As the ink was drying on President Obama’s signature on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) last December, AASL was moving into action! President Leslie Preddy appointed working groups to develop the AASL Vision for Implementing ESSA and to write or revise key position statements. The ALA Washington Office unpacked the law, identifying opportunities for school librarians. Informative ESSA sessions were held at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando. As appropriate over the last ten months, AASL has submitted comments, responses, and letters to the U.S. Department of Education on ESSA rulemaking and guidance. Perhaps most importantly, however, AASL has been on the road for you.
Working with the ALA Office for Library Advocacy and the ALA Washington Office, as of October 15, AASL has held comprehensive ESSA workshops in 11 states: California, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Utah, and Vermont. These workshops allow participants to learn about recent ESSA developments at the federal level, work through the sections of ESSA that directly pertain to school libraries, connect ESSA language to the role of the school librarian, discuss current state work in ESSA implementation, and identify opportunities at the state and local levels to ensure inclusion of effective school library programs. An additional 22 states have workshops scheduled between now and November 18.
Sincere thanks goes out to the workshop presenters: AASL leaders Susan Ballard, Sara Kelly Johns, Eileen Kern, Linda Weatherspoon, Katie Williams, Michelle Wilson, and Steven Yates and ALA and AASL staff members Megan Cusick, Marci Merola, and Sylvia Norton. Kudos to the over 400 workshop participants who have given their time to learn more about ESSA and the opportunities it presents for school library programs. Comments from the workshops included the following:
- “The session was comprehensive, detailed and extremely valuable. Your presentation was thorough and provided our members and partners with much needed information. The handbook, handouts, PowerPoint presentation and other resources are greatly appreciated.”
- “The AASL ESSA workshop has given me powerful, concise language for advocacy, but also the information to communicate with the key stakeholders in my district and across the state. This is a unique opportunity to improve equitable and academic outcomes for all students.”
- “Unlike No Child Left Behind, ESSA ties directly to the classroom focusing on instruction, literacy and digital skills. Our school libraries are a classroom for everyone in the school. We are excited to be part of AASL as school librarians in Massachusetts embrace this opportunity. It positions school librarians to be leaders in their districts, towns, and in the state and the AASL ESSA workshop not only prepared us – it energized us!”
- “We appreciate using the workshop to discuss how each school district may include school libraries in a plan that matches local needs. We worked together on ways to help potential champions who may not understand the importance of an effective school library.”
- “As a result of the session, we crafted effective messages and developed a strategy for communicating the immense value of school library programs to corporate partners, parents and community organizations, stakeholders, celebrities, and elected officials. The AASL’s ESSA session is very instrumental in helping to secure the future of school library programs.”
What can you, as a school librarian, do?
- Become familiar with the resources available on AASL’s ESSA and School Libraries landing page.
- Become familiar with the work your state affiliate is doing regarding ESSA implementation in your state.
- If you attended an ESSA workshop, share what you learned. If you have not attended, talk with someone who did.
- Pay careful and close attention as ESSA implementation is discussed in your school district. Be visible and vocal for school libraries, effective school library programs, and school librarians.