By Dorcas Hand (Adapted from TASLTalks, Jan. 30, 2016)
As we wait for the implementation of ESSA to be organized, what can we do on our school campuses to be ready? We librarians know that Every Student Succeeds when every student has access to a staffed and funded school library. We also know that not all campus or district administrators understand that, despite the many studies over the last 20 years that point to this connection. With administrative jobs and raises dependent on strong test scores, what LOCAL information do we have that can illustrate our importance?
In Houston ISD, one principal and her librarian wanted to make a point for the district. Yes, one librarian is lucky enough to have a principal who totally gets it, and who wants to spread the word. In this infographic, Hogg Middle School Librarian Mary Chance took district circulation statistics for 2015 and compared them by campus with library staffing. Her principal Angela Sugarek helped her voice what other principals and community folk need to hear in terms they will understand.
Remember, the numbers all come from HISD data streams available to her in her regular work; the numbers matter to YOU as an EXAMPLE of how to use numbers to illustrate needs – especially as we look ahead to putting school libraries in the center of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation.
First, a simple pie chart in red and black tells us that 52% of HISD libraries have an average collection age of over 21 years – that sounds musty and dusty, hardly appealing to student readers. Only 3% of HISD schools can boast a library collection less than 10 years old. Best practices for libraries suggest that an average collection age of 10 years allows the older fiction but requires the newest nonfiction in a blend that supports student interests as well as curricular needs.
Now, how many books were checked out to students in 2015? 33% of students across the district never borrowed a single book. Seriously??? No wonder there is a literacy gap in the test scores. Students without access to books that interest them are at great risk to never read well.
A quick look at staffing tells us that 20% of HISD libraries have no designated library staff and another 26% have only a paraprofessional managing circulation. 22% have teachers standing in for librarians, leaving only 32% of HISD libraries as staffed with certified personnel.
And then they compare the circulation data to the Texas Education Agency Accountability Ratings. 58% of students in schools that met standards borrowed only 1-9 books in 2015. 87% of students in schools in the Improvement Required category have borrowed only 1-9 books in 2015. When we compare to TEA Staffing standards, only 34% of schools that Met Standard have a Librarian; only 25% of schools in the Improvement Required category have a librarian. These are simple, basic connections to illustrate to HISD campus and district leadership the importance of strong school libraries on all campuses with certified and degreed librarians for every K-12 student. This is how we begin to fortify implementation of school libraries through ESSA.
This infographic is one way to illustrate to members of the School Board how having a library and librarian directly affects student access to books they WANT to read, which in turn builds literacy scores. This infographic is not The Silver Bullet that will solve the problem by itself. It does offer a data driven key to an emotional hook: literacy is tied to libraries. And the data is totally local; it took no extra money to pull it together. Just the creative thinking of a single school librarian working with her principal. Those of us involved in advocacy for HISD School Libraries are trying all sorts of ways to reel in supporters, to build a ground swell of community and Board support. One step at a time, using the tools and data we already have. And every step like this also puts us more in line for ESSA support when that process becomes clearer. So look to YOUR data –make it work for you.