The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a historic piece of legislation for school libraries because it is the first time in over five decades that school library programs have been explicitly granted eligibility for federal dollars.
ESSA is the latest authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act and differs from NCLB in that it grants significant leeway to states in a wide range of areas.
On December 10, 2015 President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Included in the law is language validating the importance of school libraries and school librarians. The bill authorizes states and local educational agencies to use federal funds to support instructional services, and the language specifically includes school librarians in the definition of specialized instructional support personnel. The funds can be used, to develop and enhance effective school library programs,to provide professional development for school librarians, to purchase books and build resources that are up-to-date for high-need schools.
Note that in California, state certified school librarians are identified by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing as “Teacher Librarians.” Throughout this page, all references to school librarians and librarians indicate such state certified teacher librarians.
All these changes are positive and important, but they are only the beginning of the possibilities. To make sure that school libraries/librarians in California are beneficiaries of this critical funding it is up to all our members to work with our local school superintendents and school boards to educate them on the effectiveness of school library programs led by certified teacher librarians. The CSLA board will be working to keep you informed and in the know about the opportunities that are available. Please take time to read the literature, become informed, and begin the transformation within your local district.
- States still must submit accountability plans for 2017-18.
- Accountability goals must address achievement gaps and graduation rates. Specifically, goals must aim to close achievement gaps and graduation rates.
- Proficiency on state tests must be part of each state’s accountability system along with English language proficiency and other academic goals.
- States must adopt challenging standards.
Low Performing Schools
- States must identify and intervene in the bottom 5 percent of performers and in high schools where the graduation rate is 67 percent or less.
- Interventions include an evidence-based plan to turnaround performance.
- Where a particular group of students are under performing schools must come up with a plan to help. If low performance continues, the state can force a plan on the school.
- School Improvement Grants (SIGs) are part of Title I, which help districts educate students in poverty. States may set aside 7 percent of their Title I funding for SIGs. (Up from current level of 4 percent)
- A new $1.6 billion Block Grant for a variety of programs, including physical education and education technology.
- A new, evidence-based research and innovation program is created.
- States must maintain their own spending at a particular level in order to get federal funds.
- Title I – Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational Agencies (LEA). Local plans may include a description of how the LEA will assist schools in developing effective school library programs to provide students an opportunity to develop digital literacy skills and improve academic achievement.
- Title II Part A – Supporting Effective Instruction. Allows states to use funds to support instructional services provided by effective school library programs.
- Title II Part B – Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN).
- Requires local grants to provide high quality professional development opportunities for school staff, as appropriate, including school librarians.
- Requires local grants to provide time for teachers (and other literacy staff, as appropriate, such as school librarians….) to meet to plan comprehensive literacy instruction.
- The Innovative Approaches to Literacy section provides dedicated funding that may be used for developing and enhancing effective school library programs in high need schools. (May include providing professional development, books and up-to-date materials.)
- Libraries are defined as eligible for grants to support the teaching of American History and Civics.
- Title IV Part A – Student Support and Academic Enrichment authorizes a grant to local school districts to identify and address technology readiness needs including Internet connectivity and access to school libraries. Funds may also be used for professional development to develop the knowledge and skills to use technology effectively to improve instruction and student achievement.
- Title IV Part B – 21st Century Community Learning Centers – supports community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities for children during non-school hours.
- Definitions – The definition of “specialized instructional support personnel” now includes “school librarians.”
Funding drives everything whether it comes from the federal or state government or your local school budget. Officials who make funding decisions need a clear understanding about the importance of certified school librarians and the school library program in instruction and student achievement.
That’s where you come in. The language in ESSA repeatedly mentions “effective school library programs.” We need to lead the conversation about what effective school library programs look like and, where necessary, advocate for the resources needed to develop and enhance existing school library programs to ensure their effectiveness.
- Think about your school library program. What are the key programs and resources you provide that support instruction and student achievement? Or what is powerful about your program?
- What are the characteristics of an “effective school library program”?
- What constitutes “high quality” professional development for school librarians?
- What professional development can school librarians provide to help colleagues acquire the knowledge and skills to use technology effectively to improve instruction and student achievement?