Monday, September 8, 2014

Does Common Core Help Boost The Importance of School Libraries?

The topic of Common Core stirs up a whole hosts of reactions from positively for it to positively against it.  When common core was first rolled out as the plan of choice to fix everything that No Child Left Behind did not do there were many who jumped on board and ran with it.  As time progressed, there were still too many questions,  too many problems and it seemed as if it began to complicate education more than before.  School Library Journal conducted a webinar series that specifically aimed to help school librarians understand common core and demonstrated how this could help the library become the focal point of the school curriculum.  One problem, the  ideas that they shared in the webinar have been in place.

This may be harsh words but facts are facts, Common core does little to nothing to boost the library's presence.   In the first webinar on Common Core, SLJ insisted that part of the beauty of the new vision of education is that reading nonfiction was more of a focus.  Wonderful.  That is good news, however they went further to say that school librarians, as well as the public librarians, really did not know the nonfiction section as well as fiction.  Wait a minute!   A librarian in today's library, be it a school or public library, is wearing many hats.  Not only are they responsible for manning the reference desk,  but also collection development,  programming,  grant writing and bibliographic instruction.  In other words,  the entire collection of the library is pretty much familiar to the librarian who is going through the shelves day in and day out to assist students, teachers and patrons.  That was the first glaring misstep from the webinar series.

Based on the idea that librarians needed to be keenly aware of the nonfiction sections, the webinar series began to take the path down to information literacy.  They stressed how the school librarian can become the gatekeeper to the information in the sense of challenging students to question the information they found on the Internet.  The webinar suggested that students should be asked questions such as : Who wrote the article?   Did they document their resources?  Were they biased?  Goodness, Information literacy has been around longer than Common Core!  When the Internet became the main tool for gathering information, it became paramount to teach both students and adults to be skeptical of what they found on the Internet.  Hasn't the joke been around so long that everyone now sarcastically says "I found it on the Internet, so it must be true." ?  It is disappointing, to say the least, that those who are touting the benefits of Common Core would have librarians believe that they had never dared thought of instructing students to verify the information.  Second glaring misstep from the webinar series.

Finally, what quite possibly can be described as the nail in the coffin, is the notion that reading a loud to children at every age is an important activity.  Agreed.  Students can benefit from having to be trained to listen carefully.  It also empowers them to use their imagination.  In the webinar they actually suggest that the reader of the book should read for a stretch , stop ask questions of the students to see if they picked up key parts of the plot, and reread the same pages over again.  Why? This will reinforce the story in the students mind.  Disagree.  This can only bore the audience and quite frankly the reader as well.  Third glaring misstep form the webinar series.

Due to the three glaring missteps it becomes apparent that SLJ does not have a clue on how Common Core will connect with the library.  Good school librarians understand the curriculum,  speak with teachers and administrators to see how the bolster the library's collection to meet the students need and know how to teach students to be active library users.  Is all of this covered in Common Core?  No, it's not.   What Common Core advocates have to realize sooner or later,  community control over the school district is much more practical than a National standard.  Parents, administrators and educators can all agree that the best outcome is for the student to be prepared a productive member of society.  How each community gets to that point is up to them.  What is scary is that children are now guinea pigs in the laboratory of education.  Leave it to the  bureaucrats in Washington have found a way to make NCLB look good.    Hasn't anyone figured out yet that testing does not prove that a hold has completed a solid education?

What is even more disturbing is that many school districts are opting to place school librarians in the classrooms along side the teachers.  (Examples in Michigan are Fraser Public School and Romeo School Districts)  Apparently SLJ and the Common Core lobbyist didn't foresee this move to make School Librarians over educated teacher assistants.    Then again, it must be a shock to all librarians to see another step backwards in the profession.

Having said all this,  is Common Core boosting the library usage in school and public libraries?  Not more than usual.  Could it at some point help?  No.  Common sense in the education of  students would be a much better approach.   Just think back to the days when students were required to learn the basics and once they mastered them, they could go off to explore all that the world had to teach them.   Could it be that the homeschoolers had it right all along?
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