1 January 30, 2019 Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner Massachusetts Department of Elem entary and Secondary Education 75 Pleasant Street Malden, MA 02148 Dear Commissioner Riley: We are writing, pursuant to a New Business Item approved by the Massachusetts Teachers Association , to express our support for the recommendations of at its Annual Meeting of Delegates on May 5, 2018 the Special Commission on School Library Services in Massachusetts. As you may be aware, this special commission released its report, The Massachusetts School Library Study: Equity and Access for Students in the Commonwealth, in March 2018. This report details the commission’s findings of gross inequities in Massachusetts students’ access to well-funded school library programs staffed by certified librarians, and it makes a number of recommendations for correcting these inequities. The Department of Elementary and Sec ondary Education’s data on school librarian staffing more dire situation, with Massachusetts public support the commission’s findings and indicate an even of schools had full-time-equivalent librarians or school districts reporting that just under one-third media center directors in 2017-2018. This situation is a travesty. Numerous studies have documented the positive impact of strong school library programs staffed by certified librarians. For an article in Phi Delta Kappan, Keith Curry Lance and Debra E. Kachel compiled research and reported that more than 34 statewide studies have found that students score higher on reading and achievement when their schools have strong library programs, tests. The authors reported that this trend holds true regardless of other factors, such as class size, per- pupil funding and student socioeconomic conditions . The authors also included information from a study in Pennsylvania concluding that significantly f ewer students scored “below basic” in reading when they had access to a strong library program. Anothe r study cited in the article found that National Assessment of Educational Progress reading scores for low-income, black and Latino students improved in states that added certified librarians, while ELL reading scores dropped in states that lost certified librarians. Because we believe that all of our students in Massachusetts deserve access to strong school library programs, we agree with the commission’s r ecommendations that support a well-resourced, comprehensive library program: 1. Improve access to school libr aries and school librarians. Every public school in the Commonwealth needs at least one school library with a certified full-time school librarian, and
2 there should also be mandated librarian-to-student ratios to accommodate larger school populations . The commission found that at least one in five schools does not have even one school librarian. Your own department’s data indicate that at le ast two out of three schools do not have a school ore, we also agree that t and insufficient; theref librarian. Clearly the available data are inconsisten make an accurate accounting of school library DESE should conduct an audit of all schools to staffing and resources. We also strongly endorse the recommendation to increase access by eliminating the widespread practice of closing libraries during school hours, especially for standardized testing and special events. 2. sources in school libraries. Every school needs a library Improve access to information re with adequate print and electronic information resources in order to develop students’ love of quiry skills. School libraries also need sufficient reading, their curiosity, and their independent in infrastructure in order for students to access these resources. 3. As more information resources, instructional Improved access to information technology. tools and creation software move to digital environments, all students need access to the internet and digital devices in school libraries. 4. Improved access to librar y instruction and help. All students need access to the best instructional practices in their school libraries. In addition to certified school librarians, schools should employ at least one library education support professional who is responsible for to focus on instruction and collaboration. noninstructional tasks, freeing up the librarian As has been the practice in many districts, replacing certified librarians with ESPs is not only inequitable, it’s also unethical. It means that students are not being supervised and instructed by a fully trained and licensed librarian while they ar e in the library, and it exploits lower-paid ESP staff members, giving them many of the res ponsibilities of a licensed educator without the commensurate pay, support or professional development. 5. Improved access to funding. Guidelines for budget allocation and expenditure to support the commission’s recommendations are needed. We also need to establish compensatory guidelines ble, taking into account school libraries in for school library budget allocation that are equita underfunded districts and schools. Fully funded school libraries for students in every school are part of MTA’s vision for public education. The commission has provided valuable recommendati ons and a plan for implementation that will start to right the gross existing inequities and ensure that ALL Massachusetts students have access to the proven academic advantages that school libraries and librarians provide.
3 Very truly yours, Merrie Najimy, President Max Page, Vice President References (DISTRICT) by Full-time Equivalents [Librarians 2017-18 Race/Ethnicity and Gender Staffing Report and Media Center Directors]. (n.d.). Retrieved De cember 16, 2018, from Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website: http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/sta te_report/Teacherbyracegender.aspx The Massachusetts School Library Study: Equity and Cicchetti, R., & Gordon, C. A. (2018, March). Access for Students in the Commonwealth . Lance, K.C., & Kachel, D.E. (2018). Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us. Phi Delta Kappan . Retrieved from https://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter- years-research/
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