Building Standards That Are Useful

By Johnson, Doug | Teacher Librarian, December 2000 | Go to article overview
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Building Standards That Are Useful

Johnson, Doug, Teacher Librarian

HOW BIG SHOULD MY MEDIA CENTER BE IN THE NEW school we're building? What resources and in what quantities are necessary for a media program to make available if it is to have an impact on student learning? How many staff members should I have in my school media center? How should a school media program be helping support classroom learning activities? How do I know when a school library media program is fully integrated into the curriculum?

These are all common questions that teacher-librarians, teachers, administrators, board members and increasingly parents are asking. Without a common set of state standards that are both specific and understandable, the answers can be difficult to obtain.

Why are standards important?

Effectively written and widely endorsed standards can be used by educators in a number of ways.

* As a tool for evaluation and guide for improvement of local library media programs.

* As a guide to media center staff new to their schools and positions.

* As a tool to help guide communications with local school decision-makers.

* As a potential assessment tool for the status of school library media programs across the state by providing a single scale.

* As a means for implementing the national Information power:

Building partnerships for learning standards.

The Development Process

Recognizing the need for a realistic, comprehensive, authoritative set of standards, a small Minnesota Educational Media Organization (MEMO) task force has been working with representatives from our state's Department of Children Families and Learning on a new set of state benchmarks. This committee has representatives from large and small, urban and rural schools. Library multi-type organizations, university library schools and the state department all have representatives on the committee.

The committee has been meeting since August 1999 and an early draft of the standards were distributed to the MEMO membership at their fall 1999 conference, posted on the Internet at o/mnstandards.htm, and discussed at the organization's midwinter conference in February 2000. Input from the general MEMO membership has been actively sought throughout the year.

The committee recognized early on that it is unlikely that our state will ever create or enforce a rule that mandates quality library school media programs or adequate resources or quality personnel. Therefore, we see our Minnesota standards as unique since we will be using them with local decision-makers to build grassroots' support for programs that adhere to the standards. We are being careful that while keeping the principles behind IP2 intact in the standards, that they are also:

* Simple to understand and clearly written.

* Organized in an easily accessed format.

* Quantitative as well as qualitative in nature.

* Sensitive and applicable to media centers in schools with a variety of funding capacities.

To help make the standards meaningful for all schools, each has been written in three graduated levels:

Minimum: These are the attributes necessary for the library media program to make any difference in the total educational process.

Standard: These are the attributes necessary for the library media program to have a significant impact on student learning and school climate.

Exemplary: These are the attributes necessary for the library media program if it is to help a school insure that all its students are lifelong learners with excellent problem-solving skills.

It's interesting to note that a committee of AASL folks were working, unbeknownst to us, on a parallel effort at the same time! Available as a part of the ALA publication A planning guide for information power: Building partnerships for learning, AASL's rubrics use the categories Basic, Proficient and Exemplary.

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