Evaluating the School Library Media Center: Analysis Techniques and Research Practices. (Professional Reading)

By Haycock, Ken | Teacher Librarian, February 2002 | Go to article overview

Evaluating the School Library Media Center: Analysis Techniques and Research Practices. (Professional Reading)


Haycock, Ken, Teacher Librarian


Nancy Everhart.

That schools and school library media programs should regularly assess their effectiveness and efficacy is surely beyond dispute. That there are several roads to the same destination is evident in this trio of recent titles addressing program evaluation.

The National Study for School Evaluation (NSSE) has developed a series of Indicators of schools of quality in conjunction with the Alliance for Curriculum Reform, whose members include the majority of the national discipline-based organizations working with K-12 education, including the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). The purpose of this series is to enable teachers and administrators to translate high standards for student learning to tools and resources to assist with their achievement. The complementary Program evaluation series, of which Program evaluation: Library media services is one title, identifies program-specific indicators of instructional and organizational effectiveness and provides practical advice for assessment and improvement.

Consistent with the approach of the series, this title is organized in three parts: Part 1 focuses on the quality of work of students, Part 2 focuses on the quality of work of the school and Part 3 supports putting the indicators to work through school improvement action plans. The editor was assisted by AASL representatives Betty Marcoux, Carol Newman, Barbara Stripling and Julie Walker.

In Part 1, the three categories of national standards--information literacy, independent learning, social responsibility--are detailed through the nine individual standards and 28 indicators; accompanying rubrics provide detail for five levels of performance from no evidence to exemplary levels of achievement. These standards are tied to the school-wide goals for student learning in schools of quality--learning to learn skills, expanding and integrating knowledge, communication skills, thinking and reasoning skills, interpersonal skills, and personal and social responsibility. Worksheets are provided to assist with defining expectations, analyzing student performance and identifying priorities for improvement.

In Part 2 similar formats are used with the indicators of effectiveness, also taken from Information power (1998). These guidelines reflect what should occur in a well-staffed and supported school library. Part 3 provides advice for developing school action plans with timelines and responsibility for implementation. Examples address the need for professional development, school policies, curriculum review and assessment.

The strengths of this approach are the clear reflection of well-accepted national indicators of schools of quality and of national standards for information literacy and guidelines for best practice, and the school-wide approach to review, assessment and improvement. Indeed, the NSSE stresses "effective decision-making that is data-driven, research-based and collaborative"--that approach alone in schools would result in well-supported school libraries and effective teacher-librarians.

Pushing the envelope a bit further toward a different level of specificity, and providing connections to local standards and guidelines, the Guide for developing and evaluating school library media programs was developed specifically for Nebraska and is now in its sixth edition. Coordinated by Deb Levitov, national program principles and guidelines have been correlated with regional accreditation agency indicators and the Nebraska Department of Education's guidelines and "high performance learning model."

There are many more elements of support here for the TL to use in implementation, such as examples of collaborative planning guides and information process models, suggestions for advocacy (even how to write a news release), evaluation checklists involving all stakeholders, including parents and students, self-assessment tools for determining continuing education needs, sample selection policies and reconsideration forms, role descriptions for school library staff, including adult and student volunteers, resources for collection mapping and assessing facilities and appendices with sample policy statements. …

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