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Yohe on squishy standards

I was impressed with comments that Paula Yohe, Director Of Technology/Library Media Center for Dillon School District in South Carolina made on LM_Net in response to Sharon Grimes's post about AASL's new 21st Century Standards. I asked Paula if she would develop her comments into a "guest" blog entry and to my delight, I received this in yesterday's e-mail. Thanks, Paula! - Doug

It seems that those who wrote the new standards think that the old ones were already done --  I am still arguing with some folks about what should be being done with the old standards.

In my personal opinion -- the new standards from AASL and from ISTE give an easy out for not using them at all. No specifics. And why do I say that?

Let's take the ISTE Standards, then the profiles

Now what do they mean? What technology tools should they use?

I call these squishy --

If you are trying to use these to explain to people who don't have a clue, they would have no idea how to proceed or what to do.

Now look at the old ones Then the performance indicators

I agree the old standards needed to be updated -- but they were more specific.

I know that we need to integrate -- and make technology a more useful tool for students. But still alot of people who make the decisions do not see the use of the tools since alot don't use them but the kids do.

Now take the AASL Standards

Try explaining this one: Display emotional resilience by persisting in information searching despite challenges. Can most adults do this? And just how do you teach this and how does it fit in to other areas?

Demonstrate flexibility in the use of resources by adapting information strategies to each specific resource and by seeking additional resources when clear conclusions cannot be drawn. And just what resources do they mean?

Use technology and other information tools to analyze and organize information.

I guess one of the questions we have to ask is who are these written for? Librarians? Administrators?

Reality is most media specialists can't "make" these standards, or any other standards, be adopted.

Any standards have to be easily understood and written so that the people who will use them understand what they are supposed to do and what they mean.

There are too many standards. If funding or test scores are not tied to any standards -- in most cases they will fall by the wayside.

Now go to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Then look at the Framework.

In my personal opinion these are clear and concise, give specific examples - and show how these are integrated into various subject areas

Look at these

I could go on -- but I was trying to answer explain what I meant by "squishy."
While I agree visionary is key, you have to have a base to hold up visionary. I don't seem to find a solid base in the new material.

With all due respect --  visionary is wonderful -- however - reality is – they have to be concrete -- for the majority of end users  and there has to be a reason to use them – and normally that means tied to testing and/or funding or you won't get most supt., administrators, principals or teachers to use them

I do not mean to sound negative -- but I am at the district office now -- and also am on several committees at the State level. By the time you do the “have to do” there aren’t even enough hours in the day to do all of the “have to do” let alone something like the AASL Standards that at best aren’t even clear to my fellow media specialists.

And unfortunately I have found this to be the case -- there are too many other things that do have concrete measures and consequences for using – and this is not just for these standards -- but for any other standards that are not tested or does not have funding tied to it. I personally can’t keep up with how many there are.

Someone on LM_NET wrote that media specialists should sit down and discuss these standards with administrators and formulate a plan. While the idea of sitting down with an administrator in a constructive atmosphere sounds wonderful – in reality in the vast majority of cases -- it isn't going to happen.

Does that sound negative -- perhaps so. But unfortunately you sometimes have to accept reality.

Now before someone sees that I am the Director of Technology and dismisses me as an ivory tower person.

I started working in school libraries in the 5th grade as a volunteer, the jr. high library, my part-time high school job was the in the public library, and my college job was in the college library in cataloging. I then spent 23 years as a building level media specialist and moved to the district office so that I could fight more for media specialists and the importance of their role,  but I have learned some hard lessons --

And unfortunately this discussion on standards is based on those lessons.

1. Building level administrators -- have too much to do. They are dealing with problems that the majority of faculty members have no idea about – meetings, phones calls, irate parents, upset teachers, budgets, broken equipment, upset teachers, test scores, new mandates from the federal government or state, test scores, attendance issues, discipline issues,  special education students, lunch problems, bus problems,  etc. Believe me -- go in and tell them you want to discuss these new standards -- then if they read them – do you actually think they will make sense to them?  That is not an insult to the building administrator – since so many of my fellow media specialists have indicated as much on LM_NET.

But a statement of fact -- any standards should be written so that anyone can understand what they mean – and what they are supposed to do... And I just don't think that is the case with these standards. If they did sit down and read them... The principal then will say -- are they tested? – is there any funding tied to this? Enough said --

2. District level administrators.

You can use pretty much the same list as above – but make it more global -- then add lawyers, NCLB reports, a whole variety of other paperwork that will make your head spin, and more.

Folks this is not to be negative or defeatist – but we have to accept reality and then try to move from there --

Take the standards and make them more readable for the end user. Find the standards that are being tested and see how you can fit these standards into them.

There are just too many standards out there – ISTE standards, Math standards, English standards, the list seems to go on -- and I think if I read one more set of "standards" I will scream. There are just too many things for everyone to do.

One question I always ask media specialists when I talk to them --

If a principal could only have one position – a technology coach, literacy coach, or a librarian -- which would your principal pick?

If it isn't the librarian -- find out why -- do you support teachers -- are you a leader in technology? What are you doing to promote literacy and get kids to read?

If you are the stumbling block -- you will be gone. Stop and think the next time you get angry that "your" standards are not being used - or when you won't let kids check out books because they owe a fine – (do you realize that's why some people have put in classroom libraries –they think the media specialists don't want kids to read -- they are too worried about fines) or I don't have time to help that teacher with that computer -- they should know how to use it...

If you want change -- sometimes you have to change.

My former principal used to say to me "Their perception is their reality and it is your job to change their reality." And he did not mean it in a negative fashion.  He meant that everyone has a different opinion of their reality and if you want change – you have to change their reality. They sure aren’t going to do it on their own.
I have used that premise for everything I do -- Think about it and as we hash these standards -- keep this thought in mind.

Do you want to create life-long lovers of libraries? or  Do you want library haters?

Food for thought……

Paula Yohe

I am sure Paula would enjoy reactions to this post!  

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Reader Comments (13)

Thank you for being real and honest about all of this!

January 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKathie

I loved what your former principal used to say to you: "Their perception is their reality and it is your job to change their reality." It's so much more eloquent than what I have always said: Don't get mad...educate!

January 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMary J Johnson

This is a great post. I would like to know how to contact Paula to have her on the Wow2 show to talk about standards. I also would wonder why Paula isn't blogging on her own blog. We want to hear more. Wow!

January 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVicki Davis

Well, I hope my principal chooses Librarian and Tech Coach. Some Tech Coaches love literacy. It's been rumored that they value databases. In fact, I've heard whispers that some Tech Coaches have, in previous costumes, meandered around as English teachers.

January 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterken

Paula, I agree, "squishy" LM standards turn off administrators, teachers and parents. We must have concrete, easy to understand standards and assessment in order to have programs identified as academic achievement for students. We must get rid of "Library or education ease" language and use as few words as possible in each content standard and benchmark. Grade level expectations must be specific enough so the classroom teacher or librarian has no doubt what is expected or needed to be taught or implemented to meet the standard. Thanks, Paula, for starting this blog thought on the AASL Standards.

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGloria Curdy

We talked about this post extensively on Wow2 last night and got resounding agreement from the chat and the participants. The podcast will be posted tomorrow.

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVicki Davis
January 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Harris

Hi Chris,

Your one-page summary on your blog post is outstanding! Thanks for sharing this. (And I would encourage everyone to read Chris's Infomancy reaction to Paula's comments.)

My sense is that unease lies not so much with the skills portion of the new standards, but with the disposition, self-assessment and responsibilities. I believe it remains to be seen if these affective behaviors can be taught and assessed - and if so, how.

It's more than simply a reactionary view on the part of Paula and others. Are we being asked to something very new without much guidance as to how it is to be done?

All the best,


January 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Sorry to get two threads going on this, but I didn't want to overpower the comments here with lengthy essays. Short answer for Doug: Take a second look, the dispositions, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies are already in Information Power and we already have tools for assessing them! I still disagree.

Longer answer is over on Infomancy

January 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Harris

Hi Chris,

I need to go back and look at IP, I guess, Chris, because I don't remember most of the dispositions, responsibilities and self-assessment strategies there. (But then our district used the Big6 and the NETS standards as the basis of its own IL curriculum.)

I believe it is teaching to these sort of affective statements that many of us are concerned about:

1.2.2 Demonstrate confidence and self-direction by making independent choices in the selection of resources and information.

2.3.2 Consider diverse and global perspectives in drawing conclusions.

3.4.3 Assess own ability to work with others in a group setting by evaluating varied roles, leadership, and demonstrations of respect for other viewpoints.

And dozens more...

I don't think any of these skills and attributes are not desirable for our students to demonstrate. But for those of us who are expected to implement them, what would the grade level benchmarks, practice activities and assessments look like for them? If we are going to list these things, they need to be clearly defined, teachable and objectively assessable.

I hope you meet the challenge, Chris, and prove me wrong about how one can implement these new areas of the standards. (I'll be watching the Infomancy blog!)

All the best,


January 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi, Doug, et al--the Learning Assessment and Indicators Task Force is working diligently to do just what you are saying needs to be done...those pieces were never intended to be part of the standards themselves though the writing team did work on them already as part of the writing process.

That work is the core of what they are doing now. MUCH progress was made in the face-to-face meeting at Midwinter's All-Committee meeting. DO take a look at the nine standards of IP2, they certainly needed further expansion and explanation for those of us in the field to implement! The standards only worked with study, reflection and discussion of the entire book, not just the nine standards. As I said on LM_NET and the AASL Blog, The Task Force is following all the commentary, will take it into consideration and there will be opportunities for comment and input as part of the process.

What you are being asked is not to immediately implement these standards but to consider them, examine your library program and identify how these standards might push your program to be more learner-centered. At least that is my personal quest for the year in order to provide input to the Learning Assessment and Indicators Task Force as their work progresses. I hope that everyone commenting has taken a look at Sharon Coatney's article in the Feb. 2008 School Library Media Activities Monthly, "Standards for the 21stCentury Learner," in which she compares the new standards with the IP2 standards (p. 56-7). The chart on page 58, "SLMAM Skills Correlations--New (2007) to Old (1998)" is very useful during this transition time.

As far as people outside the library profession "getting" the standards, I had the experience on Jan. 9th of meeting with the provost of Teacher's College, Columbia with Barbara Stripling. Of course, I put together a packet of materials about school library programs. Provost James picked out the standards, couldn't take his eyes off them, and said that it would be easy for TC to partner with school libraries with library standards that obviously correlate with the kind of teacher and administrator prep program that is needed to teach the students in our schools. He "got" what we do as teachers to promote information literacy from our standards.

The other comment that I heard at Midwinter (wish I could remember who told me!) was that when one district's librarians did a study of the standards, the SLMSs who graduated more recently "got" them easily, saying they had the concepts that they learned about in undergrad ed programs and their library degree programs. That was heartening. And made me think of how many years I have been out of library school. Yikes!

So, stay tuned for the "rest of the story." There is much yet to happen and this careful scrutiny is VERY healthy and should result in great input for the Learning Assessment and Indicators Task Force. Thanks!

January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSara Kelly Johns

at least my comments have provoked discussion -- which they were intended to do.

I don't plan to respond to any negative postings about my opinions abecause to me it appears I am trying really hard to defend my statements and I don't believe I need to..

As I said" I started working in school libraries in the 5th grade as a volunteer, the jr. high library, my part-time high school job was the in the public library, and my college job was in the college library in cataloging. I then spent 23 years as a building level media specialist"

And now at the district office as the director of technology.

I have traveled all over the country and spoken at alot of conferences library, reading, and technology conferences. I have done reviewing - writing articles for magazines - done the speaker tour - served on state library committee initiatives -

Served on state technology commmittees for the State Technology Plan, state library automation committees, instructional television committees, policy committees, testing committees

Now working on some other areas including the state wide implentation of SIF -

I also beta test software - work under non disclosure agreements with software development -- and some other asundry projects.

I don't usually indicate all of the areas I am involved in -- and some may say -- why now --

Libraries are a huge part of my life -- and I have a passion for reading -- and information -- and access to information....

but my experience is not limited to just libraries --

So when I comment on something - and tell the library committee something it is not based on limited experience and no hands on knowledge of what really goes on at the school level.... and some of the really hard battles librarians have to deal with..

and I also deal with the groups who criticize librarians so I know how alot of them think

Are they supporters -- yes -- but the vast majority -- don't have a clue

I comment so that the library community can take the information and make any changes that need to be made and to help educate librarians on how alot of outsiders to the library community think...

And I probably have had more private emails thanking me for posting my comments than I have ever had over the years of my career.

I will not stand back as I am ending my career and watch libraries be lost over foolishness....

And frankly don't take my word for it -- simply look at the states where librarians were replaced or never had them in the first place.

My opinions on based on years of experience as a "practicing librarian in the trenches"... and dealing with a wide variety of people ---

So for those who think they are right -- go for it...

and those who think things need to change -- take it upon yourself to work on change wherever you can...

but don't give up

so many times librarians are alone in the school and you feel like you are battling out from a forest and you are banging into the trees without a flashlight ---

focus on the dawn -- because that's what we have to have for our kids --
a dawn that arises on their future --
and we are the best group of people to fight for that vision .....

And now this topic is closed for me
I have stated my opinion and I stand by it.

I am moving on to other areas --- that need I want to comment or or try to change....

January 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPaula Yohe

Hi Paula,

I just want to say thanks for having the courage to make your voice heard. I am glad you described your background and experience. You are a very credible voice in the field (which is why I asked you to this post in the first place!)

Thanks again and let me know if you ever want to do another guest blog post!

All the very best,


January 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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