Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

robbery not allowedIn North Carolina, school counselors no longer administer standardized tests. In July 2013, the NC General Assembly enacted legislation (Session Law 2013-360, G.S. 115C-316.1) that clearly excluded any coordination of standardized testing from the job description of school counselor. According to a memo by Rebecca Garland, Deputy State Superintendent, “test coordination was singled out in the recent legislation because it has historically been the most common non-counseling duty taking school counselors away from delivering comprehensive school counseling services to students.” Counselors are now authorized by NC law to spend 80 percent of their time “administering a comprehensive school counseling program” and 20 percent of their time “collaborating with school staff and stakeholders to support school improvement goals.”

As directed by the State Board of Education, local LEAs have been scrambling “to reassign the duties [of test coordinator] within existing resources.” [emphasis added] Consequently, more and more, principals are beginning to define school librarians as these “existing resources” and draft them as test coordinators.

If it is wrong for school counselors to be test coordinators because testing is a non-counseling duty, it is even more wrong and equally harmful (if not more so) for schools to force school librarians to be test coordinators. Test coordination is no more a school librarian duty or standard or responsibility than it is for a school counselor. And, just as it takes away from counselors’ services to students, the additional non-librarian duty of test coordinator takes school librarians away from their more important responsibilities to provide services and instruction to students that, as research proves, support student achievement.

In May of 2005, Howard Lee, Chair of the NC State Board of Education, announcing the revised IMPACT: Guidelines for North Carolina Media and Technology Programs, acknowledged the significant role of school librarians in student achievement stating that research

“tells us that a school library media center that provides up-to-date, accurate, and attractive resources managed by a professional school library media coordinator who collaborates with teachers to augment and enhance classroom instruction also results in increased test scores, especially in reading.  IMPACT reflects both the reality of this research and the commitment to assuring that every teacher and student has the academic and personal advantage of access to these high quality programs.”

Additional research findings have demonstrated that in high performing schools, school libraries were open longer, were better staffed, and had higher circulation statistics of library materials than in low performing schools, suggesting that, in high performing schools, school librarians were spending the majority of their time working with students and teachers rather than in the performance of non-school librarian duties.

Requiring school librarians to become test coordinators effectively takes them away from students and teachers for weeks at a time and is counter-productive to the very idea of student achievement. By shutting down services and instruction while school librarians administer tests virtually eliminates access for all students and teachers to a library professional, to library resources, and to library instruction, but the loss of access is especially devastating for those students who have so little access outside of school and need it most. Using school librarians rather than school counselors to be test coordinators is not the answer. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul. No one wins and either way students are hurt.


Burgin, R., Bracy, P.B., and Brown, K. (2003, June). An essential connection: How quality school library media programs improve student achievement in North Carolina.  Greensboro, NC: R.B. Software and Consulting.

Garland, R. (2013, Oct. 11). Legislative changes to requirements for school counselors [Memorandum]. Raleigh, NC:  Department of Public Instruction.  Retrieved

Gavigan, K., and Lance, K.C. (2016, Mar. 4). SC study shows link between school librarians and higher test scores.  School Library Journal.

IMPACT: Guidelines for North Carolina Media and Technology Program (2005, Aug.). Raleigh, NC: Department of Public Instruction. Retrieved

“Robbery Not Allowed” by Anders Sandberg is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Author: Anne Akers

Clinical assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Studies at the University of NC at Greensboro working with school library candidates. Former elementary, middle, and high school librarian in Virginia, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics

7 replies

  1. This is a great article!

  2. Very timely article! I JUST expressed my concerns over this to my district’s media support personnel last month. (I am in NC and this is very relevant to our future in my district as some of us are already functioning in this capacity.)

  3. In NC, our school library professional organization (NCSLMA) had no voice (aka lobbyist) in the state legislature when the new licensure evaluation instrument was developed. The guidance association did…and had that provision written into “law”. Guidance counselors often tested for academically gifted and standardized testing several times a year in addition to the regular EOQ/EOG testing. Guidance counselors were often testing more than offering guidance services. Guidance counselors also take this legislation to mean that they are not to be included in any kind of class rotation/schedule although these sessions ARE used to deliver the guidance program. This applies mainly to elementary guidance counselors in our district.

    New evaluation instruments for school counselors and school library media coordinators were written at the same. The evaluation instrument for school library media coordinators does includes elements that support collaboration, flexible scheduling, open access etc…but no legislative mandate to support any of these elements.

    Principals utilize school library media coordinators as testing proctors, testing coordinators, technicians, inventory specialists for fixed assets, instructional tech facilitators, etc. in our state because none of these positions are paid state allotments and are not funded by local budgets either. Although our salaries are funded by the state, we have a site-based system in NC so Principals can assign media coordinators to a variety of duties–even “trade” the media coordinator out for a classroom position or instructional technology position. The IMPACT guidelines are not “mandates” and administrators don’t feel pressured to follow them

    Advocacy for media programs has to begin at the school level and school librarians have to find ways to send their message to all administrators, teachers, and parents in a positive way. Even districts with District Media Supervisors don’t have a lot of “power” to institute changes at the school level.
    Our AASL affiliated association (NCSLMA) and our State DPI Consultants have advocated for many years for school librarians and continue to search for ways to support school library media programs. Our state’s new NC Digital Learning Plan will hopefully drive some changes towards a learning commons/21st Century Media Program. Any suggestions for solutions would be welcomed!

  4. Why DIDN”T NCSLMA have a lobbyist in the state legislature when the new licensure evaluation instrument was developed??

  5. Similarly this has happened to some NC Instructional Tech Facilitators where now they have been replaced with assistants as part time testing coordinators and part time tech support with little or no instructional tech support to teachers and students. Minus dollars equates to robbing peter to pay paul mentalities by leaders who look at bottom dollar over what students need in terms of guidance, media and tech services.

  6. I agree with Eileen Falcone. It would have been nice to have a lobbyist in the state legislature. If I am not mistaken, NCSLMA leaders are volunteers. This means the members are working full-time in their selected regions. It would be interesting to know how instrumental NCSLMA have been in the creation of the new licensure evaluation instrument.

  7. @Perry I’m including a link to the user’s guide for the NC School Library Media Coordinator Evaluation Process. The acknowledgement section identifies members of the work group that helped develop this instrument. Although it does not reference NCSLMA, many of the members of the work group are also NCSLMA members. In addition, NCSLMA created a sample job description based on the NC professional standards and performance indicators from the evaluation instrument rubric. I’ve included its link as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.