From a letter by Sara Kelly Johns
We have two days to make an impact for students by giving comments on the President's Race to the Top initiative that will put $4.35 billion in Race to the Top competitive grants to support education reform and innovation in classrooms. School libraries are the entire school's classroom for 21st century learning and need to be included. Your comments are crucial and the door closes after Friday! Use these talking points developed by the AASL Advocacy Committee (based on the AASL Legislative Committee's background paper for the ALA Washington Office's efforts on RTT) to send in your comments today to firstname.lastname@example.org
Your immediate help is needed!
Please take a few moments to read about Race to the Top (RTT) and send brief positive comments to email@example.com by Friday, August 28th.
States leading the way on school reform will be eligible to compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top competitive grants to support education reform and innovation in classrooms. Between the 2009 budget and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more than $10 billion in grant money will be available to states and districts that are driving reform. School libraries need to be included in these grants!
Below you will find information about RTT, talking points, and writing tips.
RTT (Race to the Top):
By funding RTT as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), President Obama and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, are clearly signaling that they see education reform as part of the path to economic recovery. Since school libraries prepare students with the 21st Century Skills identified by business, government, and education experts as necessary for 21st Century success, RTT offers an opportunity for school libraries to support and become part of this national educational reform effort. Race to the Top funding is a “golden” opportunity to position libraries and school librarians in a central role in the academic program of schools to make measurable contributions to students’ learning and academic achievement.
The Plan for Reform:
The U.S. Department of Education is challenging states to develop "comprehensive strategies for addressing the four central areas of reform that will drive school improvement:"
· Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
· Recruiting, developing, retaining, and rewarding effective teachers and principals;
· Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices; and
· Turning around our lowest-performing schools
Talking Points--Connecting to the four-point Plan for Reform:
1. Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
The AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner align with and expand upon the essential skills identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills to prepare students for success in higher education, life, and the world of work.
2. Recruiting, developing, retaining, and rewarding effective teachers and principals;
As instructional and technology leaders, school librarians offer support to both students and faculty through education and resources. In addition to providing professional development opportunities, school librarians work across the curriculum and grade levels to collaborate with teachers and have the opportunity to model best practices. Like building level administrators, school librarians have an horizontal and vertical perspective on curriculum and instruction within their buildings. Library Media Specialists are the uniquely qualified and prepared teachers who teach critical specialized skills identified in the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Professional school librarians are among the first positions cut when school systems face economic hardships. Students lose valuable and unique learning opportunities and teachers lose a key educational partner and source of professional development and support.
"School librarians are important instructional partners in supporting and expanding existing curriculum. [They] work with teachers to change what is possible in the classroom and support exciting learning opportunities with books, computer resources, and more" (U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science).
3. Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices;
School librarians are teachers who assess student learning and have a tradition of measuring their impact through surveys and statistics. They hold a unique position in the school that lends itself to reflective evaluation of all students at all levels and in all content areas.
4. Turning around our lowest-performing schools
State after state research studies document that a strong state-licensed school librarian who manages a networked school library provides equitable access to up-to-date resources, implements a dynamic instructional programs, and fosters a culture that nurtures reading and learning throughout the school has been the common thread found to impact student achievement.
"Across the U.S., research has shown that students in schools with good school libraries and certified school librarans learn more, get better grades and score higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools without libraries. More than 60 studies have shown clear evidence of this connection between stdent achievement and the presence of school libraries with qualified school librarians" (U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science).
When writing, focus on:
· STUDENTS & student learning, especially:
responsibility and safety
authentic, real-world applications
Collaboration with other teachers and members of the learning community
Equitable access for all students
“The Ask” (make it clear why you are writing...what action do you want the US Dept. of Ed. to take):
As the United States Department of Education works to reform education and to prepare our students for future success, it is in our students' best interests to have access to a strong state-licensed school librarian who manages a networked school library, provides equitable access to up-to-date resources, implements dynamic instructional programs, and fosters a culture that nurtures reading and learning throughout the school. Many students have lost or are in danger of losing these valuable opportunities. RTT has the potential to fund access to these critical and essential services that the school library is uniquely situated to provide.
· Know what you are asking for.
· Start with a brief description of that request.
· Be accurate, specific, and concise.
· Use research from reputable sources.
· Be child-centered. This is about meeting the needs of children; it cannot be all about school libraries.
· When possible and appropriate include a BRIEF student-centered story to put a face on your "ask."
Keep messages positive...short & sweet!