School Libraries, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Title I – What Should We Ask?

essa_kq_podDesigned to equalize educational opportunities and resources for disadvantaged children, Title I has been in existence since the inception of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) enacted in 1965 to address the “War on Poverty.” Most recently ESEA came to be known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) under the last re-authorization of the program in 2002.  Since its inception billions of federal dollars have been directed to low-income students in what have become more commonly known as “Title I Schools.”

The complexity of the rules for Title I have made it the target of much scrutiny and a lot of angst by law makers when it comes to determining its overall effectiveness. As a pass-through program with monies being distributed by State Education Agencies/State Government, questions remain as to how much of the funds reach the classroom. Over time the funding mechanisms have grown more complex as have the bureaucracies needed to administer the program.

Title I, Part A specifically addresses compensatory education for disadvantaged children by providing “financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards” (U.S. Dept. of Education). One constant that has remained the same for both state and local educational agencies over the years is the need to develop plans to implement federally funded educational activities. Through the development of a local plan approved by the state and monitored by the U.S. Department of Education, determination of how funds are spent have rested with LEAs and individual schools.

With the last re-authorization of ESEA known as NCLB (2002) there was no identification of school librarians – anywhere. Under ESSA we have now been included and need to make sure we insert ourselves into this process.

So what questions should we ask about how school library programs can contribute to better learning outcomes for students in Title I schools?

Recommendations (Adapted from American Library Association Washington Office, Opportunities for School Librarians; Texas State Library and Archives Commission; Colorado State Library)

State Educational Agencies and districts “must develop their plans with “timely and meaningful consultation with” teachers, principals and other stakeholders, including “specialized instructional support personnel” which is defined under ESSA as specifically including school librarians.”

ESSA authorizes, but does not require school districts to include in their plans how they will develop effective school library programs to provide students an opportunity to improve digital literacy skills and improve academic achievement.

At the state level:

In states where school libraries are under a separate entity like the State Library (as opposed to the State Educational Agency) – partnerships need to be forged to ensure school librarians have a place in statewide planning sessions dedicated to implementing federally funded activities.

At the AASL state-affiliate and individual school level:

Get the word out through advocacy to school librarians to make school district officials aware that they have the ability to develop and implement school library programming under Title I.

Ensure districts consider:

  • the importance of developing, maintaining, and supporting effective school library programs
  • how effective school library programs empower the development of digital literacy skills and academic achievement

Make school librarians aware that they should volunteer and be willing to serve in both the State and district planning and application process for Title I.

Prepare talking points, and suggest solutions for ESSA implementation as state educational agencies implementation work starts.

Source: “School Librarians and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).” American Library Association, 12 Jan. 2016.

Source: Bryan, Len. “The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA): Recommendations (Draft)” Texas State Library and Archives Commission. PDF File. 1/25/16.

Source:  Hainer, Gene. “Basic Provisions in ESSA for Libraries, Technology, and Digital Learning” Colorado State Library. PDF File. 1/4/16.


Author: Jay Bansbach

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Community, ESSA Updates

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