The start of the school year is imminent for some of you and not too far away for the rest of you. Before your vacation is over, you need to become knowledgeable about ESSA and how to make it work for your program. Fortunately AASL and hopefully your state association has information and resources for you to tap into as you advocate for library funds.
Ever since President Obama signed ESSA into law AASL has been working to ensure that this hard-one replacement of NCLB would get school libraries the recognition and funding they need. Since ESSA calls for “Effective School Library Programs” in Title I, II and IV of the act, it was necessary to define what such a program is. They have done so with a recently released position statement.
The statement is brief and yet succinctly explains the contribution an “effective school library program” makes to students and the educational community. When you review this document, highlight where your library meets the requirements and where it still falls short. Bring it to your principal along with your recommendations as to how you can attain the level required so your school and district will qualify for federal funds under the act.
The discussion opens the door for you to share what you can bring in the way of technology integration, lifelong reading, and the 21st century skills of critical thinking, creating new knowledge, and sharing it widely. Since the position statement refers to the research supporting the contribution of school library programs on student learning and achievement. Also bring your downloaded copy of School Libraries Work -2016 ed. from Scholastic to support that claim.
In a previous blog I mentioned the “landing site” AASL has set-up as a one-stop shopping for ESSA information. All information whether from AASL, ALA, or other sources can be found here. In addition to a link to the position statement, under Rule Making and Guidance it has an extremely helpful PDF from ALA’s Washington Office on Opportunities for School Librarians as a result of ESSA.
The information from the Washington Office focuses on Title I, II, and IV of ESSA. In each case it explains the area covered by that title and part. Under Background it explains what states and school districts must do under the provisos of the Act. Next it lets you know the Library Provisions so you don’t have to read through the legalese of the actual ESSA. Then it details under Next Steps what need to be done to apprise school districts of what they can do under the Act and where it is necessary to contact state officials. The latter will probably best be done by your state library association.
Title I Part A – Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational Agencies will be the most challenging since it authorizes but doesn’t require how these agencies will assist schools in developing effective school library programs. A lot of work is needed to contact and work with these agencies. It would seem for the most part you will need a lot of assistance from your state association unless AASL can develop an action plan to help.
Title II Part A -Supporting Effective Instruction is much more promising, as are subsequent relevant parts of the Act since it authorizes states to use grant funds to “support instructional services provided by effective school library programs.” Under NCLB these funds were listed as solely for teachers. Now these can be used to support your professional development. Note it says “can be.” Whether they will, depends a great deal on you.
Title II Part B Subpart B Literacy Education for All includes a new K-12 literacy program. School librarians can now apply for grant funds to support this. It also has funding to provide time for teachers and librarians to meet, plan and collaborate on comprehensive literacy instruction. Subgrants awarded must include professional development for teachers AND librarians. Again, you may very well have to bring all this to the attention of your administration. Another section of this subpart deals with the Innovative Approaches to Literacy and specifically authorizes funds to be used for developing and enhancing effective school library programs. It will take advocacy at the federal level to ensure this is fully funded. Expect ALA and AASL to work through the Washington Office to accomplish this – but when asked, be sure to do your part and contact your legislators.
Title IV Part A – Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Block Grants) this is a continuation of what was in NCLB but now librarians have a presence. The grants are tied to poverty levels and include funding for personnel to learn the knowledge and skills needed for technology integration to improve instruction and student achievement. In preparing the grant, school officials must consult with teachers, principals, and other stakeholders who include school librarians.
Once you are grounded in these two documents, check out the other resources on the AASL ESSA landing page. Review the various AASL Position Statements relevant to ESSA. Make it a point to regularly check the link under Resources & Information to ESSA Updates on Knowledge Quest. Look over the material from the ALA program on Unpacking ESSA for the School Librarian.
ESSA is both an opportunity and a challenge. You can move your school library program forward and demonstrate your leadership to your administrators or you can cross your fingers and hope someone does the work for you and you will get some of the funding. Which type of librarian do you want to be? This is the time to step up. Have you done anything so far?