In 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 http://www.ncschoolcounselor.org/Resources/Documents/New%20Law%20School%20Counselor%20Memo%20to%20Superintendents%20Oct%202013.pdf
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 http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/docs/dtl/resources/impact/3impact-revision.pdf
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.