ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

APPR: It’s All About the Students

American Association of School Librarians

Post submitted by Paige Jaeger, coordinator for school library services with the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (N.Y.) Board of Cooperative Educational Services, and Sue Kowalski, president of New York State Library Association's Section of School Librarians, on behalf of whole child partner American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Connect with school library professionals on Twitter @AASL and the AASL Blog.

As school librarians, we love the Common Core State Standards. Its focus on rigor and relevance are commendable and necessary to educate the Millennial generation and help the United States become competitive in a global society. Across the United States, simultaneous with the launching of the Common Core standards is the requirement to have annual professional performance reviews (APPRs) defined for classroom teachers in order to meet Race to the Top (RTTT) criteria. It's RTTT that is this year's thorn in the flesh.

As states across the nation develop APPR models to measure the classroom teacher's efficacy, they often don't think about the school librarians, technology folks, and other educators who complete the learning experience. In New York State, the APPR model for teachers didn't adequately measure a school librarian's performance, so a team of educators from the library world worked together to craft a rigorous rubric that would work effectively to "measure" the efficacy of a 21st century librarian. After 18 months of review and tweaking, the New York State Education Department finally posted its seal of approval on the New York Librarian APPR evaluation tool (PDF).

If a tool such as this rubric is used, an administrator will really understand how the school librarian can help deliver a quality education to the information generation—and help prepare college- and career-ready students. In addition, this rubric will point out a low-performing librarian who has not kept pace with a technologically advanced world.

Librarians in the trenches piloted this rubric and ensured that it is fair. One librarian, a National Board-certified teacher, said, "I was rated at barely 'highly effective,' and I think I'm a good librarian. That's where we want to be. Everyone needs room to grow."

Another school librarian with a nationally recognized school library program, says, "There are times when I need a quality framework with concrete benchmarks to refer to when I am engaged in conversations about what librarians can and should be expected to know and do. The New York rubric provides such a framework and serves as a powerful tool when I engage in conversations with stakeholders who have various perspectives on the role of a school librarian."

The New York State APPR document rates a classroom teacher for RTTT purposes, but it's really all about the whole child and student achievement. A school with a high-performing school librarian will be able to grow students into high achievers who are able to synthesize information, conclude, and present knowledge persuasively and with support. As teachers begin to understand that the writing standards 6–10 are all about "researching to build and present knowledge," we hope to see them rely on their school librarian to launch a successful generation of Millennials who are able to research and write, read and react, investigate and conclude, and present their knowledge for the betterment of society.

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