Have you heard the news? The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is requiring "the inclusion of effective school library programs in school improvement programs" (Congress.gov, 2016). This is undeniably a positive step in the right direction! As a school librarian, who has served in a wide variety of school districts, I have witnessed the negative effects of budget cuts, and how they have taken a toll on the school library facilities, and their programs. So, instead of programs growing and developing alongside curricular changes, they were indirectly being undermined. Ironically, at the same time this was occurring, there was a strong focus on data analysis in education as a means for improvement. So, why was the data on healthy library programs was being ignored? Studies found that up-to-date, professionally staffed library programs are a central component affecting students' achievement. This was and is contradiction which I find mind boggling.
If school embedded libraries are allowed to grow, they are integral to the school community - essentially acting as think-tanks, where students are encouraged to explore new ideas and ultimately help generate literate citizens who possess the ability to be critical thinkers. So, it's nice to see the pendulum swinging in the right direction. Your library should be the place which sparks learners' curiosity, ignites a passion for literature, and ideally a love of learning.
Strengthening Kids' Interest in Learning and Libraries Act or the SKILLS Act
Amends part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) to require the inclusion of effective school library programs in school improvement programs.
Defines an "effective school library program" as one that: (1) is staffed by a state sanctioned school librarian; (2) has up-to-date materials and technology, including broadband; (3) includes regular collaboration between teachers and school librarians concerning school reform efforts; and (4) supports the development of digital literacy skills.
Replaces the existing program under subpart 4 (Improving Literacy Through School Libraries) of part B of title I of the ESEA with a new program (Improving Literacy and College and Career Readiness Through Effective School Library Programs) awarding competitive three-year grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) to develop and enhance effective school library programs. Makes LEAs eligible for such grants only if at least 20% of their students are impoverished.
Amends part A (Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund) of title II of the ESEA to rename part A the Teacher, School Librarian, and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund. Requires states and LEAs to use funds under the program to train school librarians, and recruit and retain highly effective school librarians.