It’s Thursday, and we’ve had a normal week at school–pulling together materials and resources for a social studies unit for a teacher, planning a collaborative unit with a teacher who wants to do some research with her class next week, doing story time with some of our early childhood classes. We all fall asleep at night thinking, “no one could say I’m not a team player!”
Earlier that week, however, the campus principal was sitting in a meeting with his director learning just how low the benchmark scores are this year. Drastic measures must be taken. Students will be pulled for tutoring, Saturday school will be scheduled, teachers will have to cut the “fluff.” Oh, and we’d probably better put a halt to library time so that these students can get more test preparation in before test time rolls around later this semester!
This actually happens in real schools to real librarians who believe they are helping prepare students for the test–not by drill and kill worksheets but by teaching the curriculum alongside their teachers. True story, one of my own deciding factors for becoming a librarian was that I was tired of being told as a fifth grade teacher that I needed to teach to the test. I wanted to teach in an authentic setting, where I was preparing students to become lifelong learners, not test takers. What better place to take my idealism than the library? But I digress.
One of the quickest ways to become irrelevant on your campus is to distance yourself from the testing pressure being put on your teachers. You’ve got to have solidarity with them. When test time rolls around, you’ve got to be seen preparing students as well, or your library may very well be shut down. If teachers cannot bring their classes to the library to collaborate with you because you’re not seen as a place where students are preparing for the test, you’ve got a major PR problem.
A few days ago I was meeting with some new librarians and looking at a lengthy lesson plan form they were to use for a practicum lesson observation for their librarian certification. The lesson plan was to include AASL Standards and state curriculum, assessment and objectives, as well as expected behavior of teacher, students, and librarian. I would honestly never have documented my lessons in such detail for day-to-day purposes. They certainly weren’t in the practice of doing that either. It really drove home the fact that while, as good teachers, they knew and were using the curriculum content from the district’s framework, they were looking at it very much as a starting point, and not directly and consistently implementing it in their lessons. Unfortunately, they were very much at risk for being shut down if the mandate came that all non-test preparation activities be put on hold until after the test.
One way to protect their program was to be purposeful about aligning their lessons to test readiness and supporting standards. And to advertise it! I am not at all saying teach to the test! I am saying know the tested content, and align and embed it in your teaching. This isn’t very hard–for example, here’s a third grade reading standard from the Texas test:
Use text features (e.g., bold print, captions, key words, italics) to locate information and make and verify predictions about contents of text.
Which so nicely goes along with:
Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.
Which is of course, AASL Standard 1.1.6. Done and done!
Print it on a sign and post it near your teaching area, with the label “Standard of the day: STAAR 3rd Grade Reading Readiness Standard 13D.” Document both numbers in your lesson plan book or at the minimum your calendar and leave it out where others can see. And then be purposeful about including those standards in your lessons, all year long.
Yes, it takes a little extra planning time to do this. But taking the time to know, document, and then advertise that you are teaching the testing readiness standards is empowering for a school librarian, especially if you’re facing being closed down for “test preparation.” When you fall asleep at night, you will know that you’re not just a team player, but also, your curriculum is aligned to state standards. It may not make your teaching and your collaboration standardized test proof, but it will certainly go a long way to help!
Author: Jennifer Laboon
Jennifer LaBoon is the Coordinator of Library Technology in Fort Worth ISD. She serves on the AASL Blog Committee, on the Executive Board of the Texas Library Association, volunteers with a local children’s musical theater group, and is an avid TCU fan.