From the e-mail inbox, reprinted here with permission:
My name is Christianne, and I am in my first semester of the MLIS program. I came across your web site while doing some preliminary research for a paper. I hope you don't mind me bugging you with a question.
I am interested in writing about the importance of school libraries in the era of NCLB. I am not interested in how school libraries can boost achievement or why school libraries should be included in NCLB legislation. There is a lot of literature out about that already. I want to write about how NCLB has changed schools in negative ways, such as loss of electives and a renewed emphasis on drill and kill to raise test scores. It seems to me that school libraries are oases for students who are stifled in the classroom. [bold is mine-Doug] School libraries seem to be the place in schools where students can have some choice about what they learn. In many elementary and middle schools in [my state], school libraries are increasingly the only place students can learn anything about history and science, as those subjects take a backseat to English and math instruction in the classroom. In some middle schools English teachers are not even teaching novels anymore, but only working out of readers. I was a teacher for seven years and I am very concerned about this topic. My question for you is, have you come across articles, research papers, etc. that address these issues? I don't want to be too duplicative of other writers' efforts.
Thanks for your time,
Good luck on your studies. I tend to agree with your observations, but haven’t seen much written on this topic, I’m afraid. I have two things marginally related, but not research-based:
http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/principal-and-the-school-librarian.html (This is the text of a brochure I wrote for AASL – excerpt below)
Helping ensure schools remain committed to good educational practices that go beyond the minimal requirements of NCLB.
One controversial aspect of NCLB is its over-reliance on standardized tests as a measurement of both student and school performance. Such tests often measure only a few basic skills and penalize students who are poor test-takers. Teaching strategies and assessment tools that assess higher level thinking skills and the application of skills are also necessary.
The librarian is an advocate for and creator of assessments that give parents and communities far more meaningful measures of abilities and efficacies. Library programs lead in the development of methods of measuring and reporting the mastery of many different kinds of learning assessments including critiqued portfolios of work that show growth, reports of abilities to work collaboratively, evidence of the skill of self-assessment of work, and use of skills to make a thoughtful difference in society. Donald Norman reminds us that “The danger is that things that cannot be measured play no role in scientific work and are judged to be of little importance.”
The library program can also contribute to an improved school climate. By providing a safe, nurturing, and productive space, the school experience for all students improves. A good school library is a quality many parents look for when choosing a school for their children9.
Work with your librarians to determine if they:
- Share their expertise in project-based learning and authentic assessment.
- Serve on building leadership teams, curriculum committees, and in other leadership functions.
- Communicate regularly with parents and the community about the library program and participates in the public relations efforts of the district.
It seems to me that Kappan magazine has had several articles about NCLBs negative impact in the ways you suggest. You might look there and I apologize for not being more specific.
I am not a research expert, but it seems like you may be attempting to find evidence for a preconceived notion as opposed to openly investigating whether the hypothesis you have is accurate. Just something to think about.
Oh, may I use your letter in my blog? I think it is a great topic for exploration.
All the very best!
Blue Skunk readers, any ideas of sources for Christianne?