The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has created an opportunity for school librarian advocacy. School librarian leaders and advocates from across the country are working together to ensure that their state- and district-level decision-makers include the important role of school librarians and libraries in preparing future ready students in their ESSA plans.
The message we intend to convey is that more than at any previous time in history, when information and technologies are changing at an astounding rate and “fake news” and “alt facts” are proliferating, the expertise and guidance of school librarians must be highly valued and utilized by other educators and students. ESSA Title II, Part A, notes that school librarians are responsible for sharing professional learning for colleagues and disseminating “the benefits of new techniques, strategies, and technologies” throughout the district.
Correlational research studies have shown that school librarians and effective school library programs positively impact student achievement (Gretz 2013, Scholastic 2016). School librarians’ roles in positively impacting “student achievement, digital literacy skills, and school climate and culture” are specifically mentioned in ESSA (“Title 1”). In addition, school librarians support “rigorous personalized learning experiences supported by technology” and ensure equitable access to resources for all students (ESSA, 2015, “Title IV, Part A.”)
In their advocacy efforts, many school librarian state associations have benefited from the support of workshops offered by our professional association, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Last fall in order to support state-level ESSA advocacy efforts, AASL provided ESSA trainings in 30 different states in just 60 days. AASL provides ESSA and School Libraries information on their Web site.
In some states, like Arizona, the Teacher Librarian Division is part of the larger state-level library association. The Arizona Library Association Legislative Committee and Leadership team took a lead role in informing the Arizona Department of Education about the critical importance of including specific language related to the work of school librarians and the role of school libraries in educating future ready students. It is encouraging when academic, public, or special librarians speak out on behalf of preK-12 school librarians.
It is even more encouraging when classroom teachers, school administrators, parents, and other community members raise their voices in support of the essential roles of school libraries and libraries in preparing students for college, career, and community readiness. If you are someone who is concerned about the quality of education students are receiving today and will receive tomorrow, please find out how you can ensure that school librarians’ work is specified in your state- or district-level ESSA Plan.
School districts will look to their state-level plans to determine their priorities for school improvement. By incorporating language related to school librarians and libraries in ESSA, we can collaborate to support all students and educators in having access to an instructional leader/information specialist and the print and electronic resources they need to succeed.
Gretz, Frances. School Library Impact Studies: A Review of Findings and Guide to Sources. Harry & Jeannette Weinberg Foundation, 2013, www.baltimorelibraryproject.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/09/Library-Impact-Studies.pdf
Scholastic. “School Libraries Work! A Compendium of Research on the Effectiveness of School Libraries,” 2016, Scholastic.com, http://www.scholastic.com/SLW2016
U.S. Department of Education. “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).” Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) |U.S. Department of Education,
Howard Lake. “Speak Up, Make Your Voice Heard.” n.d. Flickr.com, https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5260/5540462170_d5297d9ce8_b.jpg