Inequitable Access During School Closures

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Credited to William Gibson (circa 1990-92).

When so many K-12 students and educators are not participating in face-to-face learning in schools due to the CDC’s social distancing recommendations, it seems like an opportune time to, once again, reflect and wrestle with equity… or rather with inequity of opportunity… The technology gap that has plagued schools since the 1990s is tragically still alive and well. School districts are scrambling at this time to provide remote learning opportunities; at the same time, educators know that access to online learning will be inequitable.

Charge to Provide Equitable Digital Access
Digital equity for school librarians means that all of the students. educators, and families we serve have free access to digital resources and technology devices. Access is necessary if they are to reach their capacity for learning. Digital equity is also necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

One of the American Association of School Librarians’ common beliefs is “information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available” (AASL 2018, 11.) Similarly, Future Ready Librarians® are building-level innovators who believe in “equitable learning opportunities for all students” (Future Ready Schools). And yet…

There are students who do not have access to computers or tablets in their homes. While cell phones may be adequate for consuming information or posting to social media, they are inadequate tools for writing and producing new knowledge. There are schools that lack enough devices to loan them out in order to ensure that every student has one to use. When public libraries are closed or overcrowded, students who use them will not have access.

Online Resources
School and public librarians, state libraries and advocacy groups have been using distribution lists and social media to share online resources that may be helpful to some students, families, and educators during closures. Here is a brief list of some of the ones I’ve seen (with a national rather than state-level focus).

Amazing Educational Resources, a crowd-sourced list created by people who’ve responded using a Google form.

Paige Bentley-Flannery, Community Librarian, Deschutes Public Library, created a webpage “Children Authors Read Aloud and Other Facetime Events.”

(As a side note, it is a violation of copyright for individuals to record and distribute read-alouds of copyrighted works. No, you will likely not be sued by the creator(s) or the publishers if you do so, but that’s not the point. The point is to model respect for the rights of the copyright holder.)

Every Library’s webpage with an alphabetical list of links to state libraries’ online resources.

Unplugged Ideas
According to a Twitter thread started by Jennifer LaGarde, some school librarians had the opportunity to encourage students to check out books from their libraries before schools were closed to reduce the spread of the virus. Others reported they had little or no warning or were already on spring break when their school closing was enacted. Some are hoping they will be allowed to open their libraries for a brief check-out window.

School librarians who are able to communicate with students’ and families’ smart phones via social media have the opportunity to suggest activities that do not require laptops or tablets. School librarian Ashely Cooksey posted some outstanding “unplugged” ideas for students and families.

(I suggested some additional activities under her post to the Maximizing School Librarians Facebook Group.)

After the Crisis
Access to paper print reading materials during this crisis should be guaranteed, and we have learned it is not. The barriers to accessing digital information may be even more pronounced during school closures.

As we assess our service during this crisis, I believe it is critical for school librarians to stand up, give testimony, and advocate for equitable access for all K-12 students to paper print and electric information and devices not only during school hours during the regular school year… but 24/7 year-round.

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA. https://standards.aasl.org/

Future Ready Schools. 2018/2020. “Future Ready Librarians.” FutureReady.org. https://futureready.org/thenetwork/strands/future-ready-librarians/

Image Credit

Wokandapix. “Equity Fairness Equitable Letters.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/photos/equity-fairness-equitable-letters-2355700/

Professional Book Review: The Age of Accelerations

For the month of January, I will be reviewing professional books. In December, 2019, I had the opportunity to read from my ever-tall stack of professional books. I am reviewing them this month in hopes that you may have read them and will make a comment, or you will be inspired to seek out these titles and read them (and then make a comment).

The Inspiration
I have long been a devotee of Thomas Friedman. I “found” Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, published in 2016, at just the right time and am so glad to have read it now when, like many of us, I need a bit of optimism. This New York Times bestseller earned additional recognition including the Wall Street Journal’s “10 Books to Read Now” (in 2016!) and one of Kirkus Reviews’ “Best Nonfiction Books of the Year.”

Friedman opens this book with the inspiration for the book’s title. While waiting for someone who was late in arriving for an appointment with him, Friedman had twenty minutes “to spare.” With nothing else on his calendar and not knowing when the person would actually arrive, he sat quietly with his thoughts. These moments of reflection were when he made connections among thoughts that had been on his mind… and the thrust of this book was born.

The Age of Accelerations
Friedman is spot on with his conclusion that in the “age of accelerations” very few, if any, of us can keep up with the rapid pace of change. In Friedman’s view, 2007, the year the iPhone was introduced, marked the beginning of this “age.” In the book, he elaborates on three accelerations that have, since then, stretched humankind beyond our limits:

  • Technology (Moore’s Law)
  • Globalization
  • Climate Change

When describing technology acceleration, Friedman makes the connection to Moore’s Law, which states that computer processing speeds double every two years. He also talks about the “Supernova,” better known to us as “the cloud.” And for better or worse, good or evil intent, Friedman notes the Supernova serves as amplifier of human behavior.

Global markets have changed the employment and economic landscape for people, businesses, and corporations around the globe. He cites many corporate thinkers in this book; this quote on the topic of globalization stood out to me: “Our institutions spend so much time working on how to optimize returns on financial capital. It is about time we started thinking more about how to optimize returns on human capital” (Auguste Copra, cited on page 238).

Mother Nature is Friedman’s personification for climate change and the loss of biodiversity. We have, very tragically, breached the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere (See 350.org) and cannot ignore the impact of human activity on our shared home. Friedman notes that there will be over 9 billion people on the planet by 2050 (when my grandson will be just twenty-eight-years old). Of that 9 billion, a growing number will be climate refugees. “Globally, 1 in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. If this were the population of a country, the report said, it would be the world’s twenty-fourth biggest” (report from United Nations Refugee Agency in 2016).

K-12 Education Connections
Clearly, technology is a driving force in education today. With all of the benefits of the Supernova at their disposal, K-12 students and educators have many opportunities to positively influence their own future and the future of the plant. Friedman notes that successful youth (and adults) are those who take advantage of all the free and inexpensive tools and flows coming out of the Supernova.

As we all know, the current and future workforce will require continuous learning. “Mother Nature is the opposite of dogmatic—she is constantly agile, heterodox, hybrid, entrepreneurial, and experimental in her thinking” (303). School librarians could use this phrase to describe and self-asses our work with students, classroom teachers, specialists, and families.

I appreciate that Friedman discussed “ownership cultures” in the context of the teaching profession. In ownership cultures, people must first and foremost own their work and learning. He included this quote from Andreas Schleicher, who runs PISA exams: Successful schooling systems have a “high degree of professional autonomy for teachers… where teachers get to participate in shaping standards and curriculum, and have ample time for continuous professional development” (322). They are successful because they are engaged with the tools of their own craft, rather than serve like chefs whose only job is to reheat someone else’s cooking (322). Amen.

The Need to Pause, Build Empathy, and Re-connect
These three accelerations result in the imperative to exist (and thrive?) in a constant state of destabilization (35). This requires flexibility, adaptability, and necessitates reflection. While technology has made waiting obsolete, succeeding today requires patience—the patience to think and reflect. When you pause in the age of accelerations, you have the opportunity to reflect, rethink your assumptions, reimagine what is possible, reconnect with your most deeply held beliefs (Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, quoted on page 4).

Friedman discusses the need for members of our global society to build empathy—to be able to see the world through another person’s experience. He quotes a Talmudic staying: “What comes from the heart enters the heart.” (13) and notes that caring ignites caring; empathy ignites empathy (152). He also notes the need for human contact that includes face-to-face interaction.

He warns that: “In the age of accelerations, if a society doesn’t build floors under people, many will reach for a wall—no matter how self-defeating that would be” (153). Cultures must address people’s anxiety about the present and the future. We must offer one another a “home.”

I have always thought of libraries as “homes” for their communities—places where they have to take you in, places that are “family.” “It is so much easier to venture far—not just in distance but also in terms of your willingness to experiment, take risks, and reach out to the other—when you know you’re still tethered to a place called home, and to a real community” (452-453).

Work Cited

Friedman, Thomas L. 2016. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Next Steps

Dear Maximizing School Librarianship Readers and Blog Post Followers,

We/I have come to the conclusion of a ten-month cycle of book study blog posts to support my book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (MSLL) (ALA 2018). When I wrote the book, composing posts and podcasts related to each chapter in the book was a commitment I made to myself and to readers. I planned for blog posts by interspersing four pull quotes in each chapter. After the introductory posts, I have based each blog post on a pull quote. The content of the podcasts evolved beyond my own recordings to include interviews with selected school librarian leaders.

This photograph was taken at a California beach in May, 2019. The smaller footprints belong to my grandson who was fifteen months old at the time. The larger footprints belong to his dad, my son-in-law. This image came to me when I was walking with them on the beach and thinking about this final MSLL blog post. I knew I wanted to address “next steps” but it wasn’t until I saw their footprints that I realized how I could so.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

Small First Steps
It has often been said that change agents should start small; that the best strategy to sustain long-term improvements is to take measured steps. When you come to the realization that it is time for you and the library program to move forward in a new direction, you are ready to begin a change process. Aligning your steps with the goals of your administrator, school, or district is the most effective way to make sure that your “library” goals will help others succeed. Remembering the charge to serve others serves school librarians well.

Having a plan helps you chart and measure your progress. Developing your plan with school library stakeholders is a wise choice. As a team, you may take two steps forward and one step back, but if you keep your goals in mind, you will always be able to see your reality in terms of forward progress (see Chapter 9: Figure 9.3: Your Plan and Reality.) When missteps and reversals happen, having a supportive team can give you encouragement and ideas for taking a new step and moving forward again.

Each step you take—with purpose—is one that leads to your goal. Your goal may be related to students’ or classroom teachers’ equitable access to the resources of the library and your expertise. Your goal may be a flexible schedule that offers students opportunities for deeper learning through the library program. Your goal may be increasing access to and the effective use of technology tools for learning and teaching. It may involve informal or formal professional development, or grant writing, or an advocacy campaign. Whatever your goal, each step along the way can get you closer to your desired outcome.

“Anything can be achieved in small, deliberate steps. But there are times you need the courage to take a great leap;
you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”
Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George

Crossing Chasms
Great leaps are possible. These steps require courage; they also require a community of support. Large-scale change in any school should be led or colead with the school principal. Again, aligning “great leaps” with initiatives underway at the site or district level gives “library initiatives” a leg up.

One leap that many elementary librarians have taken involves scheduling. Flexible scheduling allows for school librarians to reach their capacity as leaders, instructional partners, information specialists, and teachers. A flexible schedule based on classroom-library collaboration for instruction makes deeper learning for students possible. It also helps school librarians measure and document their impact on student learning outcomes. Without this evidence, school librarians’ value may not be recognized.

One leap that secondary librarians have taken involves classroom-library collaboration for instruction; it involves coteaching with classroom teachers in more than one subject-area department. Classroom teachers and school librarians plan for learning from an interdisciplinary perspective. “Each disciplinary perspective contributes specific concepts or findings as well as specific modes of thinking to shed light on a particular problem” (Wineburg and Grossman 2000, 27). This type of learning design mirrors they way people work and live outside of school (see also Chapter 5: Figure 5.1: Cross-Discipline and Discipline-Specific Questioning Matrix).

The “size” of your steps forward may be irrelevant. Their impact on teaching and learning depends on the culture and goals of the community you serve. Only you, along with library stakeholders, can decide if a step is a small one or a big one. Plan, take action, reflect, revise, and repeat in order to bring your vision into reality.

Advocacy and the School Librarian Leadership Blog
Each school librarian is the representative of the profession for the students, educators, administrators, families, and community members they serve. In your daily practice, you show others why a state-certified school librarian is an essential member of every school faculty. With your expertise and extensive literacies toolkit, you have the opportunity to fill a niche that would otherwise be lacking to the detriment of students, colleagues, and families.

The blog posts I have authored and the podcasts I have published to support a year-long book study are available and linked from the menu at the top of School Librarian Leadership. com. These resources will be available for future MSLL book readers. In many ways, for me, this feels like the end of an extra long teaching semester.

When I taught at Texas Woman’s University, I often pulled out and posted this quote at the end of each semester. (It is one that I had hanging in our library office when I was a practicing school librarian.)

“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

In your role as a school librarian leader, I know you will build bridges/connections for learning with the students, colleagues, and families you serve. I know you will reach out into the wider community of librarians and library stakeholders to move our profession forward. The school librarian profession is in good hands with professionals such as you who are continuously developing their craft, deepening their knowledge, and growing their leadership.

I invite you to use the MSLL book study posts and podcasts in any way that supports your work. I also invite you to continue following this blog. My posts from June 10th on will be aligned with the courses I’m teaching, research, events, and issues related to effective professional school librarian leadership.

Thank you for reading and listening and most of all, for leading.

Work Cited

Wineburg, Sam, and Pam Grossman. Eds. 2000. Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Challenges to Implementation. New York: Teachers College Press.

Advocate for What Students Need to Succeed

While it is all educators’ responsibility to advocate for what students need to succeed in their futures, school librarians can use their leadership and instructional partner roles to advocate for authentic, relevant, and challenging curricula. They can colead and advocate for initiatives that result in transforming teaching and learning.

School librarians’ overarching goal is to prepare students for lifelong learning. It could be said that preK-12 educators have always prepared the next generation for their lives after high school. But the speed of technological and other change in today’s society make it more difficult to predict those needs. Education organizations have suggested various skills and competencies for educators to consider as they guide future ready students’ learning. (Competencies are applied skills; all of the standards cited in this post are intended to be applied in authentic learning experiences.)

Among those skills are the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity), the International Society for Technology in Education’s Student Standards, NextGen Science Standards, National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, and more including the National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (AASL 2018).

In Chapter 8 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, I draw connections between leadership and advocacy. Both are essential behaviors of school librarians if we are indeed positioning our work at the forefront of innovation, change, and reform in education.

Leadership
“Leaders maintain an understanding of what the mission and goals of an organization are and how these can be fulfilled” (Riggs 2001). Leaders inspire and influence the thinking and behaviors of others. From the global view provided by the library—the largest classroom in the school—school librarians are stewards of the widest range and variety of resources. Their job is to develop a collection of resources that meet the needs of the learning community.

In their daily work, school librarians connect books and other resources with students in order to help them develop as strategic readers, who enjoy and choose to read for pleasure. Strategic readers use comprehension strategies to think critically, to understand an author’s purpose, separate fact from fiction, news from propaganda. They also ask probing questions, seek credible answers, and develop new knowledge that helps them make sense of the world.

School librarians connect books and other resources to the curriculum by working with classroom teachers and specialists. They help other educators extend student learning beyond the textbook and offer resources on curricular topics at multiple reading proficiency levels to help all students build their reading skills. School librarians advocate for learning experiences that give students voice and choice and set them on the path of lifelong learning.

School librarians are on the constant lookout for resources that will spark students’ curiosity while supporting classroom teachers’ required student learning objectives. In many schools, school librarians are stewards of the most up-to-date technology tools and have expertise in marshaling the power of technology to improve student learning. They have expertise with digital information, including databases. They teach digital citizenship and help students understand the implications of the digital footprint they are creating today and how it may affect their futures.

Advocacy
“Collaborating school librarians have the potential to influence teaching and learning for every classroom teacher and every student in their building. To embrace a leadership role is an opportunity to co-create a collaborative school culture of learning that truly transforms education” (Moreillon 2019). Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning alongside classroom teacher colleagues, school librarians have the opportunity to advocate for effective instruction, relevant learning tasks, and meaningful inquiry-based learning experiences that improve student learning outcomes. This work supports administrators’ goals for their schools and their district.

“Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to: Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them. Defend and safeguard their rights. Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives” (SAEP n.d.). When school librarians advocate for future ready students, they are advocating for students’ voices and agency, their rights, and their empowerment to pursue learning that will make a long-term impact on their readiness for college, career, and community life.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. In your way of thinking, how are leadership and advocacy linked?
  2. Describe how your passion for school librarianship, your role as a school librarian, and the role of the library in future ready learning has led you to advocating for future ready students.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Leadership Requires Collaboration: Memes Have Meaning.” School Library Connection Online: https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2193152?topicCenterId=1955261&tab=1

Riggs, Donald E. 2001. “The Crisis and Opportunities in Library Leadership.” Journal of Library Administration 32 (3/4): 5-17.

seAp.org. “What Is Advocacy?” https://www.seap.org.uk/im-looking-for-help-or-support/what-is-advocacy.html

 

 

 

 

 

#AASL, #ESSA, and #NEAToday’s Report

On Saturday, February 25th, #AASL executive director Sylvia Norton presented an #ESSA workshop for members of the Teacher Librarian Division (TLD) of the Arizona Library Association (AzLA). AASL offers a strong collection of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) resources for all concerned school librarian/library advocates.

At the meeting, TLD was able to report that Arizona’s ESSA Plan, which was submitted for federal approval in January, mentions school librarians twice. School libraries are not mentioned at all in the plan. See below.

As noted in my January 30th post “Advocacy and Collaboration Support ESSA,” AzLA’s Legislative Committee and Leadership helped support TLD’s advocacy effort.

In Arizona, our challenge going forward is how to encourage school districts to include school librarians and libraries in their ESSA plans and grant proposals. As clearly demonstrated in the recent National Education Association’s (NEA) report “Library/Media Centers in U.S. Public Schools: Growth, Staffing, and Resources: Full Report” school librarianship is in desperate straits in Arizona.

These are just a few alarming Arizona data points from the NEA study report. “Those states reporting the fewest percentages of schools with library/media centers are Arizona, Massachusetts, and Alaska, (79.6%, 77.3% and 74.5%, respectively)” (19). “States reporting the fewest [school librarians] are California and Arizona (54.5% and 64.1%, respectively)” (40).

For at least a decade, educators in Arizona have only been required to pass a test in order to become state-certified school librarians. According to the NEA report, 24.5% of practicing Arizona school librarians have earned M.L.S. degrees compared with 51.85% at the national level. And I suspect that many M.L.S. school librarians are on the verge of retiring. (An M.L.S. was required in Arizona when I started my graduate program in 1990.) In districts across this state, there are minimal salary incentives, if any, to earn a Master’s degree.

With so few professional school librarians in practice, no incentives to be fully prepared for the role, and no school librarianship course work offered at a reasonable tuition in the state, it is difficult to image how Arizona school librarian/library advocates can capitalize on the ESSA opportunity. Still, for some Arizona school districts that fund (at least) half-time librarians in every school, support may be within reach via grant funds for school librarian professional development or finessing the reinstatement of full-time positions (!). Then the question will be from where will these professionals come and how will they be prepared to serve?

The view from the Grand Canyon state may be bleak but thankfully, there are bright spots on the national level that offer encouragement for the future of our profession. In Pennsylvania and Nevada, there are efforts to require full-time, state-certified school librarians in every public school.

If you have an ESSA update to share, please do so by adding a comment to this post.

Arizona’s ESSA Plan
“Section 5.2: Support for Educators
A. Resources to Support State-level Strategies. Describe how the SEA will use Title II, Part A
Improve quality and effectiveness: The Arizona Department of Education continues to support, leveraging Title II-A funds, many initiatives and projects to improve the quality and effectiveness of teachers and principals including, but not limited to:…
School librarians to share professional learning for colleagues and disseminating the benefits of new techniques, strategies and technologies” (41).

“Section 6: Supporting All Students
6.1 Well-Rounded and Supportive Education for Students
When addressing the State’s strategies below, each SEA must describe how it will use Title IV, Part A funds and funds from other included programs, consistent with allowable uses of fund provided under those programs, to support State-level strategies and LEA use of funds…
B. The State’s strategies and how it will support LEAs to provide equitable access to a well-rounded education and rigorous coursework in subjects in which female students, minority students, English learners, children with disabilities, or low-income students are underrepresented. Such subjects could include English, reading/language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, career and technical education, health, or physical education.

LEA curriculum and instruction, as required by Arizona Revised Statutes §15-701, will be aligned to challenging academic standards. Through alignment to Arizona standards, all Arizona students will be provided equal access to a challenging, well-rounded instructional experience. Struggling learners will be addressed through intervention strategies while advanced learners receive acceleration and enrichment based on individual student needs. Gifted learners will receive appropriate gifted education services and support in accordance with Arizona Revised Statutes § 15-779, 15-779.01 and 15-779.02. In addition, school librarians support rigorous personalized learning experiences supported by technology and ensure equitable access to resources for all students” (50).

Works Cited

Arizona Department of Education. “ESSA State Plan Final Draft – Federal Submission,Azed.gov, https://cms.azed.gov/home/GetDocumentFile?id=58780e64aadebe183c5d5dc9. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

Tuck, Kathy, D. and Dwight R. Holmes. “Library/Media Centers in U.S. Public Schools: Growth, Staffing, and Resources: Full Report, 2016,” NEA.org, http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/Trends%20in%20School%20Library%20Media%20Centers%20Full%20Report.pdf. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

Image credit: Pennywise. “HandReach,” Morguefile.com, http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/156694. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

 

 

Summer Reading…

creative_educationSummer is for reading—not just for students but for teachers and librarians, too! This month, the BACC co-bloggers will be sharing our summer reading—pleasure reading, reading with curriculum connections, and reading for professional development.

To update and hone my knowledge of current publications in the field of education, I have been reading a number of thought leaders’ most recent titles. In his latest book coauthored with Lou Aronica, Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education, Sir Ken Robinson continues to advocate for teaching (and modeling) behaviors and dispositions that inspire and support youth in developing their curiosity and exercising their imaginations.

“Every school is a living community of people with unique relationships, biographies, and responsibilities. Each school has its own ‘feel,’ its rituals and routines, its own cast of personalities, its own myths, stories, in-jokes, and codes of behavior, and its many subcultures of friends and factions. Schools are not sanctuaries that are set apart from the turmoil of everyday life. A vibrant school can nourish an entire community by becomes a source of hope and creative energy” (Robinson and Aronica 2015, 63-64).

The theme of schools as communities of learners is a strand throughout Robinson’s work. I had the pleasure of attending his talk at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference in 2012. One of his quotes that I have kept in mind since then is this: “Being a creative teacher doesn’t mean you do all the work. It means you recognize we all teach each other.” He meant educators (and experts in the field/parents/and community members) teaching each other as well as students teaching students.

Yesterday at the ALA Annual Conference, the Educators of School Librarians Section (ESLS) and the (School Library) Supervisors Section (SPVS) had a productive joint meeting. We discussed how to identify and mentor future librarians who will possess and/or develop the skills and qualities needed to serve the needs of today’s students and teachers. ESLS’s members on the panel shared what their universities are doing to recruit the best candidates to fill the many vacancies in school libraries in their states. We will continue the conversation about how we can attract the best possible candidates to our profession.

In the context of Robinson’s book, I hope we can attract more and more school librarians who can co-lead the kind of transformation he describes. We need creative, resourceful, flexible educators in libraries and in classrooms who can collaborate with the adults and students in the learning community to transform teaching and learning.

If you haven’t viewed it, I highly recommend Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk: “Do schools kill creativity?” With almost 34 million views, his talk is the most often viewed of all the TED videos to date. (Summer viewing is important, too!)

On Thursday, I will share a bit about Professional Capital, the new book by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan.

Work Cited

Robinson, Ken, and Lou Aronica. Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education. New York: Viking, 2015. Print.

Models for PL and CBE in Practice

Reaching for SuccessA View from Northern New England

Right now, I am posting from Old England (London) where I am visiting family and trying to find spring flowers and green grass. I have deserted New England, which is still waiting for snow to melt and to turn the mud into something that indicates that spring has arrived-and not just on the calendar.

Last week I explored the changes that are on the horizon in school systems across the nation, and this week I will share some of what’s happening in Northern New England with a different take on collaboration.

New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont are in various stages of implementing competency based education policies that have been adopted recently. New Hampshire (2005) has led the way, Maine (2012) is close behind, and Vermont (2013) is catching up. What these states have in common, besides snow and ornery natures, is a reverence for self-determination.

Competency based education has been defined at the state level (a bit differently within each state), but the framework for implementation is being developed at the district and school level. Instead of top down, it is happening bottom up. The state education agencies are providing resources to help districts develop implementation plans. The three states are collaborating to explore best practices and to provide professional development so that educators can learn from one another. The progress is faster in some places than others, but there are shining examples for possibilities to improve educational experiences for now and next gen students. The League of Innovative Schools is one of the opportunities for professional development across the region.

Find out more here: “Innovative Schools turning Around Lives in New England,” http://www.centralmaine.com/2013/05/20/innovative-schools-turning-lives-around_2013-05-21/

If you are interested, here are a few snapshots of what’s happening around the northern NE states

New Hampshire: PACE-Performance Assessment of Competency Education

Maine: Education Evolving: Maine’s Plan to Put Education First

Vermont: Act 77: Flexible Pathways

One School’s Journey

Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School (Mt. Abe) in Bristol, Vermont has been headed down the personalization path for the past ten years.  In order to keep high school students in school and to make learning relevant for those who were at risk of dropping out, educators developed a program, “Personal Pathways to Graduation.”  It has been one of the choices that high school students can make as an alternative to the traditional course based track for graduation. Other high schools have developed similar models to meet the varied goals and needs of diverse students.

In the personalized learning program, students set goals and makes plans that are meaningful for their future. They take selected regular academic classes combined with apprenticeship opportunities. Some may take online courses or enroll in college classes, and go to other schools for classes.  There are about 23 full time students in the program and up to 50-70 others, who cycle in and out part time.  Two full time coaches lead participants and keep them on track in school, and also in outside school learning experiences.

Now, with the Act 77 timeline, all 7-12 schools in Vermont should have a system in place by 2017 that reflects the Flexible Pathways Initiative. The Addison Northeast Supervisory Union (home of Mt. Abe) is in the process of formulating plans, and providing professional development for educators that is modeled on the personal pathways program success.

Mt. Abe has an innovation team that has been offering professional development and training in personalized learning pedagogies for district educators,  and has been helping set up record keeping systems and portfolios for students and teachers to coordinate progress. Students move toward mastery of knowledge and skills within areas of competency, rather than to take a course and get a grade.   The personal pathways program is now a model for changing the traditional path to graduation that incorporates personalized learning opportunities for all students. It is a paradigm shift that will not happen overnight, so there is ongoing support for teachers to adopt and adapt.

Lauren Parren, the Innovation Coach for the school district, heads up the Instructional Coaching Services Team. The team includes other content specialists and consultants, and is located in a flexible learning space within the school learning commons area. The team works one on one or with small groups of teachers and students, or can embed in the classroom to encourage and model best practices in personalized learning. They have a very busy schedule.

Laura Mina, the high school library media specialist, is one of the team consultants. Her role is central to the work of the team, as the expert on information services.  She has been renovating the library learning space for the past few years, and has a powerful virtual library that uses LibGuides as an organizational tool.  https://sites.google.com/a/mtabevt.org/library/

Laura has compiled various resources and pathfinders for both teachers and students who are involved in creating personalized learning plans or developing curriculum. She is available for just in time teaching and learning, or for more formal classes, workshops, or other training opportunities.

If you would like to learn more about the progress for personal pathways at Mt. Abe, follow Lauren’s blog or join her, Barbara Bray, John Parker, Jon Tanner, Kathleen McClaskey, and Pat Lusher who will be speaking at the ISTE Conference on June 29 and July, 2015.

Off to do some sightseeing-Cheerio!

Image: Microsoft Clipart

 

On the Horizon

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This month, Judi and Lucy have highlighted some ways that school libraries and teacher librarians have continued to provide resources and instruction that support the variability of all learners in a diverse school community. At the heart of our mission is the concept of equitable access to information and the freedom to read a range of literature in many formats. Another part of the vision for library service is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for active learning for contemporary learners to “Think-Create-Share and Grow.”

On a personal level, teacher librarians get to know learners’ individual reading tastes, interests, strengths, and challenges in a setting other than the classroom. Often, we have a longer view of student growth over time because the school library space is a constant from year to year. We develop relationships with students that extend through their time in elementary, middle, or high school as we see their talents and personalities evolve. I always found that to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

As Lucy has said, “to remain effective and relevant, we must constantly update our skills and keep up with the movements and trends affecting our practice.” Now there is a new/old opportunity on the horizon for teacher librarians in the emerging field of personalized learning, and we should be ready to collaborate with our teaching colleagues in a shift from teacher centered learning to student centered learning that has the potential to change teaching practice now and in the future.

Emerging technologies and new pedagogies focused on learners and learning have already brought about tremendous change in the traditional classroom, and there is more to come.

What is personalized learning?

Personalized learning is a term that is used to describe many approaches to customizing instruction in the field of education. The term is used in multiple ways to describe an approach to learning that gives students voice and choice in their own learning. When learning is personalized, teachers help students set goals based on their interests, knowledge, and skills. As “guides on the side,” teachers help them to develop learning plans to achieve the goals, and monitor progress. The objective is for students to master competencies and demonstrate evidence of learning through performance. Self-assessment and reflection are integral to student success in mastering learning. Gradually, students will be able to take responsibility for their own learning and chart their own pathways for the future.

Personalization of learning, personal learning plans, and performance portfolios will impact the way that students will be using classroom and library learning spaces, and how teachers and teacher librarians interact with students. Students will be trained to set personal goals, and to develop a system for designing what, why, and how they learn.  Teachers will become coaches, and provide instruction as needed, and how this will impact the traditional way that schools and curricula are designed is in transition.

Why should teacher librarians be at the PL table?

When you look at Standards for 21st Century Learners (AASL 2007), the dispositions and competencies in the document align with concepts for personalized learning. These are the standards that teacher librarians use to guide their daily practice in designing learning for students. Along with Common Core State Standards, or other state standards as frameworks to guide curriculum, teacher librarians collaborate with colleagues to create meaningful and engaging performance tasks that provide authentic learning opportunities. Teacher librarians are already in the business of partnering with students in their inquiry, problem, project, and place-based learning assignments, so personalized learning is an extension of their professional practice.

Across the nation, there are 41 states and the District of Columbia that are in various stages of exploring, developing, or implementing competency based education policies that are driven by personalized learning for students. The state legislation or education rules already in effect or being proposed provide “flexible pathways” for determining graduation requirements from high school. Instead of using the Carnegie Unit (time), there can be alternative ways to evaluate performance through mastery of competencies, and local school districts are charged with developing systems for tracking individual performance, and mastery. This is a major paradigm shift in educational delivery models, as well as a change in school culture. There is lot to talk about, and teacher librarians should be part of the conversation, too.

How can I learn more about personalized learning?

There are journals, websites, and professional texts that are excellent resources for gaining understanding about the concepts and challenges for shifting the way we approach teaching and learning for our increasingly diverse learners in an age of information and ubiquitous technology.

Here some recommendations that you can share with your colleagues to get the discussion rolling:

  •  Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. Make Learning Personal. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2015. Website: http://www.personalizelearning.com/
  • John H. Clarke. Personalized Learning: Student-Designed Pathways to High School Graduation. Thousand Oaks, CA: 2013.
  •  Allison Zmuda, Greg Curtis, and Diane Ullman. Learning Personalized-The Evolution of the Contemporary Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2015.
  • Competency Works website:
  1.  State Policy Resources http://competencyworks.pbworks.com/w/page/67261821/State%20Policy%20Resources
  2. A Snapshot of Competency Education Policy Across the United States http://www.competencyworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/inacol_competency_snapshot_oct_2013.pdf

It’s time to get personal!

 Next week-A look at models for PL in practice.

Image:

http://www.birdclipart.com/bird_clipart_images/ocean_sunset_with_sailboat_and_seagulls_as_the_sun_sinks_beneath_the_horizon_0515-0909-2920-5913_SMU.jpg

 

Setting the Bar: Reflections on Why I Teach

kid_jump_cropI set the bar high for myself and for the graduate student candidates I teach because the stakes are so high for our preK-12 students and teachers. As educators we understand that all children deserve a first-class education—an opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve the most they can in order to live healthy, productive, and satisfying lives. Classroom teachers and specialists also deserve a coteacher with whom to navigate the ever-changing requirements for their work and ever-increasing needs of our shared students. The school librarian can be that educator—that coteacher.

Last week, I attended the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) Conference. This year’s theme was: “Mirrors and Windows: Reflecting on Social Justice and Re-Imagining Library Science Education.” The term “social justice” is related to the fair distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges in a society. People who enact the principles of social justice work to ensure that all individuals have opportunities to contribute to society and receive the full benefits of societal membership.

Social justice is a thread that is woven into the professional values of librarians. Concepts such as “equal access,” “diversity,” and “inclusion” are central tenets of librarianship. School librarians have the opportunity and responsibility to help educate ALL young people, particularly those who are members of social, cultural, and racial subgroups.

Teaching for social justice reflects an essential purpose of teaching in a democratic society and involves advocacy for social change (Sleeter and Grant). With an ever-increasing number of children and youth living in poverty, without healthcare, and/or who are homeless, the need for activism to address inequities is also ever-increasing. Literacy education and access to information are pathways for underserved young people and families to improve their life circumstances.

I believe that all educators, and school librarians in particular, who understand the power of literacy and knowledge can become activists who have a calling to work toward removing societal barriers and inequities. That is why I set the bar high for myself and for the graduate students I teach. Together, with passion, compassion, knowledge, and understanding, we can advance equality and democracy and help our nation’s youth empower themselves through literacy.

Works Cited
DeduloPhotos. “DSC_0042.JPG.” Digital Image. Morguefile. Web. 02 February 2015. <http://mrg.bz/ziIMjB>.

Sleeter, Christine. E., and Carl A. Grant. Making Choices for Multicultural Education: Five Approaches to Race, Class, and Gender. 6th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, 2009. Print.

Competition or Collaboration?

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The recurring question in American education for the past 20 years has focused on how to improve learning outcomes for students.  The drumbeat of reform has been especially loud since NCLB (2001), the adoption of Common Core State Standards (2009), and the Race to the Top initiatives (2009).  In contrast to the competitive nature of these “reforms” that are determined through high stakes testing and punitive measures, ongoing educational research continues to document the impact of collaborative cultures that promote teaching and learning for student success in schools.

Educators in the field, and aspiring pre-service teachers should take heart from the evidence that shows that community and collaboration are key factors in student achievement.  Competition affords a false equivalency in education, and increases potential for failure for schools and students.

In this blog, we are committed to demonstrate how building collaborative cultures can be accomplished at the individual, local, district, state, and national level.  There are many challenges to impede progress, but we must continue to find the silver linings, and act on them!

I’d like to share two items (of the many) I read recently, about the benefit of collaborative cultures that are in the best interests of our wonderful students and talented educators.  Teachers know that working together is smarter and that students also need opportunities to learn collaboration skills for real life success.

Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommen Professor of Education at Stanford University and the Faculty Director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education recently described the results of the 2013 TALIS  survey (Teaching and Learning International Survey) which was conducted by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in schools throughout the world.  The focus of that survey was on teaching and learning, not on test scores of students.

In a June 30, 2014 Huffington Post article, “To Close the Achievement Gap, We need to Close the Teaching Gap,” she provided some insightful conclusions about the state of American education, from the perspective of teachers and how they are supported in their professional roles.  This should be required reading for educational policy makers and administrative leaders.    Among the results is the fact that in the United States, teachers work longer hours, and have less opportunity for feedback and collaboration with peers.  High performing countries on the PISA test use teacher collaboration as an indicator that leads to student success.  The equitable distribution of resources for education in other developed nations is another indicator for student success.   Disadvantaged students in the U.S. have fewer resources than comparable developed nations, particularly in large urban systems and other areas of poverty.  Read the post for her suggestions, and think about how we can use the results from this survey to raise awareness of inequitable educational policies in our own state and districts.  Here’s an opportunity for school librarians to stand with colleagues and community members to refocus the discussion about teaching and learning, and how to measure performance.

Justin Minkel, a second/third grade teacher in Arkansas pens a blog, Teaching for Triumph, and he was invited to lunch with three other teachers from high poverty districts to tell President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about the challenges that they face in the classroom.  He has posted a report of that meeting, “What We Shared with Obama.”  In it he recalls the salient points that the teachers made about teaching and learning.  One of the key factors for success is the collaborative culture within their schools.  The three other points he also makes get to the heart of the commitment that teachers have for all their students, not just those who are destined for success.  Take time to read his blog and you will be inspired.  Let’s hope that the President and the Secretary were listening, and will think about supporting collaboration, not competition…

 

References:

 

Darling-Hammond, Linda.  “To Close the Achievement Gap, We Need to Close the Teaching Gap.”  Huffington Post (June 30, 2014). Weblog.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-darlinghammond/to-close-the-achievement_b_5542614.html

Minkel, Justin.  “What We Shared with Obama.”  Teaching for Triumph: Reflections of a 21st Century ELL Teacher(July 10, 2104). Weblog. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_for_triumph/2014/07/what_we_shared_with_obama.html

 

 

 

Image:

Judith Kaplan Collection: Carole Renca and friend-used with permission