January 5, 2021. This month marks 20 years since President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law. NCLB created a new framework for education which has remade public education in ways that still impact teaching and learning today. Prior to 2002, standardized testing was less prevalent at all grade levels and there was no standardized report card to measure successful or failing schools across the nation. It is worth remembering that after NCLB came into effect, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of school librarians at work for students in many states. The last several years have been a tumultuous time for school libraries. Just how tumultuous has been outlined in two reports recently released by EveryLibrary Institute.
In the report Anticipating the Post-COVID Pivot for School Librarians, author Beth Thomas reviews recent research and data about the role, impact, and importance of school librarians and school library programs to create a detailed, actionable set of recommendations for education policy-makers concerned with sustaining successful schools and turning-around failing ones. "For almost thirty years, dozens of national studies have shown a direct correlation between access to a strong school library program and student achievement," writes Thomas. "Despite this evidence, the number of school librarians in the U.S. has continued to decline. As we are forced to reckon with the consequences of widespread misinformation and disinformation, now is the time to reinvest in school library programs."
Access to a certified school librarian is, at its core, an equity issue. School districts that spend the most per pupil were most likely to have high levels of librarian staffing while districts with higher rates of poverty, more minority students were less likely to have school librarians in their schools. The policy recommendations in Anticipating the Post-COVID Pivot for School Librarians are relevant for school district leaders, state education agencies, state legislators, and the school library organizations that lobby for change in education policy.
Please visit https://www.everylibraryinstitute.org/anticipate_postcovid_school_librarians_report to download your copy of Anticipating the Post-COVID Pivot for School Librarians by Beth Thomas for the EveryLibrary Institute.
In a second report from EveryLibrary Institute, Could School Librarians Be the Secret to Increasing Literacy Scores?, author Nijma Esad shares the results of her research in Washington, D.C. public schools where she has found a connection between gains in the literacy-based component of standardized tests and student's access to school librarians. School librarians in Washington, D.C., Public Schools (DCPS) have worked diligently to increase literacy in every school over the past several years. "Increasingly, students are becoming data points instead of young people with names, personalities, and talents. It is disheartening to watch, especially as a librarian who fosters a love of reading, creativity, and critical thinking skills development," Esad writes. "In an educational system that attaches value to students based on their standardized test scores, school districts and educators find themselves scrambling to identify new tools and techniques to help increase students' math and reading scores."
This report shows that lack of access to school libraries and librarians can have real, lasting consequences. Students who have little or no access to librarians and the services they provide are disadvantaged in ways that can affect them for the rest of their lives. While further research is needed to determine the impact certified librarians have in boosting literacy scores across the nation, we see these results as a clear reason to invest in quality library programs and the certified school librarians who teach there.
Please visit https://www.everylibraryinstitute.org/school_librarians_literacy_scores_report to download your copy of Could School Librarians Be the Secret to Increasing Literacy Scores? By Nijma Esad for the EveryLibrary Institute.
Endorsing the Educators for America Act
EveryLibrary, the national political action committee for libraries, is focusing on the future of school librarianship at this critical time by formally endorsing the Educators for America Act which will provide new support for educator and teacher preparation and training programs, including for school librarians.
"Too often, we have seen libraries and librarians dropped from major legislation like the Infrastructure Bill (after being included in earlier versions like the Economic Justice Act) and from the 2020 Omnibus Appropriations and Coronavirus Relief Act," says John Chrastka, Executive Director of EveryLibrary and the EveryLibrary Institute. "We were limited to only one federal grant program in the American Rescue Plan. Ensuring that school librarians remain in the definition of an "educator" is critically important to the future of school libraries."
The primary purpose of the Educators for America Act (HR 6205 / S 3360) is to "build the capacity of educator preparation programs to ensure all students have access to profession-ready educators, recruit new and diverse educators into the profession, invest in partnerships between higher education, state and local partners, and support innovation to meet the changing needs of students". Including school librarians in the definition of "educator" will help ensure that the next generation of certified, qualified, and empowered school librarians are in place to help all our students succeed.
EveryLibrary would like to thank the sponsors, Representatives Alma Adams, Cynthia Axne, Jahana Hayes, and Ruben Gallego for including school librarians in the House alongside Senators Jack Reed and Robert Casey in the Senate. Please visit https://www.saveschoollibrarians.org/help_keep_sl_in_edforamerica_act to review this call-to-action and join us in contacting Congress today.
How You Can Help
School librarians are great partners in education and work every day to fight the COVID Slide. EveryLibrary's SaveSchoolLibrarians.org digital advocacy campaigns support school librarians and the future of school libraries at no cost to libraries. The campaign is made possible in partnership with Follett Learning, which allows EveryLibrary to do targeted and effective outreach and activism wherever and whenever it is needed. With Follett's support, they build on their successes and try to address the school librarian crisis in schools and districts around the country.
SaveSchoolLibrarians.org has one-click 'take action' capabilities that make it easy for concerned parents and stakeholders to make their voices heard for school libraries and librarians. The core of the project are advocacy-partnerships between EveryLibrary and state or local school library associations. EveryLibrary's focus with each organizational partner is different, but each one is similarly focused on bringing more school librarians back to schools and expanding funding equitably across schools and districts.
Donations can be made on the EveryLibrary website at action.everylibrary.org/donate where donors can give a one-time pledge or a monthly amount. For every $1 spent on a political campaign for a library, $1600 is returned to the library sector.
"A donation to EveryLibrary Institute is a donation to help perpetuate the influence of libraries and school librarians in our nation's schools," said Mr. Chrastka.
About EveryLibrary Institute
The EveryLibrary Institute is a national 501c3 non-profit with a mission to support libraries and librarians in the United States and abroad. We partner with allied organizations including foundations, philanthropic organizations, associations, non-profits, and academic institutions to enhance the perception of libraries and librarianship through direct engagement with the public.
EveryLibrary is a 501c4 political action committee dedicated to building voter support for libraries. Since 2012, EveryLibrary has provided donor-supported pro-bono advising and consulting to 63 library campaigns helping to win over $220 million in stable tax funding. Beginning in 2016, EveryLibrary has provided strategic and tactical support to school library communities on education and tax policy, along with supporting dozens of challenges to school library budgets and school librarian positions in schools and districts across the country.