Elementary and Secondary Education Act & Libraries

What is Elementary and Secondary Education Act?

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or what was previously known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was scheduled to be reauthorized in 2009 but congress has not yet done so. However, both the Senate and House have been holding hearings and meetings throughout 2010 and 2011 on what should be included in a reauthorized ESEA bill. During this time, the Washington Office has been meeting with key legislators and staff working to get school libraries included into ESEA.

  1. ESEA provides federal funding for K-12 education programs and was last reauthorized in 2001 by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  In general, the reauthorization of ESEA will determine federal education policy for the coming decade; that is why it is critical that dedicated funding for effective school library programs be included in this legislation.
  1. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee is considering a bill in winter of 2015.  It is currently insufficient for school libraries.
  1. At the markup, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has indicated he will introduce a school library amendment based on S. 312 (the SKILLS Act) that would provide dedicated funding for effective school library programs.

Current talking points on ESEA can be found here.

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Why are school libraries important?

  1. An effective school library program provides students with more than just books selected to hone readers’ developing skills and to instill a love of reading. While reading and books are mainstays of the school library program, today’s effective school library programs are also sophisticated learning environments that provide the education and necessary skills to succeed in college and the workplace.
  1. Research repeatedly shows that a well-funded and fully staffed school library with a State-certified school librarian is an integral component of a student’s education.
  1. Across the United States, studies have demonstrated that students in schools with effective school library programs learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized tests than their peers in schools without such resources.

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) findings show that states that increased school librarians from 2004-2009 saw larger improvements in fourth-grade reading scores than did states that lost school librarians during that same time period.

“I was talking to my college-age children about which teacher had the biggest impact on them. All three agreed that the most beneficial learning took place in the school library. This is where they learned the skills to be successful in college and as life-long learners. They felt that they were more prepared than many of their college classmates when it came to the skills they needed to do research and to write college papers. Their classroom teachers had the opportunity to collaborate with the librarian, devising projects which met the state standards as well as gave them needed skills.Our family motto is, ‘You don’t need to know everything; you just have to know where and how to look for what you need to know.’ With our school librarian’s help, they have those skills.”

-Kim Porter, a mother and kindergarten teacher from Mount Gilead, OH.
Quoted from the Ohio Education Library Media Association's report (pdf) on school libraries.

ALA applauds the objectives of ESEA, but believes the same standards being applied in our classrooms should be extended to our nation's school libraries - that every school should have an effective school library program.

What is an effective school library program?

  1. An effective school library program has up-to-date books and materials, including well-equipped computers and technology;
  1. Is staffed by at least one full time state-certified school librarian; and
  1. Regular collaboration between classroom teachers and school librarians to assist with development and implementation of the curriculum and other school reform efforts.

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Teacher unions support school libraries

Librarian members of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convinced their union to pass a resolution calling upon AFT to support school library legislative issues.(pdf)  This resolution was AFT formerly adopted on October 16, 2013.

Also in 2013, librarian members of National Education Association (NEA) got their union to adopt a resolution calling upon NEA to support school library legislative issues.(pdf)

On February 13, 2015, in ALA’s determination to include effective school library program principles in the current efforts to pass the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), we sent these letters to Directors of AFT and NEA reminding them of their resolution and calling upon the unions to publicly support including school libraries in the legislation.

Other Information

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