During the past two weeks I have attended the Virginia Association of School Librarians Conference and the AASL Bi-Annual Meeting in Hartford. In Hartford, I attended a pre-conference led by Audrey Church, Jody Howard, Judy Bivens, and Mona Kirby on Performance Evaluations for School Librarians. In this session we learned about the wide variety of performance evaluations in effect in the fifty states plus the District of Columbia. Audrey Church shared information about Virginia’s system where school librarians are evaluated on the same instrument as teachers. This instrument includes seven measures: professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional delivery, assessment of and for student learning, learning environment, professionalism, and student academic progress (VDOE, 2012). The seventh one: student academic progress states that “the work of the teacher results in acceptable, measurable, and appropriate student academic progress” and requires teachers to demonstrate their impact on student achievement. Many teachers (including school librarians), who don’t have test data connected to them, must explore other ways to demonstrate this impact. School districts have taken different approaches to school librarians. Some must have a program goal and measure, and others are required to have a student learning goal and measure. In the latter case, a pre and post-test are often administered to demonstrate growth for example, in information literacy skills.
In this session, a comment by Nancy Everhart caught my attention. Nancy talked about identifying and measuring other impacts of a school librarian or school library program such as drop out rates or student behavior referrals. Quite often school improvement plans have achievement goals that are based on growth measured by end of course or end of grade test scores. But these plans may also include other school (and district) goals. These could include graduation rates, behavioral referrals and suspensions, and parental involvement. As school librarians, perhaps it is time that we work to demonstrate our impact on these valued measures. We know from research that parental involvement has an impact on student achievement (NEA). School librarians should be able to develop goals, implement programs, and develop measures to evaluate this important goal. We draw parents in as volunteers, for events such as bookfairs and family reading nights, and can measure parental visits to the library and circulations.
I also believe school librarians have an impact on another area :teacher job satisfaction and teacher retention. Between 40 and 50% of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years (Riggs, 2013). How can school librarians work to alleviate this problem? We can reach out to new teachers with offers to collaborate on lessons and units – not just lessons that will be taught in the library but to help them plan their own classroom lessons. We can be pro-active in identifying and providing materials for those lessons. And we can offer our assistance as the “information” person in the building. “Ask me anything and if I don’t know the answer I’ll try to help you find out who to ask or where to look.” These new teachers will become strong library allies. New teachers will remember that the librarian was a true lifeline in their early years and will remain instructional partners throughout their careers. A MetLife Survey (2010) found that teachers in highly collaborative schools were more satisfied with teaching as a career. Do school librarians who serve as collaborative, instructional partners have an impact on teacher retention? What about strongly-resourced library collections? How could we demonstrate these impacts? School librarians work with everyone in the building and therefore, should be able to demonstrate on various measures of school success.
MetLife (2010). MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Collaborating for student success. New York: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED509650.pdf
NEA (n.d.). Research spotlight on parental involvement in education. http://www.nea.org/tools/17360.htm
Riggs, L. (2013). Why do teachers quit and why do they stay? Atlantic (18 October) http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/why-do-teachers-quit/280699/
VDOE (2012). Guidelines for uniform performance standards and evaluation criteria for teachers. Virginia Department of Education. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/performance_evaluation/guidelines_ups_eval_criteria_teachers.pdf