Sunday, September 16, 2012

Common Core: Love it or Hate It?

Whether you love the Common Core standards or hate them, this is an issue in which librarians need to be active, vocal participants. Thanks to Gwyneth Jones, my colleagues, Kristen Hearne & Monique German, and I were interviewed for an Edweek article. Kristen was our spokesperson and Monique was our lovely model. Overall I believe the journalist did a good job explaining how librarians play a role in the new standards. I do have one issue, the title.
Common Core Thrusts Librarians Into Leadership Role

The leadership role we play in our district isn't a result of the standards. We simply used the new standards to highlight skills we already had. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if is wasn't for my bold, sometimes annoying habit of sticking my nose into everything we might have been left completely out of the implementation of the standards. When I look at the standards it screams librarian to me, but that isn't so obvious to others. Actually this is why we had the idea of calling ourselves a "Common Core Secret Weapon". Librarians are not the obvious go-to person, but we should be. The standards didn't inspire our administrators to think of us. We were left out of the initial preparations.  Our district administrators started scheduling Common Core training at the end of last year. I found out about the training from emails sent to the English teachers. Was I invited? No! Did I sit back and pout about how nobody ever thinks about librarians? No! I invited myself. I asked my school principal if I could attend with our teachers and he agreed. During the training I frequently raised my hand to share how librarians could fit into the implementation of the standards. Looking for novels that fit the new criteria? We can help with that. Looking for interdisciplinary projects? We can help with that. Looking for ways to integrate nonfiction? We can help with that. You get the idea. Even more important, the administrators leading the training got the idea. After the meeting ended she asked if I thought we should have a special meeting with the librarians to talk about the new standards. Yes, please!!

The librarian meeting was scheduled with our Director of Elementary Education who organized the Common Core training. We all had an opportunity to share our concerns, ask questions, and suggest ways we could help with the new standards. During the meeting our Superintendent and Associate Superintendent came in to see how the training was going for the day. He was surprised. He thought the only training that day was for the special education teachers. He asked why we were meeting? Surely not about Common Core. In fact, yes. So we had a few minutes to tell him how we fit in. Is this a poor reflection on him? No, we all love and respect him. He is a wonderful superintendent that has done his best to protect librarians and our budgets during these tough financial times. I tell this story to show you that we are a small part of a big education system. Classroom teachers are the majority and administrators have to focus on them most of the time. And rightfully so. That means we have to work extra hard to make sure we are not forgotten and that we share our contributions and impact. If that means you crash a meeting now and then, by all means, do it!
We have come a long way since that first meeting and we are looking forward to sharing what we have done at the next TL Virtual Cafe webinar.

If you read the Edweek article you may have seen the comments from Stephen Krashen. You can see them here as well. I highly respect him and can't think of a single time when I've disagreed with his articles, comments or speeches. The same applies in this case. I agree with his concerns over too much testing and that poverty is the real enemy of education, not teachers, old standards, or teacher evaluation. In fact I've written about poverty and the library before. The way I see it we have a few choices about what we do next. We can sit back, change nothing and feel sorry for ourselves that the standards have been forced upon us. Or we can take this opportunity to highlight libraries and librarian contributions. If you agree with Krashen's comments about the standards, take action.
Here are a few ways you can get involved in education and library policy.

  1. Sign up to receive the library text alerts so you can email, tweet, call and write your legislators when library legislation is under consideration. 
  2. Get involved with education organizations that speak on your behalf. Just joining an organization sends some funds to national advocacy efforts.
  3. Does your state library organization have an advocacy or legislative committee? If so, join. I'm on both and was the legislative committee chair last year. 
  4. Does your state send a representative to Library Legislative Day? Find out. Volunteer to go if no one else is representing your state. I've been the last two years and it is a wonderful experience.
  5. Get involved in state initiatives like our SCASL Snapshot Day. Nothing like that in your state? Start one.
  6. Vote! It boggles my mind that there are teachers who chose not to vote. These are the people that determine your salary and the policies that govern you. Do you need more reasons to vote?
You are probably like me, no one asked if you wanted the Common Core standards. Like most education policies it was decided for us. Now it is up to us to make the most of it. Love them or hate them, we have to act. You can continue to voice your issues with the standards and still use them as an impetus to do good in your own school. If they create some new kind of standards in a few years, you better believe I'll be searching for ways librarians fit in and advertising it to the administrators. We have two jobs, voice opinions about education policy and do the best with what we have right now.

Hope to see you at the webinar where you can hear about what we've done and share your own ideas.

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