen Warren, a certified teacher librarian from Orange Unified. “Their expertise is crucial to the transformative implementation of both 21st Century Skills and Common Core State Standards.”
Given the enormous number of layoffs experienced by school librarians since the onset of the recession, it may appear that these information specialists are considered non-essential personnel on California campuses. But a close look at Common Core, with its emphasis on information literacy, may be challenging that assumption.
The Common Core standards for English language arts were adopted by California in 2010 and are currently being implemented in California schools. They call for students to be adept at accessing, evaluating and using content from a diverse range of sources. In today’s media-saturated society, learners must be able to assess information gleaned from websites, blogs, newspapers, reference books, online videos and cable news.
And perhaps most importantly, students need to have some ability to discern the credibility of their sources.
“The internet is a lovely information resource,” said Connie Williams, a teacher librarian for the Petaluma City School District, “But it’s huge and chaotic, and kids need to be instructed on how to use it well.”
Students also have to learn to locate and use information that is not found online. “Local resources and purchased resources provide information that can’t be found on the web,” said Williams, a former president of the California School Library Association. “It’s important for kids to know that there are many places to find information and how to evaluate it once they find it.”
While information of all kinds is available in excess both online and in traditional settings, finding a certified librarian to teach students what to do with that information isn’t so easy.
In the five-year span ending in 2012, California lost more than a third of its teacher librarians and media teachers to budget cuts, according to statistics from the California Department of Education. In their place, many schools hired clerks or library technicians. But critics point out that classified personnel do not have the teaching experience and training of a fully-certified librarian.
“Teaching the skills: information literacy, cybersafety, digital citizenship and literacy skills are all a part of the teacher education that teacher librarians receive in their credential,” Williams said.
In California, the teacher librarian credential can be earned only by fully credentialed teachers who complete additional coursework to earn their credential for librarianship.
A recent study of school libraries in Pennsylvania found that students at schools with full-time librarians score better in reading and writing on assessments of state standards than those without. Further, research has shown the guidance of a trained librarian can make a distinct difference in test scores for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Hiring a teacher librarian will go a long way to mitigate the effects of the poverty we’re finding more and more of,” Williams said, noting that low-income students generally lack access to both books and digital material at home.
The work of a teacher librarian extends far beyond helping students locate the information they need. Often, they teach students, teachers and administrators how to use technology tools for organizing information, preparing bibliographies, and creating presentations.
Parent education programs on literacy and cybersafety also fall under the purview of these information and technology specialists.
According to Warren, as school districts move more deeply into the implementation of the Common Core standards, they are going to feel the need to have at least one person on campus who has been trained as a teacher librarian.
“The Common Core is trying to assess if a child knows how to get new information and process it in a way that shows they know how to evaluate sources of information and integrate it into their learning,” Warren said. “So we’ve got to have somebody out there who knows what they’re doing.”