ESSA and the School Library

Jeannie.Standal's picture

On December 15, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which will replace No Child Left Behind (NCLB) effective July 1, 2017. Why is this a big deal for school libraries? Because it is the first time in years that school libraries and school librarians have been mentioned in education legislation.  In ESSA they are mentioned a number of times.

ESSA helps school libraries in a number of ways including, but not limited to:

  • It includes school libraries in a group of educators called Specialized Instructional Support Personnel, which is a group that states and school districts must consult in developing their plans.
  • It authorizes (but does not require) Local Educational Agencies (LEA's) to spend Title I monies to develop an "effective school library program" to provide students and an opportunity to develop digital literacy skills and improve academic achievement.
  • It provides funds for states and LEA's to increase academic achievement through professional development and authorizes (but does not require) grant and subgrant funds to be used for "supporting the instructional services provided by effective school library programs." In addition, ESSA names Specialized Instructional Support Personnel among those on whom Title IIA dollars can be spent.
  • The Innovative Approaches to Literacy section authorizes dedicated funding to promote literacy programs in low-income communities, as well as allowing subgrants to be used to provide teachers and school librarians time to meet, plan, and collaborate on comprehensive literacy instruction.
  • Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants (called Block Grants) can be used to assist LEA's in providing rigorous learning experiences supported by technology, including adequate "access to school libraries." These grants can also be used for professional development for knowledge and skills to use technology to improve instruction and academic achievement. LEA's must consult with teachers, principals, and specialized instructional support personnel in developing these applications.

In ESSA, "effective school library programs" and called out as necessary for quality education, rather than merely nice to have. ESSA does not define an effective school library program, but the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has developed a definition that is a great starting point for Idaho. Watch the ICfL website, the AASL website, and School Zone for new developments as the rules are written and Idaho's rollout plan is developed and implemented.

In the meantime, it isn't too early to start reading about ESSA and talking to administrators about the benefits of investing in an effective school library program. AASL has put together some resources and guides that are helpful in making sense of ESSA's impact on our school libraries.

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