Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 7

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. As a preview to the book, I am using one or two blog posts a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 7: Assessment

“Our opportunity—and our obligation to youth—is to reimagine our schools, and give all kids an education that will help them thrive in a world that values them for what they can do, not for the facts that they know” (Wagner and Dintersmith 2015, 222).

Assessment must always be conducted in the service of learning. When educators conceive of learning as an on-going journey that students and educators take together, they can keep their focus on assessments as measures of both students’ development and educators’ effectiveness. School librarians can maximize their instructional leadership by developing assessment tools, assessing student learning outcomes, and reflecting on the effectiveness of their instruction with a trusted colleague. These activities lead to evidence-based practice.

During coplanning, classroom teachers and school librarians must determine “how” knowledge, literacies, skills, and dispositions growth data will be collected, analyzed, and used to improve schooling for future ready students. Educators use formative and summative assessments and reflection activities to measure student growth. The formative assessments monitor student growth and provide students with timely feedback so they can improve their work. Formative assessments also inform educators’ subsequent instructional decisions. Educators use summative assessments at the end of an inquiry unit and are often represented as final project grades. Reflective activities integrated throughout the inquiry process help students understand their own learning process and improve their ability to transfer learning to new contexts.

Rather than using traditional standardized, multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blanks tests to assess students’ content knowledge, educators use performance-based measures to assess how students apply future ready learning in real-world, authentic contexts. “The integration of authentic learning tasks with diagnostic assessment and project monitoring is a powerful education instrument for [instructional] change and student achievement” (Moreillon, Luhtala, and Russo 2011, 20). The effectiveness of performance-based assessments is determined by how well students can use them to guide their learning process and self-assess their progress as well as their final product or performance.

What you will find in this chapter:
1. A Rationale for Why School Librarians Must Collect Student Learning Outcomes Data;
2. A Plethora of Assessment Tools and a Sample Analytic Rubric;
3. School Librarian Self-Assessment Criteria;
4. A Challenge for Building a Positive School Climate and a Culture of Collaboration.

School librarian and library program evaluation and self-assessment must be based on rigorous criteria. Performance reviews must be designed to guide and improve school librarians’ practice. As a result, it may be necessary to modify district-level evaluation tools to reflect school librarians’ vital contributions to student learning, educator development, and school culture.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi, Michelle Luhtala, and Christina Russo. 2011. “Learning that Sticks: Engaged Educators + Engaged Learners.” School Library Monthly 28 (1): 17-20.

Wagner, Tony, and Ted Dintersmith. 2015. Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era. New York: Scribner.

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at

Planning 4 Assessment

03_advanced_students_3h_sizedWe did not have the opportunity to address some of the questions asked during the “Classroom Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” Webinar held on October 13th. For the next few BACC posts, I will share my experience and perspective on some of those unanswered and sometimes thorny questions.

Several participants asked questions about assessment. One participant from Virginia asked about informal assessments. Another from Fort Mill noted that she does not “give grades” in “library class.” Other participants who were not school librarians noted that they were pleased to be “reminded” of the benefits of coteaching with their school librarians. I inferred that they were including joint assessment as one of those benefits.

In my experience, sharing responsibility for assessments can be one of a school librarian’s calling cards—a way to introduce a coteaching benefit that many classroom teachers and specialists will respond to positively. Designing, gathering, and analyzing formative assessment data collected before, during, or after a lesson or unit of instruction is an essential activity for all educators.

When educators coplan for assessment, they can practice articulating a rationale for the lesson or unit of instruction. In “Every Lesson Needs a Storyline,” Bradley A. Ermeling and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling suggest that coherent instruction helps educators test and refine hypotheses about effective teaching and learning. In their article, they provide a series of questions that can help educators self-assess their lessons. One example is this: “What evidence did we collect during and after the lesson to help us evaluate student progress and study the relationship between teaching and learning” (26).

One of the critical skills for 21st-century school librarians engaged in collaborative lesson planning is being able to align standards and to codevelop learning experiences with student outcomes in mind. Many school districts across the country have focused professional development on Understanding by Design (UbD) as codified by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. In short: When educators plan, they begin by specifying what they want students to know and to be able to do at the end of the lesson or unit of instruction. Educators also determine how they will measure student learning outcomes at the beginning of the planning process.

Codeveloping anticipation guides, exit slips, graphic organizers, checklists, rubrics, and other assessment and student self-assessment tools is an excellent strategy for creating the context/expectation for shared responsibility for assessment. With this level of collaboration, most educators will feel comfortable with each other’s assessments of student work. However, one excellent strategy to help ensure inter-rater reliability is to coassess a few “anchor papers/products” that demonstrate various levels of mastery. Then both educators will know when they see an exemplary product, an average one, and/or a “needs more work” example. They will also learn when their instruction supported individual student’s learning and when it did not.

When you coplan in the role of a school librarian, keeping the focus on outcomes helps position your collaborative work and the role of the school library program at the center of academic achievement. This is essential to the value others place on your work, especially principals who are charged with the role of instructional leaders. When we plan appropriately for instruction, coteach, and coasssess lessons, we experience job-embedded professional develop and provide the same for our colleagues. We also serve as co-instructional leaders with our principals.

The bottom line: Educators must assess student learning outcomes in order to measure their teaching effectiveness. Let’s keep on improving our instruction by coplanning for assessment and sharing responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of our teaching.

BACC readers can link to the archive on Resources for the Webinar on my presentations wiki.

Work Cited

Ermeling, Bradley A., and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling. “Every Lesson Needs a Storyline.” Educational Leadership, vol. 74, no. 2, 2016, pp. 22-26.

Image Caption: Fifth-grade students completing a graphic organizer for the Advanced Building Background Knowledge lesson in Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (ALA, 2013).

Assessment Toolbox


What’s in your assessment toolbox?  As a collaborating co-teacher, or instructor in your own library classroom, you need a variety of assessment tools that measure critical thinking and comprehension, as well as knowledge and performance.  So many assessments, so many choices-how do you pick the right one? Formative and summative assessments range from simple to complex, and depend on the goals for the activity or unit and the age/level of the student.  Good assessment tools inform the teacher and the student about progress.  Teaching and learning can be adjusted according to results of assessments. They are  essential elements for effective instruction.  So with that said, do you have some favorite ways to evaluate learning?  Would you like to find new ideas that are quick and easy?  What are some technology apps that bring a creative twist to the tried and true?

Here are a few links to explore that might give you some new tools for your toolbox:

Jennifer LaGarde’s  “Adventures of Library Girl” blog (Dec. 3, 2012) has a compendium of digital tools for using for assessment:

Kathy Schrock’s website-not to be missed-many examples of rubric and assessments:

West Virginia Department of Education website, page on formative assessment:

Do you have other suggestions to add to the list?  Share them here!











Collaboration and Assessment

fair use fairy school A rubric that includes a cartwheel, scented paper, and handout dances? How does that measure learning about hot topic issues in school librarianship?  Why can’t assessment have a sense of fun and play?  See it here!

The end of the semester is a busy time in higher ed, but exams, projects, and reflections in coursework give instructors a chance to assess and celebrate student learning. Best educational practice and strategies for teaching may vary according to the developmental age of the students and by content, but a major goal in any classroom is to engage and excite learners. The question is how do you as an instructor recognize and honor learning?

Assessing student learning has not been a focus for teacher librarians in the past, but when new standards and collaboration enter the picture, TLs have to step up and be part of that process.

Learning about assessment through authentic examples embedded within a graduate course demonstrates possible techniques for creating assessments that inform both students and instructors about knowledge and performance.

Recently, my co-instructor and I here at the University of Vermont met with students face to face for the final class this semester.  The course is offered in a blended format, two face to face classes at the beginning and end of the semester, five videoconferencing sessions at various times, and Blackboard modules that support online communication and work.  The course, Management of School Library Media Centers, is an overview of the various administrative and leadership roles of the teacher librarian in the school environment.  Sounds dry, doesn’t it?  There are many projects and ways that students are assessed and self assess during the course.  Reflection through personal blogs is a major expectation. Written reports, and evidence of leadership and collaboration are also part of assessment. Technology is infused throughout, and students are encouraged to stretch themselves out of their comfort zone. Feedback is ongoing between instructors and students.  It’s a huge amount of work for both!

So, here we are wrapping up our time together by sharing the fruits of a semester long project that requires students to choose a hot topic of interest, find a group of like minded folks, collaborate across time and space to identify resources and talking points for the pros and cons of the issue, and to create a skit that shows evidence of learning to be performed at the final class.  Why not make it fun, and a bit less serious?  One way to do that is to ask the students to collaborate to devise a rubric that gets to the heart of the matter, but also encourages creativity, humor, and playfulness. Setting the expectations for both serious and playful criteria generates groans, but opens lots of possibilities that unleash creative juices.  The results on Saturday delighted us all.

A sampling of skits:

  • Remix/Fair use:  The Fair Use Fairy School-three fairies popped a quiz, “What would you do?”  Winners in the audience got to wear a super star cape and fairy dust.  Serious topic-good examples, and resources provided-and lots of laughs. (Photo above)
  • Graphic novels:  A disgruntled Grandma, happy ELL teacher, and struggling reader who turns a cartwheel at finding engaging literature. All with lavender scented handouts!
  • Banned books: Three points of view-grumpy parent, clueless administrator, and eager students ready to teach friends about censorship. Humor and satire galore revealed serious issues.
  • Grants:  Teacher librarian makes herself indispensable to a principal by leading the way in finding grants.  The principal says, “ We are eliminating your budget. I hope it doesn’t impact you too much!”  Skit included a baby born to one of the students during the course, adding a new criteria to the rubric.
  • Open source platforms: Panel of crazy hat people arguing the pros and cons of open vs. paid Integrated Library systems.  Great handout dance.
  • CIPA:  A manic dialogue between an administrator, a congressman, and the personification of art and porn-filled with clever humor about the purpose and quixotic implementation of  internet safety rules for children.

Who says teacher librarians can’t have fun?

Photo: Judy Kaplan